There are a number of ways to remove corn kernels from the cob: you can use a knife, a spoon, or even your thumb. The problem is that since there can be 500 to 1,200 kernels on a single ear of corn, these methods are time-intensive and messy. If you like your corn fresh but off the cob, at some point you’ll want to purchase a corn peeler.
These tools are designed to efficiently remove the kernels from the cob. The best models are safe and easy to operate, and theyalso only removethe kernels, not bits of the corncob. If you'd like some added benefits, you can look for a corn peeler that gathers the kernels in a container so they aren’t scattered around your countertop while you work.
Corn can have kernels of different colors from pink to red to blue to purple. The corn we eat is mostly yellow and white due to careful selection and a highly controlled pollination process.
When shopping for the best corn peeler, there are a few overriding elements to consider before focusing on the more specific features: cob size, cutting depth, and the efficiency and ease of use of the implement.
An ear of corn can be long and thick, long and thin, short and thick, or short and thin. Some corn peelers are only designed to remove the kernels from an ear with an “ideal” shape. However, the best corn peelers are manufactured to work on cobs of all shapes and sizes.
The average size of a full kernel of corn, from the hilum (where the kernel attaches to the cob) to the crown (top), is roughly between .25 and .5 inches. The depth of the cutting blade on a corn peeler determines how much of the kernel you can remove. A peeler with a deeper cutting depth can remove more of each kernel.
The downside of this is if you have an ear with smaller kernels, a corn peeler with a deeper blade might remove some of the cob, which will end up in your meal. While it isn’t harmful in small pieces, the tough cob isn’t desirable to eat.
While many corn peelers remove the corn in narrow strips, requiring several passes to complete the task, some models function like an apple corer and remove all the kernels in a single pass. While these time-saving models are extremely efficient, they can’t adapt to cobs of different sizes.
Ease of use/safety
Holding a corn peeler and steadying an ear of corn while applying pressure can make corn peeling a tricky process to master. To get the best results, you want a corn peeler that’s easy to use: sharp enough to cut through the corn but not so dangerous that you risk slicing your fingertips!
Some corn peelers are compact and easy to store in a drawer. Others are large and a bit more cumbersome, requiring a bit of cabinet space. We note the size and storage needs of each peeler in our research.
Many corn peelers can be used with either hand, but some restrict the user to right-handed use. When researching peelers, we take any such restrictions into account.
We assess whether peelers are designed for light, occasional use or frequent, high-volume peeling.
Some peelers come with an attachable container for catching kernels. When this is offered, we assess the feature to see if it adds value to the purchase.
We consider how easy a peeler is to clean. Does it have small crevices that might catch debris? Is it safe for the dishwasher? Our readers want to know these things before they make a purchase.
Because a corn peeler incorporates a sharp blade, safety is key. In our research, we examine how safe a peeler is and the degree to which it resists slippage.
Some corn peelers are designed to remove kernels all at once. Others peel kernels section by section. In our research, we evaluate the pros and cons of these different designs.
A corn peeler can cost as little as $5 and as much as $25. We research options at different price points to find quality peelers for all budgets.
Peeling corn requires muscle power and a strong grip. We consider the ergonomic design of each peeler, including the comfort of the grip.
Ideally, a peeler will remove most of the kernels from the corn cob, minimizing waste. In our research, we consider how reliably each peeler performs in this regard.
Ergonomic: The task of removing corn from a cob can take a bit of muscle to complete. The corn peeler that you choose should offer a firm yet comfortable grip on the tool.
Handedness: Certain corn peelers are only appropriate for right-handed individuals. If you’re left-handed, make sure you purchase a corn peeler that can be held in either hand; these typically have a dual-sided blade.
Quality: Since it takes a bit of strength to use a corn peeler, you want to be sure the one you purchase is tough enough to get the job done without breaking.
While some corn has a natural black color with a purplish hue, if your yellow corn is slimy with patches of black, it's moldy.
More expensive corn peelers include a container that attaches directly to the peeler to catch the kernels as they’re removed. If this sounds appealing, look for a model with this feature.
