Your Microwave Is Key To Cleaning And Shucking Corn

Whether you're cooking up a few ears of corn on the cob for a family dinner or grilling up a batch for the idyllic summer cookout, it's always worth it. But it really is quite the effort to get that much corn shucked and cleaned of all its silk. Just imagining the hand strength needed to pull off a dozen or so husks is dreadful, and then there's the mess of all those loose threads.

You could use a tool designed to make the process easier ... but is it, really? There's one gadget that's meant to work as a quick husker. The tool looks just like brass knuckles complete with claws. Its pointy end is supposed to split open the husk, and the claws are meant to pull it open and tear away the floss. Realistically, you still need to be pretty strong to get it to cut through the layers of fibrous shell, and the claws don't really have much grip for removing all the silk. It's highly likely, however, that you already have the only tool you'll ever need to make cleaning and shucking corn a breeze — a microwave oven.

Your microwave can eliminate the most annoying aspects of cleaning corn. It's fast, it's practically mess-free, doesn't involve turning on your stove or boiling water, and is much gentler on your hands. You can use it to just quickly remove the corn's coverings — or to thoroughly cook the corn, so it's ready to eat in minutes.

How to clean or cook corn in your microwave

By using the microwave to just par-cook, you can quickly get the husks and threads off for a clean piece of corn. Use this technique if you're planning on further cooking or eating it still raw. Chop off the stem end (the wider side) to just above where the bottom kernels begin, about an inch from the bottom. Place the corn on a microwave-safe plate and cook it for one to two minutes. Remove it from the microwave using a kitchen towel or mitt (it will be very hot), then hold the ear from the uncut end and squeeze. The corn will slide out easily, leaving the husk and silk behind. If it doesn't, try shaking it to get things moving. Voilà! Neatly cleaned corn that is ready to throw on the grill. 

To fully cook corn in the microwave all you have to do is increase the time. While some suggest from six to eight minutes, four minutes seems to be the magic number to get it perfectly cooked. Remove the kernels to use as needed, or slather your corn with butter, sprinkle it with salt, and eat it straight from the cob. 

The reason this microwave trick works? Because — by heating the corn still in its husk – the water inside turns to steam, which creates pressure that pushes off the threads and husk. In other words, it loosens everything up so the ear slips right out.

More tips for easily shucked corn on or off the cob

Cutting the bigger end off before microwaving makes it as easy as possible to get the corn out of its shell — it prevents you from having to bother with cutting once it's piping hot. However, you can also try leaving the entire husk on and not cutting the end off until after microwaving — this will result in an even juicier outcome with maximum corn flavor thanks to steaming it inside the husk.

Another tip is to use this trick for more than one piece. Add around one to two minutes to the cooking time for each additional ear of corn. Using the microwave to shuck and cook it is the fastest way to prepare or steam your cobs regardless of whether you're making it for yourself or hosting a group.

If you've used the par-cook method to only remove the sheath and floss, you can finish the corn by boiling, steaming, or roasting it. Our favorite options are any of the many ways to grill corn to perfection. Grilling shucked corn is a great way to get those appetizing char marks as well as give the corn a nice and smokey flavor to balance its sweetness. Or, if you've fully cooked it, you can use Ina Garten's no-bowl method for removing corn cob kernels; it's a terrific way to get all those delicious bits off cleanly without them flying all over the place or rolling off onto the floor.