Why It's A Mistake To Prep Corn On The Cob By Removing The Husk

Summer cooking boasts many emblematic dishes, but we have no problem saying that an ear of hot, sweet corn on the cob — grilled with its husk on, then slathered with butter and sprinkled with coarse salt — might be the most definitive. Few things better combine magnificent layers of earthy, smoky, and sweet flavors with a poetic simplicity of execution. Whether you're making corn on the cob by grilling, steaming, or — a Tasting Table favorite – sous vide, do not remove the husks before cooking! And definitely leave them on before buying, because doing otherwise is just plain rude. After you bring the produce home, the corn husk will perform many important functions, not the least of which is imparting flavor. 

Let's talk about corn husk flavor. Although they're not edible, charred corn husks' sweet, nutty, and slightly smoky flavor make them ideal for oil infusions. These are also the flavors being imparted to your corn on the cob while on the grill, absorbing much of the high heat that would otherwise burn the kernels. Regardless of the cooking process, the almost tea-like, corn-essence flavor imparted by the husk will be a huge improvement over the non-taste contributions of other wraps like aluminum foil.

Corn husks for the win

There's a reason why North Mexican tamales are traditionally wrapped in corn husks – well, two reasons: not only do they hold the mixture together, they keep it from drying out. Husks serve this latter purpose well before the corn is ever cooked; storing your corn in the refrigerator with the husks on will keep the ears moist. 

There are a couple methods of preparing your husk-on ears of corn prior to grilling. The first is to simply soak the ears in cold water for about 15 minutes before throwing them on the grill. Once cooked, allow them to cool before husking and removing the silky strands (in fact, this shucking process is made much easier after cooking than before, because steam loosens the silks.) An alternate prep method involves pulling the husks back and removing the silk first, slathering the ear in butter, salt, and whatever else strikes your fancy (elotes, anyone?), and then covering it back up again with the husk before grilling. Soon, you'll be holding summer in your hot little hands.