5 Surefire Ways To Cook Corn on the Cob

Cook corn on the cob to perfection every single time to capture those peak summer flavors.

<p>barol16 / Getty Images</p>

barol16 / Getty Images

Biting into sweet, juicy corn on the cob is a mark of summer, when the golden kernels glisten like jewels under the sun. And what’s not to love about eating fresh corn on the cob? It’s the perfect blank canvas of the season, whether grilled, as in this Honey-Buttered Grilled Corn,  steamed (alone or with lobsters), roasted, or even cooked in the microwave. Here are five ways to cook corn on the cob that always packs the flavors of the summer.

How to choose fresh corn on the cob

Fresh corn on the cob is generally available from May to September, when corn in the husk is piled into mountains at many supermarkets and farmers’ markets. When choosing corn, look for ears with husks that are moist and a dark green color with golden silks at the top, where the kernels are full and plump. Feel the weight and heft of the corn; it should feel substantial, not delicate. Slightly squeeze each cob starting at the bottom working your way to the top to feel for any gaps or lumps which can be signs of damage or decomposition. Try to keep the husk on since removing it dries the corn, causing the starches at the top of each kernel to begin to convert to sugar.

How to store fresh corn on the cob

Fresh corn on the cob is best when eaten the same day it’s picked. However, if you can’t get to a corn field, don’t fret. First, keep the ears in their husks and wrap them in a paper towel to soak any excess moisture. If the husks have been removed, keep the ears loose and store them in the refrigerator for up to two days. The cold temperature slows the conversion of the natural sugars in the kernels from the starches.

How to grill fresh corn on the cob

How to prepare fresh corn on the cob for cooking depends on the technique. If grilling is your preference, there are at least 3 different ways to enjoy fresh corn outdoors. If you want to char your corn, first, shuck the corn and remove as many silk strands as possible. Make sure the kernels are all intact and firm. To create a natural handle, pull back the husks and keep them attached. Preheat the grill on high (450℉ to 500℉) and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning the cobs occasionally to prevent burning. As the corn cooks, the starches at the top of each kernel will caramelize, and some will lightly char, amplifying the sweet flavor of the corn. Brush the corn with butter, including a flavorful compound butter, or olive oil and baste it while cooking.

Alternatively, you can leave the corn in their husks while grilling. This natural wrapping ensures the kernels remain moist throughout their life cycle, so when the corn is placed directly on the grill, each kernel cooks to a tender and juicy bite, with little to no charring. This method does take longer, about 15 to 20 minutes, but it’s worth the wait. To keep them from accidentally setting on fire, it’s best to soak the corn in their husks in water for about 20 minutes prior to cooking.

Lastly, you can wrap corn on the cob in aluminum foil for a similar result. This is especially useful if the corn is already shucked or want to avoid the mess of shucking the grilled corn with their husk when eating. The founding director of the Food & Wine Test Kitchen, Richard Sax, notes this method can be applied to roasting corn in the oven (see below).

How to roast fresh corn on the cob

Like grilling, roasting corn on the cob can be done in a couple of ways. First, corn can be roasted in its own husk. Preheat an oven to 425℉. Soak the corn in water for about 20 minutes prior to cooking to better retain moisture (alternatively, pull back the husk and remove as much silk as possible and brush with your favorite butter or olive oil, and cover with the husk). Wrap the corn in aluminum foil, set on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the corn to a rack and let cool slightly before opening.

How to steam fresh corn on the cob

Steamed corn on the cob pairs perfectly with steamed lobsters, but you can also steam corn on its own. Steaming is a gentle form of cooking fresh corn on the cob that helps preserve its natural moisture while expanding the sweet flavors of the season. First, shuck the corn and remove all the silk. Again, check to make sure the kernels are firm and plump. You may have to cut the cobs in half, depending on the size of the steamer basket. Add several inches of water to a large pot, insert the steamer basket, ensuring it does not come into contact with the water and bring to a boil. Place the corn cobs in the steamer basket and cover the pot with a lid. Steam the corn for four minutes to get corn with  a slightly firm bite. For a softer texture, cook for seven minutes and for the softest corn, steam them for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the corn cobs with tongs and serve them with butter, mayonnaise or sprinkle with some Spicy Herb Salt.

How to boil fresh corn on the cob

Like steaming, boiling corn on the cob helps retain the moisture in each kernel. First, shuck the corn and remove as much silk as possible. Fill a large pot with water and salt it as you would pasta water this helps bring out the juicy, sweet flavors of corn everyone loves. Bring the water to a boil and carefully lower the shucked corn into water with tongs. Be careful not to overcrowd the pot; I usually place about four to six cobs in a four-quart pot. Boil the corn for about four to five minutes, until the corn turns a deep yellow color. Try to avoid overcooking the corn since that will mean the kernels will absorb too much water and turn soggy. Remove the cobs carefully with tongs, transfer it to a rack and let it cool slightly before serving.

Corn can also be boiled in its husk, as in our Corn on the Cob with Parsley Butter and Parmesan, though this will also take longer, about eight minutes. To shuck, slice off the bottoms of the corn and slide off the husks and serve.

How to microwave fresh corn on the cob

Yes, you can microwave corn on the cob. It’s surprisingly easy (the easiest, really), yielding a tasty, sweet, juicy freshly cooked corn on the cob in less than five minutes. The best part? Microwaving corn on the cob frees up space on the grill or the stovetop, too.

Shuck the corn and remove as much silk as possible. Moisten a paper towel and wrap the cob in it before placing it on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for four minutes. Alternatively, keep the husks on and microwave on high for four minutes. Remove with a pot holder, cut off the stem at the base, and slip off the husk. One of summer’s simple pleasures is ready to be enjoyed!

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