Kelli FosterSenior Contributing Food Editor
Kelli is a Senior Contributing Food Editor for Kitchn. She's a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and author of the cookbooks, Plant-Based Buddha Bowls, The Probiotic Kitchen, Buddha Bowls, and Everyday Freekeh Meals. She lives in New Jersey.
updated Jul 12, 2022
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Summer is here, which means it’s corn-on-the-cob season. If you want to keep the kernels on the cob, there’s butter bath corn and grilled corn on the cob, of course, but if you’re making corn salad, corn dip, or a creamy corn chowder, the first step is cutting those sweet, crisp kernels from the cob.
Sounds simple, right? Grab a knife and a cutting board, and get to work. Here’s the thing, though (and if you’ve ever cut corn from the cob, you know this firsthand): It can be so messy, with kernels careening across the countertop and bouncing all over the kitchen floor.
How to Shuck Corn Quickly and Cleanly
Because this is a universal experience among corn cooks, there are plenty of tools and hacks that claim to make the job easier, faster, and/or less messy. To find the best possible method for cutting corn from the cob, I polled our editors and scoured the internet before narrowing the field down to five popular methods. When all was said and done, there was a clear winning method that was simple and mess-free.
So, What Is the Best Way to Cut Corn from the Cob?
While all of the methods got the job done, my favorite was simply laying the ear of corn flat on a cutting board to slice off the kernels. Read on the find out why this no-fuss approach is simple, safe, and leaves you with the least amount of mess.
A Few Notes on Methodology
Corn: I used ears of corn that were all the same variety, about the same size, and all purchased from the same grocer. I also used the same chef’s knife and cutting board for each test.
Goal: My goal was to find a practical method that would let me safely cut the kernels from an ear of corn with minimal mess while allowing me to cut close to the cob to get as much of the kernel as possible.
Ratings criteria: I judged each method on the ease of removing the kernels from the cob, the amount of mess (or lack thereof), the tools required, and how safe it felt. Did the corn feel stable while cutting or was it a little roly-poly? Did the method call for just a cutting board and knife or more kitchen equipment? Did the kernels scatter over the counter and on the floor or stay put on the cutting board?
Corn Cutting Method: Two Bowls
- Rating: 4/10
- About this method: This is a go-to method for a lot of cooks, including Kitchn contributor Patty Catalano. You simply place a small bowl upside-down in the center of a large mixing bowl. Then stand the corn — picked-side down — on top of the smaller bowl, and use a sharp knife to slice down along the cob. Instead of flying every which way, the kernels will collect in the bottom of the bowl.
- Results: The large bowl does do a nice job of catching the kernels, with very few or none bouncing onto the counter, but it’s not the most practical method. There are extra dirty dishes to contend with, although the biggest downside for me is that it didn’t feel safe. The ear of corn didn’t feel as stable as I’d like, so the risk of it slipping while cutting the corn felt high.
Corn Cutting Method: Bundt Pan
- Rating: 4/10
- About this method: Many cooks swear by this method for the same reason others love the two-bowl method: The high sides of the cake pan easily capture the kernels, plus the hole at the top of the center tube seems just right for securing the tip of the corn. If you don’t have a Bundt pan, an angel food cake pan will also work; just be sure the cake pan is metal, as silicone isn’t sturdy enough for the job. After the corn is shucked, the cut end of the corn is placed in the center hole of the baking pan. I held the tip of the corn, and used a sharp knife to slice down along the cob to remove the kernels, which will collect in the bottom of the pan.
- Results: This approach gets points for neatly containing the corn kernels. What I didn’t expect was that it was surprisingly time-consuming (and a little messy) to actually get the kernels out of the pan, because they stuck to the edges. What I most disliked about this method is that the ear of corn didn’t feel as stable as I’d like for cutting and it didn’t feel safe. In fact, the corn slipped once while I was cutting it. Thankfully I didn’t cut myself, but the sharp side of the blade hitting the metal pan was not great for the blade (especially if that was to happen repeatedly).
Corn Cutting Method: Stand Tall
- Rating: 6/10
- About this method: Most cooks have likely tried this seemingly basic method that involves simply a cutting board and chef’s knife. You hold the ear of corn tall, straight, or even slightly angled, with the stem-side resting on the cutting board, then simply slice down all sides of the corn to remove the kernels.
- Results: In addition to the simplicity, my favorite thing about this method is that I was easily able to cut closest to the cob. It is so messy, though! This was the messiest method of all, and there was a lot of cleanup and wasted corn.
Corn Cutting Method: Sheet Pan
- Rating: 7/10
- About this method: A riff on the stand-tall method that uses a cutting board, this one (touted by Masterclass) calls for a sheet pan instead. You’ll hold the ear of corn tall, straight, or even slightly angled, with the cut-side resting inside the sheet pan, then simply slice down all sides of the corn to remove the kernels. The idea is that the rimmed sides will keep the kernels contained.
- Results: All in all it’s a simple, neat, and fuss-free approach. Because of the rimmed sides, the corn mostly stayed on the sheet pan. A few kernels bounced onto the counter, but it was definitely less messy than standing tall on a cutting board. With that said, it does make for another dish to wash and the metal pan isn’t great for the knife blade if they hit (it will likely happen at least a couple times).
Corn Cutting Method: Corn Stripper Tool
- Rating: 8/10
- About this method: There’s a handy gadget for everything, including removing the kernels from an ear of corn. I’m not normally a fan of uni-taskers but so many people swear by a corn stripper tool, including Kitchn Senior Food Editor, Megan O. Steintrager. And this one from Pampered Chef in particular happens to be a favorite of several Kitchn staffers. The tool, which looks like a y-peeler, but with pronged teeth, glides down the length of the ear, from tip to stem, cutting off all the kernels in its path. Sounds easy enough.
- Results: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this tool. Using the tool is as easy as it sounds, although it takes a few movements to get a feel for how much pressure is needed to cut as close to the cob as possible. It’s a good idea to use a large bowl, rather than a cutting board, to minimize the mess.
Corn Cutting Method: Lay Flat
- Rating: 9/10
- About this method: Executive Editor, Adriana Velez, swears by this method, and it also happens to be the one I’ve used for years (rest assured, though, I went into this assignment with a very open mind, curious to see if I’d try a method I liked even more). This is yet another popular way to cut the kernels from an ear of corn using just a cutting board and sharp chef’s knife. But rather than stand the ear of corn tall, this more stable approach calls for laying the ear of corn flat on the cutting board. After slicing off the first side of kernels, the ear is turned so it’s laying cut-side down on the board, which makes it super-stable, and the next side can be cut.
- Results: This method doesn’t allow you to cut quite as close to the cob as the stand tall method, but there are a ton of upsides. Not only does this approach feel safe, but it’s also fuss-free and hands-down the least messy approach.
If you’re a beginner cook and maybe not so comfortable wielding a sharp knife, using a corn stripper tool might be the best option for you. It’ll also be right up your alley if you love kitchen gadgets (bonus: It’s on the small side, so it’s easy to stash in a drawer and doesn’t take up too much space). When using any of the methods that call for a chef’s knife, do be sure it’s sharp. And if you opt for the stand-tall or lay-flat method, it’s a good idea to add a sheet of wet paper towel under your cutting board to prevent it from slipping.