Cooking Techniques for Corn-on-the-Cob
American Recipes for Corn
Fresh corn-on-the-cob is a summertime favorite with American recipes, and it’s often a welcome guest at picnics, low-country boils, and cookouts. In fact, many people eat this treat all year, or whenever they can get it! In the colder months, we corn lovers usually have to settle for the frozen version, which is certainly preferable to no corn at all.
The directions for cooking frozen corn are plainly printed on the package, but what about the fresh ears? How about leftover cooked ears? I've grown, cooked, and eaten corn-on-the-cob for decades, and I've done a bit of experimenting. There's no telling how I might prepare my ears of corn—it largely depends on what else I'm cooking. Below are some great ways for cooking corn-on-the-cob, including some traditional methods and some not-so-traditional methods. Oh, and before we go any further, here in the South, the outside coverings of an ear of corn are "shucks"—not "husks"!
Flavorings to Use
Flavorings that compliment or enhance the taste of corn include basil, garlic, nutmeg, oregano, marjoram, cilantro, bacon, chives, horseradish, parmesan, rosemary, honey, and onion. If you want to add some heat to your corn, try chipotle powder, chili powder, ground red pepper, diced jalapeños, tabasco sauce, or cayenne. My personal favorite is a compound butter I make with lime juice and chipotle.
Be creative! Experiment with different flavor combinations for your corn. It won't take you long to discover your favorites.
Pan frying is a great way to warm leftover corn that has already been cooked. It also works well with thawed corn from the freezer.
To pan-fry ears of corn, heat butter in a large pan over medium heat and add the ears of corn. Sprinkle with your favorite seasonings and cook until corn is hot, turning ears frequently.
If you want to do this the old-fashioned Southern way, use bacon drippings—or as we say here in Georgia, "bacon grease"—instead of butter.
This is an easy way to cook corn when you’re deep frying other foods. Simply lower the shucked, clean ears of corn in the hot oil and cook until brown. The fried kernels will be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
Can you get any more Southern than this? This is almost overkill when it comes to deliciousness!
Clean, damp ears of corn can be rolled in flour and seasoned before deep frying. If you want more coating, dip the ears in milk or an egg wash before flouring. Drop into hot peanut or canola oil and fry until corn is golden brown.
Boiling is an easy, time-honored method for cooking ears of corn. Shuck and remove silks from corn ears and drop into boiling water. Cover and cook until desired tenderness. If you want soft, tender ears, cooking time is about 7 minutes.
To add flavor and make your corn more interesting, try adding a bag of shrimp and crab boil to the water! Be careful about adding salt, however, as too much can make the kernels tough.
Steamed corn-on-the-cob will be crisp yet tender if done correctly. Place clean corn ears in a steamer basket and simmer. Cover and steam for 15-20 minutes. You'll know the corn is ready to eat when a gently pressed kernel erupts in liquid.
Corn in the Microwave
Corn can be cooked in the microwave in or out of the shucks. If you prefer to cook shucked corn, wrap each ear in moist paper towels. Microwave on high, turning the corn about halfway through cooking. Cooking time depends on how many ears you’re cooking at the time and on your microwave’s power. A single ear usually takes around 5 minutes, while several ears might take as long as 15 minutes.
For another delicious way to cook corn in the microwave, view the video below:
Grilled in the Shucks
Grilling corn in the shucks helps the ears retain their fresh, "corny" taste. Soak ears in cold water for an hour before cooking. Place a heavy plate on top of the corn to keep it under water.
Place the corn on a medium grill and cook for about 15 minutes, turning ears frequently to allow for even cooking. You'll know the corn is done when the shucks begin to pull away from the tip of the ear.
More Tips for Grilling Corn
If you prefer a chewier texture, try grilling the corn naked. Don’t remove your clothes before grilling—it’s the corn that’s “naked.” Remove shucks and silks and soak corn in cold water for an hour before cooking. Place the ears on a slow grill and cook for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. For a smokier flavor, lower the grill lid as the corn cooks.
This method can also be used for leftover corn that was boiled or steamed. Simply place the ears on a hot grill and cook until thoroughly heated.
Grilled in Foil
This is a great way to cook corn on the grill because butter and seasonings can be added before cooking. The corn steams in the air-tight foil, so it turns out tender and juicy.
For this cooking method, remove shucks and silks and wrap each ear tightly in aluminum foil. Salt, pepper, butter, and other flavors can be added before closing each pouch. Grill for about 15-20 minutes.
Slow-Cooked on a Smoker
For a delicious smoky corn flavor, soak whole ears of corn in cold water for 4-5 hours, shucks and all. Rub the outside of the ears with canola or olive oil and place on the smoker. Fill the smoker’s water pan with water and smoke ears for about 2 hours.
This is a great way to cook ears of corn when you already have the smoker fired up for other foods, like meats. Add a foil pouch of mixed veggies, and you can cook your entire meal at the same time!
Baked in the Oven
Baking corn in the oven is perfect for times when you're cooking too many ears to fit into a boiling pot or on the grill.
Remove shucks and silks from the ears. Place several ears on heavy aluminum foil. I’ve found that packs of 4 ears or less are easier to handle. You might want to wrap each ear individually, instead. Add butter, salt, pepper, or other flavorings and seal the ears carefully in foil packs. Place the packets on a baking sheet and cook at 425-450 degrees for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the ears.
Roasted in the Oven
Roasting corn in the shucks results in a sweet, garden-fresh taste. Some cooks prefer roasting the ears in their full shucks, but I usually modify the fresh ears a bit so that they take up less room in the oven.
For my method, remove both ends of each ear of corn with a sharp knife. Pull off the outermost layer of shucks and the silks. Soak the ears in water for an hour. Place the corn directly on the top rack of a preheated 350-degree oven and cook for about 30 minutes