How to Tell When Corn on the Cob Is Bad?

Written by laurenkrotosky
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How to Tell When Corn on the Cob Is Bad?
It's easy to determine if corn on the cob is still fresh. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Cooking with fresh corn on the cob can be a delicious addition to your meal, particularly during the summer months when corn is in its prime. But before you fire up that grill or get ready to boil some cobs, you'll want to make sure the corn is fresh and hasn't gone bad. There are several things to look for when checking for spoiled corn, and it is fairly easy to determine whether it's time to discard the corn and replace it with newer cobs.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Smell the corn while the husks are still on. Fresh corn has a sweet smell, while spoiled corn will smell foul, almost like mould. If you have already removed the husks, you can still do the smell test, though the aroma may not be as pronounced.

  2. 2

    Scan the kernels on the cob to see if any kernels are black or dark brown. This discolouration is an immediate indication that the corn has spoiled. Kernels should be yellow or pale white, depending on the type of corn.

  3. 3

    Squeeze the kernels gently to ensure they are plump and not dried out. Dried out, shrivelled kernels mean the corn is past its prime and shouldn't be eaten.

  4. 4

    Pay attention to the colour of the husks and silks of the corn. The husk should always be green, not brown, and the silks should be pale yellow. Any other colour could mean spoilage.

  5. 5

    Tear off one kernel and taste it if you're still unsure if the corn is bad. Eating one kernel won't hurt you if it is spoiled, and the taste can tell you if it's fresh enough to cook and eat.

Tips and warnings

  • It is more difficult to determine if the corn is fresh after it you have cooked it.

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