Cutting corn off the cob can be a pain. The process is often messy, scattering kernels everywhere but the bowl or cutting board you’ve placed under the corn. And it’s prone to error: Cut too deep and get some of the hard, fibrous material that connects the kernels to the cob, or cut too shallow and lose out on some of that sweet, sweet corn. It can also be slightly dangerous—many of us worry about our knives slipping as they slice through the juicy corn. Enter corn strippers. These specialized gadgets promise to make the whole process of cutting both raw and cooked corn off the cob easier, safer, and more foolproof than using a knife. Since we last tested corn strippers, our former favorite was discontinued, so it seemed like a good time to take a new look at these gadgets. So we bought seven models, priced from about $7.50 to about $24.00, and used them to shear off kernels from ear upon ear of both cooked and raw corn.
Technically speaking, almost all the gadgets were capable of cutting corn off the cob. Only one failed outright. Built like a long, narrow wooden mandoline, it mashed the corn instead of slicing it off, no matter what we did to adjust the positions of the blade and corn. This corn mandoline was also the only gadget that truly made us fear for our fingers. Every time an ear of corn hit the blade, it stopped short and refused to go further unless we pushed very hard. Pushing hard wasn’t a good idea: With no guard with which to hold the corn, there was a distinct risk that our fingers would slide full force into the blade if we did so. We gave up trying to use this device after three attempts.
The rest of the strippers were safer to use, and most did in fact remove corn kernels from the cob. Alas, few did so well. Four of the strippers resembled vegetable peelers with curved blades. In theory, they made sense: Run the blade down the side of the cob and off come the kernels. The blades themselves were all sharp and cut easily, but the results were uneven; it was hard to gauge just how deeply to dig in with the blade, so some kernels were sliced off with the hard pith attached, and others were left half on the cob, requiring an extra pass to slice off the rest.
Another model, consisting of a circular blade enclosed by a ring of plastic, showed more promise. We simply placed the end of an ear of corn into the blade and then rotated the corn with one hand and the ring with another to cut off the kernels. We had to concentrate to keep the ring perfectly centered around the core of the cob, or else we cut unevenly or too deep, leaving pith on the kernels. We got decent results as long as the ears were perfectly straight, but it was a lost cause on ears that were slightly irregular. What’s more, this model couldn’t handle narrow ears of corn, which just slipped through the ring blade with only the tops of their kernels shaved off.
Our favorite model improved on the design of the rotating stripper. To use it, you stick the corn into a plastic tube and center it using prongs on the base and top. Then you insert a metal cylinder with sharpened teeth into the top of the cob; by pushing this cylinder down into the corn while rotating it, you slice the kernels off. Pull the metal cylinder back out, and the cob remains inside, leaving only the kernels behind in the plastic tube; you can then use a plastic dowel to push the cob out of the metal cutter. Like the previous model, this one couldn’t handle narrow ears of corn, as the ring was too big for them. And it sometimes cut unevenly on ears that weren’t quite straight. But otherwise, it did a surprisingly good, even job of stripping the corn.
The models varied significantly in terms of how neat they were and how easy they were to use. Our favorite model offered one significant advantage: Because the corn was completely enclosed inside the plastic tube, any mess was completely contained. Not so with the other models, which sprayed kernels and corn juice everywhere as we cut, offering no improvement over our usual setup with a knife and bowl or cutting board.
Our favorite model was also fairly easy to use. Once we learned how to secure the corn on the prongs inside the tube, the process was relatively fast and painless; the only real annoyance was that there were so many parts that had to be cleaned afterward.
We think most people should stick with a chef’s knife to cut corn off the cob—it’ll do a better job than most of these gadgets and can handle ears of corn of different sizes and shapes. But if you really, really hate this task—especially the mess—you might like the RSVP International Deluxe Corn Stripper. At its best, this gadget will strip the kernels off the ears easily, evenly, and quickly; better still, it’ll keep your countertops free of sticky bits of corn and juice. The downsides? It can’t handle narrow or irregularly shaped ears of corn, and you’re left with four parts to clean, instead of just your knife.