How To Dry Out Fresh Corn Husks For The Most Authentic Tamales

Tamales are a great way to use the surplus of corn available as summer turns to fall. They are hearty, delicious, and relatively straightforward to make if you've prepared accordingly. An important part of tamale making that needs to be prepared ahead of time are the corn husks, which must be dried. While you can buy pre-dried husks at some grocery stores, drying fresh husks yourself is a great exercise in authenticity and also in appreciating the effort behind the dish.

Why dry out the corn husks? While it may be tempting to skip this step, a properly dried corn husk is highly recommended when making tamales. The process has many benefits, including changing the texture of the corn husk to make it easier to wrap and adding more flavor to the dish. Most importantly, though, this process ensures the husks are clean and free from pathogens like bacteria and mold, especially if you plan on storing them prior to use.

Use the power of the sun

One method for drying corn husks is by leveraging the natural heat and light of the sun. To begin, you must first thoroughly wash your husks and then soak them in warm water for thirty minutes or more to prepare them for drying. Next, lay the husks out in a single layer inside a shallow cardboard box and place it in direct sunlight. Both sides of the husk should be exposed to the sun, so remember to flip them over at least once during the day.

Continue this process every day until the husks have paled significantly and are dry to the touch. This can take a long time, up to several days or even weeks, so be sure to take the husks inside overnight to prevent animals from eating them and to keep them from getting wet. You can then place them back outside in the morning when the sun returns.

Use the ease of your oven

For a much quicker, more convenient approach, try drying corn husks in your oven. For this method, you must still be sure to clean and soak the husks before drying them out. Once that step is complete, preheat your oven to its lowest possible setting and lay the husks out in a single layer on a baking sheet, then place them into the oven to dry. This technique will take anywhere from four to eight hours, so we recommend checking the husks about once per hour to see if they are finished drying and ensure they don't burn.

Once the corn husks are dried via either method, store them in a cool, dry place until you are ready to use them. They will last a few months — up to six months if stored in the freezer. When it comes time to use the husks in your tamales, give them a quick 10-minute soak in hot water and they'll be the perfect casing and impart a subtly sweet taste to your masa harina spread.