How to Squeeze Every Penny Out of Your Corn

An ear of corn has more flavor—and value—than you might be taking advantage of.

Published June 15, 2022.

Is there a better summer side dish than a warm ear of sweet corn glistening with salted butter? 

I grew up in a family that was so into sweet corn that we grew our own and didn’t pick and shuck the ears until the water on the stove was already boiling—5 minutes from plant to pot. We were a family of five where a dozen ears wasn’t enough; it wasn’t uncommon for my dad to take down four ears in a sitting. 

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When you boil or steam fresh corn on the cob, the water left behind in the pot is not murky water to be poured down the drain; it’s lightly flavored corn stock. Don’t throw it out! (You can also make a similar stock if you cut the raw kernels off the cobs: Just cover the stripped cobs with water and bring it to a simmer for a few minutes.)

Save your boiled corn water

Test Kitchen Tip: When cutting corn kernels off the cob, it’s best to halve each cob crosswise. This not only means you make shorter cuts when cutting the kernels off, but you also have a perfectly flat and stable side (the cut side) upon which to rest each cob half when you cut. 

Refrigerate or freeze the corn stock and use it for soup, risotto, pasta, rice, and more. Or use it to make the grits in our recipe for Grits with Fresh Corn. 

Grits with Fresh Corn

When you’re putting on the grits, it pays to double down on corn flavor.
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Two more tips for getting your money’s worth out of corn on the cob: Save the husks for wrapping tamales, and, if you cut the kernels off, scrape the flavorful corn pulp (or “milk”) off the cobs with the back of a knife. This pulp will add a ton of flavor to whatever corn dish you're making. 

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