How to Pick the Best Sweet Corn

Picking the freshest corn at a grocery store or farmer's stand might be even easier than you'd think.

No barbecue is complete without fresh corn on the cob, slathered in butter and sweet as can be! Whether it’s grilled, boiled or wrapped in bacon, corn is everyone’s favorite side dish. Of course, before the actual cooking begins, you have to pick which ears of corn to bring home from the grocery store.

Here are a few quick tips on how to pick corn and make sure you grab the very best cobs:

1. Check the husk

First, take a look at the outside of the corn, the husk. You want the corn husk to be bright green, wrapped tightly against the corn and slightly damp. These are the freshest cobs! Don’t choose any husks that are starting to yellow or feel dry. You’ll want to check the husk for small brown holes, which mean insects and should be avoided. Take a peek at the bottom of the corn where the ear was broken off the stalk in the field. If this area is brown, the corn is probably a couple days old and not the freshest choice.

Pro Tip: As tempting as it might be, don’t peel back the husk! This shortens the shelf life of the corn, causing it to dry out. Need to use your corn up quick? Try these fresh corn recipes.

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2. Pay attention to the tassel

The cute little fluff of stuff at the top of the corn is pretty important. It’s actually the corn silks sticking out of the husk, and it’s called the tassel. When choosing your corn, keep in mind that the tassel should be light brown or gold, and slightly sticky to the touch. Take a good whiff of the tassel—it should smell sweet with no signs of decay. Avoid corn that has a dry or black tassel, or a tassel that feels mushy. These are all signs the corn is old.

3. Give the corn a squeeze

Instead of peeling back the husk to peek at the corn kernels, give it a squeeze instead. By gently squeezing the ear of corn, you can feel the kernels through the husk. Start from the bottom and squeeze the whole cob, working your way to the top. The ear of corn should feel nice and firm, and the individual kernels should feel plump. You shouldn’t be able to feel any voids where kernels are missing. Be sure to pass on any cobs that have soft spots.

4. Keep it fresh at home

Once you get home, it’s fine to store your corn at room temperature if you’re going to cook it within the next few hours. (You can also cook ASAP and freeze for later.) If you don’t plan on eating it for another day or so, it’s best to refrigerate the corn in the crisper with the husks on, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag.

Then, bring out the butter and salt—it’s time to eat! Here’s our quick guide on how to boil corn, plus our best homemade herb butters.

We're all ears for these recipes.
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Erica Young
Erica is a freelance lifestyle writer with a bachelor's degree in Journalism. Her favorite recipes are quick, easy and something her kids will actually eat. When she's not writing you'll find her organizing a closet, roaming the aisles at Target or nursing her third Diet Coke of the day.