Everything to Know about Corn
How to select, store, cut and cook summer’s sweetest veggie.
By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen
Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.
When the weather turns warm, sweet, juicy corn is ripe for picking, shucking and eating. Here’s everything you need to know about corn, including how to select, cut and store it, and some of our best corn recipes.
What Is Corn?
Corn is a starchy vegetable and edible grain. It's made up of kernels that are attached to a woody cob that is covered by hairlike fibers, called corn silk, and a layer of thin leaves, called the husk. Some people toss everything except the corn kernels, but the entire plant has other uses. The husks can be made into tamales, cobs can thicken stocks, the stalks make great animal feed and corn silk can be used to make teas.
Different types of corn are dried and ground to produce corn products. These include cornmeal, which is made by drying and grinding dent corn; hominy, also known as posole, which is yellow or white field corn that’s been dried and soaked in hydrated lye; and grits, which are made from ground corn—often starchy, less sweet varieties like dent corn, but some heirloom varietals, too. For more information, check out our guides What is Hominy and What Are Grits?
From a nutrition standpoint, corn is higher in calories than other vegetables, explains Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of Diabetes Create Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook. “Calorie-wise, it's similar to grains such as rice. One cup of cooked corn contains 130 calories and 1.8 grams of fat. It’s an excellent source of thiamin, a B-vitamin that helps produce energy, and a good source of fiber, protein, vitamin C and potassium.”
When Is Corn In Season?
In most of the United States, peak corn season is from May to September. Because sweet corn is grown in all 50 states, you can find it at farmers’ markets, farm stands and grocery stores.
How to Know When Corn Is Ripe
You’ll know corn is ripe when the kernels are plump and release a milky liquid when you puncture one with a fingernail. The kernels should also come all the way to the ear’s tip with each row of kernels tightly aligned. When selecting corn, look for ears with bright green, fitted husks and golden-brown silk. Avoid ears with shriveled husks that look burned or have dark-colored slime.
5 Varieties of Sweet Corn
Corn grows in a rainbow of colors, including yellow, white, yellow-white (bi-color), purple, blue, red and multi-colored.
Sweet corn, which is typically what you’ll find at farmers’ markets and grocery stores is available in several varieties:
Silver Queen: white kernels and a creamy texture.
Tuxedo: bright yellow kernels and juicy, sweet flavor.
Temptation: yellow and white (bi-color) kernels with a tender texture.
Honey and Cream: bi-color kernels with deep corn flavor.
Ambrosia: plump, bi-color kernels with a very sweet flavor profile.
How to Store Corn
Store fresh corn in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with the husk intact for one or two days. For the best flavor, eat fresh corn the day it’s purchased. As soon as the corn is picked, its sugar slowly converts to starch, which makes it less sweet as time goes on.
You also can preserve your farm-fresh corn by freezing or canning it. If you’re storing corn in the freezer, be sure to blanch it before putting the cobs or kernels in an airtight container and stashing it in the freezer. Stored this way, corn on the cob will last for up to one year in the freezer and corn kernels will last two to three months. Typically, canned corn is preserved as whole kernels or creamed by using a pressure canner.
How to Cut Corn Off the Cob
To cut corn kernels off the cob with minimal mess, you’ll need shucked ears of corn, a sharp knife and two bowls.
Prep your workstation: Place a medium bowl upside down inside a large bowl.
Cut the kernels off: Rest the end of the cob on the medium bowl and, using a sharp knife, cut off the kernels in strips. Instead of the kernels scattering all over the counter, they’ll land in the large bowl.
Alternatively, you can use a bundt cake pan to hold the cob securely upright and use a sharp knife to slice the kernels off in strips. The kernels will fall into the pan, containing the mess.
What to Cook with Corn
Corn on the cob is a delicious, simple way to enjoy summer corn whether you grill it, boil it or steam it in the microwave. But there are a variety of ways to cook with corn kernels too, including salads, salsas, soups, sides and more.
Fresh corn kernels and cherry tomatoes bolster this vibrant Black Bean Salad, perfect for toting to your next picnic potluck or to accompany fajitas or tacos for supper. For salads that practically scream summer, try this Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad, studded with mozzarella and basil, or this Summer Corn Salad, spruced up with green pepper, red onion and a zesty lime finish. Corn is also a star player in this Latin-inspired Charred Corn Panzanella or Grilled Steak with Greek Corn Salad. You can also pair corn with hearty grains to make a seasonal salad the main event, as with this Farro and Corn Salad or Barley Salad with Corn and Zucchini.
Salsas and Dips
Cut kernels straight from the cob for this Almost Famous Corn Salsa or Corn Blender Salsa, both of which pair nicely with barbecued proteins or grilled fish. Dress up corn kernels and canned beans with a garlic-lime-chile dressing for a simple yet satisfying Pinto Bean Salsa Salad, which does double duty as a chip dip or standalone side. This Creamed Corn Dip makes the case for transforming a holiday casserole classic into a summer-ready chilled dip that’s ideal served with crisp veggies or baguette toasts.
Summer is the perfect time to make seasonal produce the star of the show. Corn takes a leading role in this simple, make-on-repeat Garlic Butter Shrimp and Corn Sheet Pan Dinner and Corn-Chicken Skillet Dinner. If you’re hosting friends for an al fresco supper or just want to treat yourself, try making these Seared Scallops with Creamed Corn or Pappardelle with Lobster and Corn. Fresh corn anchors satisfying vegetarian mains, too, like Corn-Mushroom Risotto (simply omit the bacon), Stuffed Poblanos with Roasted Corn or Tomato-Cauliflower Curry with Corn.
Soups and Sides
Gazpacho shouldn’t have all the fun when it comes to summer soups! Try blending sweet corn into this Chilled Raw Corn Soup or folding fresh kernels (instead of frozen) into Chicken Corn Chili. Corn works well in heartier fare, too, like this Thai Corn Chowder and Grilled Corn Chowder. The sweet, starchy nature of fresh corn shines in sides like Coconut Creamed Corn or Creamy Chili Lime Corn, which is inspired by Mexican esquites. You can also pump up your next picnic or potluck with this creamy Corn-Poblano Potato Salad with charred corn and peppers, or this cookout-ready Corn and Tomato Pasta Salad.
Corn is an ideal addition to savory baked goods, like this Spicy Cornbread with Fresh Corn jazzed up with pepper jack and chipotle, or this Corn-Bacon Spoon Bread with Tomatoes. Try adding sweet kernels to seasonal pies, like this Tomato and Corn Custard Pie or this Collards and Corn Slab Pie, which unites two classic sides, collards and corn bread, under a buttery flaky crust. Served with a simple tomato side, it's an ideal summer supper.