Open your ears.
mr-Grilled Chicken and Corn Salad
Credit: Robin Bashinsky

If you’ve been blissfully unaware that corn can be delicious raw, right off the cob, don’t sweat it. You’re far from alone. Truth be told, I didn’t know this until just recently.

Many popular methods of preparation don’t require us to think of corn in terms of ripeness. But when you do find yourself with some prime, peak-season ears, each kernel is almost like an individual little fruit, bursting with juicy-sweet flavor. Much like the perfectly ripe summer peach, there’s little one could do to improve upon it.

This is not to say that you should only ever eat fresh corn raw. This isn’t one of those “You’ll NEVER Cook Corn Again After You Try This Ah-MAIZE-ing Hack” articles. Sometimes you want the charred taste of grilled corn, or you’re aching for warm, boiled corn-on-the-cob, slathered in salted butter. And that’s just fine, too.

WATCH: 6 Corn Hacks

How to Use Raw Corn

The most obvious, and arguably best, use for raw corn is in a vibrant summer salad—something like this Grilled Chicken and Summer Corn Salad situation. Here, the sweet, raw corn is matched with tomatoes, plenty of fresh basil, and a bright, lemony vinaigrette for a simple but satisfying bed for crispy, grilled chicken thighs. It is, more or less, summer on a plate. Of course, you could also take a recipe like our Endless Summer Salad, which calls for grilled corn, and simply save yourself a step by substituting raw.

Other great ways to enjoy raw corn off-the-cob include turning it into a fresh salsa, using it in a chilled corn soup, or folding the kernels into your favorite crab cake blend.

How to Tell When Corn Is Perfectly Ripe

  • Select ears that feel feel dense, and heavy for their size. As with other varieties of summer produce, this is an indicator that it’s full of juice and deliciousness.
  • Look for ears that feel firm, tight, and well filled out.
  • When you peel back the husk a but, all of the kernels should actually look super plump, not feeble or slightly shriveled.
  • The most surefire way to tell if the corn you have is worth eating raw is to take a bite out of it. If the kernels are tender, sugary-sweet, and juicy, go ahead and shave them from the cob into a salad or salsa, as is.