Smoking a corn cob pipe is almost as American as apple pie. From Mark Twain to Douglas MacArthur, the Missouri Meerschaum has been the cob of choice.
A little corn cob history
In 1869 Missouri Meerschaum began making corncobs in America’s heartland. The company took the Meerschaum name as a way to clearly show the purity of the tobacco flavor when smoking from a cob. Today tobacco aficionados still often use corn cobs to test new blends, because of their pure smoking qualities and inexpensive price point.
Do I need to break in my corn cob pipe?
We are often asked about how to break in a corn cob pipe. After all, almost every “Getting Started” article you read about smoking a pipe talks about the break-in process. The process is a little different for cobs.
The process of building cake on a briar pipe is an important one. However, it is unnecessary and can actually determinantal to the smoking process with a corn cob. What is unique about these pipes is how they absorb harsh flavors naturally and disperse them through the slightly-more-porous cob. Building cake in the cob will prevent this from happening. However, it’s a myth to say that cobs don’t need any break in at all. Compared to briar pipes, it might be smaller and less of a time commitment, but some early break in is still necessary.
The 3-Step corn cob break-in process
According to John L. Patton, a 50-year veteran smoker, there are a few steps to breaking in a cob. They are:
- Take the first few bowls just further than bad. When you get to the bottom of the bowl it will start to taste bad. This is because the wood from the shank inside the cob will start to burn. Take a few extra puffs at this point to help char the wood.
- Let the tobacco smolder until it’s burnt out. Don’t clean your cob immediately. Sit it down to burn out. After the first couple of bowls you can use the reamer on your pipe tool to start knocking off that charred wood. Around half dozen bowls should do it, for a good break in.
- Leave the natural pipe mud alone. This process will cause a natural buildup of ash and moisture at the base of your pipe bowl. Leave it alone! This will create a natural fill at the base of the bowl so you don’t burn out your cobb.
As with nearly every aspect of smoking a pipe, these are suggestions that work for many (and have worked well for us). You can find a myriad of opinions in online forums. One of the things we like best about cobs is there accessible price point. For this reason, they are a great way to experiment with different tobaccos, techniques and tricks.