Cleaning: Most corn peelers are dishwasher safe. However, there are some more complex designs that require you to disassemble the unit and rinse it off before placing it in the dishwasher. Check the user instructions for information about cleaning your particular corn peeler.
Storage: Many corn peelers are small, handheld kitchen tools that easily fit in a utensil drawer. Some have a hook on the end for hanging. Models that come with a container to collect corn kernels aren't as easy to store. If space is an issue in your kitchen, look for a model that fits in your utility drawer.
If you want to see how much faith a company has in its products, check the length of the warranty. The longer the warranty, the longer the product is expected to last.
Did You Know?
When corn is overcooked, it quickly loses its appealing texture and flavor. Most corn simply needs to be warmed in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes to be ready for eating.
Corn peeler prices
Inexpensive: If you’re interested in a budget model, you can get a no-frills corn peeler for $5 to $8. These might be smaller and tougher to hold than others, but they still perform adequately.
Mid-range: For around $8 to $12, you can find some of the best corn peelers. These models are more durable and often more comfortable to use. However, most don’t have a container for collecting the kernels.
Expensive: From $12 to $25, the corn peelers are more complex in design and have several parts. The greatest benefit to spending more is that these models tend to have a container to collect the kernels and so are less messy to use.
Did You Know?
The average ear of corn yields approximately 3/4 cup of kernels.
For a world that’s so focused on being kind to the earth and reducing waste, we can be fairly irresponsible when it comes to corncobs. On average, it takes 18 years for a corncob to break down in a landfill. The following are a few ideas for what you can do (or what has been done) with a corncob.
- Biofuel: Corncobs burn hotter than wood pellets, making them a viable source of heat. However, it’s imperative that you first determine if your stove can safely handle the higher temperatures, which can actually burn through wood pellet stoves.
- Compost: A corncob breaks down up to nine times faster in compost than in a landfill. Additionally, when placed whole in compost, a corncob helps create much-needed air pockets, which increases the efficiency of the decomposition process.
- Pot scrubber: Peeled cobs that have been dried and hardened at low temperatures in the oven can be used to clean your cookware.
- Soup stock: Boiling peeled corncobs in water with seasonings for flavor produces a yummy corn stock that can be used in a variety of recipes.
- Flavoring: When poaching meat or fish, adding a corncob to the water is an effortless way to infuse the meat with a little flavor. When grilling or smoking meats, you can use corncobs instead of some wood chips to add a distinct flavor to the food.
- Toilet paper: One of the top choices for bathroom use in early rural America was dried corncobs, something to keep in mind if the nation faces another toilet paper shortage!
Corn is a nutritional powerhouse. It contains fiber, which feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut to aid in digestion; lutein and zeaxanthin, two potent antioxidants that help promote healthy vision; as well as B vitamins, iron, protein, and potassium.
Q. Why would I need a corn peeler?
A. There are two main reasons why a corn peeler is an important kitchen utensil. First, if anyone in your family wears dentures or can’t successfully bite into an ear of corn, the kernels will need to be removed from the cob. Second, if you prefer to cook with fresh vegetables, that means you probably don’t buy canned corn. You need a way to remove the corn from the cob so you can use it in your recipes.
Q. Should I remove the corn from the cob before or after cooking?
A. Corn can be removed from the cob either before or after cooking. Removing it before cooking tends to be a slightly easier process because the corn is cool. Also, cooking after peeling can remove any bacteria that might have found their way onto the corn as a result of the process of removing the kernels.
Q. How long can I keep an ear of corn before eating it?
A. To get the most flavor, it’s best to eat corn on the same day it’s purchased. If you need to store it for a day, place the unhusked ears in the refrigerator. If you need to store your corn for longer than a day, corn that has been blanched keeps for up to 12 months in the freezer.
Q. Does cooking sweet corn reduce its nutritional benefits?
A. According to studies performed at Cornell University, the opposite happens. When cooked, sweet corn may lose vitamin C, but it increases its antioxidant activity, which can help lower the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, cataracts, and more.
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