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How to Cook the Best Corn on the Cob: We’re All Ears!

It doesn’t get much better than boiling a little corn on the cob and smothering it with butter and salt. It’s one of those perfect summer foods because you can eat it with your hands (Corn holders are a must!) 

There are tons of ways to customize these sweet, sweet kernels. But first, let’s get down to the basics that will make this side dish a-maize-ing. (Sorry to be corny!)

Corn on the Cob and Corn Cob Holders

How to Pick Out the Best Fresh Corn

When looking at a pile of unhusked corn at the grocery store, it might feel like you’re playing the lottery. You won’t know if you choose correctly until you husk it at home.

Look for ears with green, moist husks that cling tightly to the corn and silk tips that are deep brown. But the whole silk shouldn’t be dried up.

It’s okay to peel the husk slightly in the store (we won’t tell) and check the top row of kernels for plumpness and density. The ultimate test is to pierce a kernel with your fingernail. If it’s milky, it’s just right. But, if the corn looks flattened with tightly packed kernels, it’s a no-go. The corn is overgrown and will taste starchy.

Corn in a cast iron pan on a stove
Photo: @jennlott

Yellow Corn vs. White Corn

Typically, white corn is more tender, but it’s really a matter of preference. Supersweet corn (usually sold in tray packs) will be sugary but have less corn flavor than varieties you can find at farmer’s markets.

How to Store Fresh Corn

Why wait? Eat that corn the same day you buy it for maximum sweetness. But, if you must, refrigerate the corn with the husks on for up to two days. Don’t shuck until you’re ready to cook.

Grilled Street Corn

Ways to Prep Corn

Here are three of our simple ways to prepare corn on the cob. When you’re eating it hot off the grill or stovetop, grab corn holders so you can hold your corn comfortably. 

Boiling:

When boiling water for corn on the cob, salt the water very well. (Think salty like the ocean!) The added salt in the boiling water doesn’t make the corn taste salty, but helps keep the natural corn flavor inside the kernels.

Grilling:

Grill with the husks on to protect the kernels while still giving them that great smoky flavor. Pro tip: Open the husk and pull off the corn silk before grilling.

Raw:

You can enjoy raw corn as long as the kernels are from freshly picked ears that are sweet and tender. Cut the kernels from the cob and toss them in a salad.

Corn on the Cob and Corn Cob Holders

Street Corn & Toppings

This is the moment your grilled corn can launch your backyard cookout to legendary status. It’s all about the customized toppings. Yes, butter. Yes, salt. But corn is also a ready-made canvas for some spice!

Italian:

Top with pesto and Parmesan cheese.

Mexican:

Top with chili powder, cotija cheese, cilantro, lime juice, and mayo or butter.

It’s salt with a little extra something, and it goes on everything. 

Smokehouse:

Combine ketchup, apple cider vinegar, and Smoky Barbecue Rub to taste and brush it on the corn.

Aw, Shucks! More Corny Recipes

15 Responses to How to Cook the Best Corn on the Cob: We’re All Ears!

  1. Robert Brunson June 1, 2021 at 11:23 am #

    When cooking corn on the grill, we like to soak the ears (in husks) in water about 20-30 minutes before putting them on the grill. The husks and silk peal off easily.

  2. cathy schwartzmiller June 1, 2021 at 2:16 pm #

    I’ve always heard to add sugar to the water when boiling corn. Salt supposedly makes the kernels tough.

    • Terry Metayer June 8, 2021 at 1:02 pm #

      I always add sugar to my corn, not salt, and it turns out delicious!

  3. Sue Welence June 1, 2021 at 2:47 pm #

    I cook my corn in my Quick Cooker! I use the large basket and 4 ears fit, more if you cut the corn in half. I put in a 1/2 cup of water set custom setting for 2 minutes. I let steam natural release while I am cooking burgers, hot dogs, or brats.

    • Terry Metayer June 8, 2021 at 1:01 pm #

      I was just looking to see if anyone knew how long to cook in the Quick Cooker and here you are with the answer!! Thank you!!

    • Carolyn June 28, 2021 at 4:23 pm #

      You should increase to the recommended 1 cup water.

  4. Julie Long June 11, 2021 at 6:17 am #

    I put a vegetable steamer basket in the bottom of my pot, and about 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil and place corn inside, cover and steam for about 6 or 7 min. Flavor stays in the corn instead of boiling out into the water.

  5. Becky Brown June 12, 2021 at 9:32 pm #

    I boil my ears of corn in water with about an cup of milk. So delicious!

  6. Connie ilko June 13, 2021 at 10:46 pm #

    If anyone has had roasted corn at Szalays, you can get the same great taste by preheating oven to 350. Leave corn in husks. Just snip off everything that sticks out above the ear. Place on rack. Turn 1/4 every 10 minutes. After 40 minutes you will have the best corn you have ever tasted. Will be hot to peel but everything peels off including hair.

    • Barbara Kroszkewicz June 27, 2021 at 7:27 pm #

      Just had to try your method. The corn was delicious. Will bake my corn this way from now on. Some think it’s too much trouble. But, for me, cleaning the corn is annoying, lifting a big pot of water to put on the stove & wait till it boils, add the corn, watch so it doesn’t boil over, getting the corn out of it’s hot bath and then lifting the pot again to drain the water and finally washing and putting the big pot away.Turning the corn every 10 minutes in the oven is no big deal. Peeling the husks off is a breeze. No cleanup. Try it.

  7. Lisa Zagorski June 13, 2021 at 10:51 pm #

    that sounds awesome. How long do you cook the ears (and do you wrap them in foil). Thanks in advance. I have never grilled corn, but I heard it is awesome. I have heard butter and tarragon are amazing on it.

  8. Anita vincenzi June 14, 2021 at 8:47 am #

    I steam mine in the quick cooker

  9. Jan June 27, 2021 at 1:27 pm #

    Did you know you can cook corn still in the husk in the microwave! It’s amazing how it works. This method is good for cooking for 1 or 2 people but it’s quick and easy. Put corn in the husk in the microwave for 3min. Take it out with hot pads, it is very hot. Cut off the large end, then at the small end squeeze/push the corn out of the husk onto a plate. I know it sounds crazy but it slides right out, no husking or messing with the silk. I cut the small end of when it’s out just so I can get the corn holder in easier. If yours doesn’t come right out after cooking it’s because the corn is old, fresh corn is the best. You have to try this, I’ve shown it to so many people and they just can’t believe how easy it is. It’s the perfect way to cook it for just 2 people.

    • Kim Gamble July 22, 2021 at 1:30 pm #

      absolutely the best way to cook fresh corn.
      But we use 2 minutes for a single ear.

  10. Donna DeLong Matthews July 3, 2021 at 4:57 pm #

    THE BEST WAY TO FIX CORN ON THE COB IS TO STEAM IT…. WITH BOILING THE COB SOAKS UP WATER AND GRILLING THE CORN TENDS TO GET TOUGH. iF YOU WANT TO FREEZE IT DO NOT PARBOIL JUST HUSK IT AND REMOVE ALL THE SILKS RINSE DO NOT SOAK IN WATER AND PUT IT IN PLASTIC BAGS PREFERABLY USE FOOD SAVER SYSTEM.

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