How to Cut Corn Off the Cob:
Keeping All Ten Fingers, Capturing Every Delicious Kernel and Every Drop of Sweet Corn 'Milk'

How to Cut Corn Off the Cob
How to cut corn kernels off an ear of corn using just a knife and a bowl. How to 'milk' an ear of corn to capture the sweet corn liquid. It's easy!

FRESH CORN So many recipes call for "fresh corn kernels" but give no hint, not one, about how to easily cut the corn off those unwieldy cobs. (Hmm. Language question: why is it called an 'ear' of corn? Corn, are you listening? I digress.)

Just take a knife and hack away? Sure, that works. But here's the elegant way to cut corn off the ears, capturing all the kernels in a bowl and catching all the 'corn milk' too.

Some corn
A bowl
A sharp knife
That's all!

A NOTE on FROZEN CORN Sure, frozen corn is awfully convenient, no corn cobs or corn husks or cutting to contend with. But during the height of summer, when sweet corn is oh-so sweet and juicy, there's just no beating fresh sweet corn, both straight from the cob and the kernels themselves, for salads and soups and stews. Once learned, this technique takes just a minute or two. Soon enough, you'll fall in love with fresh sweet corn, saving the frozen stuff for the depths of winter.

STUMBLEUPON: For all who use the great discovery tool StumbleUpon, I'd love for this post to be 'stumbled'!

wash the corn All together now: Always always ALWAYS wash fruits and vegetables before cutting. Corn too, even though you're not going to actually eat the husks. (Husks? That's the official name of the leaves that surround an ear of corn.)

Why? Cuz there's dirt and gunk on the outside. It will transfer to your hands, the cutting board, even to the knife as it slips from the unwashed inedible exterior into the clean edible interior. You want that dirt and gunk in your food? No. Okay? Got it? Say it with me now, "Yes, Mom. I will always always ALWAYS wash fruits and vegetables, first thing."

OH. And if you want to cook the corn right in its husk? Try the gorgeous Grilled Sweet Corn with Spiced Lime Butter.
tear back the husks and silkOtherwise now's the time to call the kids and send 'em to the back step with an armful of corn and a bucket or a paper bag.

Show them how to tear back the husks, a strip at a time. It helps to grab some of the silk with each strip.
yank off the husks, leaving the stem for a 'handle' Once all husks are torn back, yank them off the stem. For later, leave the stem on to use as a handle.
rub off any silk that remainsIsn't an ear of corn just so pretty?! It's a perfect food, clean and ready for good eatin'. If you're hungry, toss one in the microwave, right now, see Quick Ears of Corn in the Microwave. Or throw one on the grill, see Grilled Corn with Chipotle Lime Browned Butter.

OH but check first. You might need to rub the kernels with the flat of your hand to brush off that pesky silk.

If you've got a compost pile, add the husks and silk to the pile.
now find a bowl of the right sizeFind a bowl of the right size.

It needs to be wide enough that you can run a knife all the way down the ear, right to the tip.

It needs to be shallow enough so that you can run a knife all the way down the ear, right to the tip.

Got one? Good.
cut off a swath of kernels with a sharp knifeGrab hold of the handle with one hand, then, top to bottom, cut off a swath of corn kernels with a sharp knife.

Sure, you could use a cutting board instead of a bowl. But then the kernels would fly all over the place. This way, magic! the kernels collect all neat-and-nice-like in the bowl!

Should you decide to use a cutting board rather than a bowl, turn the ear on its side to cut the first swath. From then on, put the flat side down, then cut another swath. This is actually a really good way to cut the corn off the cob -- but the milk is so special you really don't want to miss it and so need a bowl anyway.
cut off all the kernels, a swath at a timeGo ahead now, cut off a few more swaths of corn kernels until the ear is bare. I'll wait.

Expect to collect about a half cup of corn per ear.
now 'milk' the corn, releasing the sweet corn milkNow comes the really good stuff, the corn milk. This is how you 'milk' an ear of corn, releasing the corn milk that is ever-so-corny-good.

Run the knife down the cob again, all around, but this time using the FLAT side of the knife, letting the corn milk collect right there in the bowl. No cutting board can do this, right?

Some ears have a lot of milk, covet these and go buy more, now. Others have less milk but will still gather up a bit.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2011

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. I'm all for using my knives to cut corn and use to do it all the time until I discovered the OXO corn peeler. It is such an amazing and fun tool to use and very inexpensive. It honestly takes all the effort out of cutting the corn off the cob. I posted something about it quite a while ago that you might like to read:

  2. AnonymousJuly 26, 2011

    I have been using a bundt pan to cut the kernels off...stick the point of the ear in the hole in the middle. The kernels and the "milk" are caught in the pan and not many "escape" on the counter.
    Love your recipes!!!

  3. Vicki ~ Thanks for the tip! I guess I find $10 a little pricey for something that gets used a few times a year -- but for doing a lot of canning or freezing, it might be worth the money and at least in my book, the space.

    Anonymous ~ Thanks! That's a brilliant suggestion, thanks!

  4. If you don't have a bundt pan or a bowl that is wide and shallow, take a bowl that is big enough to hold all the corn (like a mixing bowl) and turn a smaller bowl (like a single-serving ramekin) upside down in the bottom. Rest the ear of corn on the bottom of the smaller bowl and go to town. As with the bundt pan, it corrals the kernels and milk without letting much fall out onto the counter. :)

  5. AnonymousJuly 26, 2011

    LOL, I can't believe you actually SAVE the "corn milk"--I actually like to cut the corn off the cob so it LOSES some of that sickly sweetness... I think corn is overly sweet and taking out the "milk" helps so I don't have to put that much salt on it to neutralize the sweet.

  6. If you don't feel like "milking" the corn, another way to still use the yummy corn juices is to use the kernelless ears to make stock. Yum!

  7. Put a saucer upside down on a cutting board or large platter, etc. Place the end of the corn on there and slice downward. Much easier.

  8. I want to pass on a great little tool from Pampered Chef. It's called Pampered Chef Corn Kernel Cutter, and it workds great!

  9. How long will this keep in the fridge? I want to get the prep work done in advance.

  10. Marta ~ You could easily do the prep earlier in the day or the day before, then refrigerate or even freeze to capture the freshness.

    (Sorry for the slow response, we've been away, just now catching up on 100s of emails!)

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  15. I know I'm WAAAAAY late to this conversation, but I was just given a lot of fresh corn. I'm wondering, if you cook it before you freeze it, doesn't it lose the milk, anyway? What we eat fresh, I'll milk, but wondering if it's worth the effort for the corn I freeze. OR - CAN you freeze it without cooking it???? Just wondering....

  16. Sue ~ No problem, comments are “always on” here, no matter how long after the original post. Anyway you might want to read this post, But I’m with Lady Amalthea, I’d put the cobs in the pot too, there’s so much flavor in them. At dinner the other night, the chef made a sweet-corn panna cotta and one of his “tricks” was to cook the corn/stocks in milk/cream and then let rest for an hour or so before adding the gelatin. Good luck, let me know how it goes!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna