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The 4 Best Ways to Grill or Barbecue Corn on the Cob

John D Lee is a chef and restauranteur living and working in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He's always loved to cook.

Learn four different ways to prepare delicious grilled corn on the cob.

Learn four different ways to prepare delicious grilled corn on the cob.

How to Cook Corn on the Grill: 4 Ways

Ah, sweet, sweet corn on the cob. Summer's perfect vegetable and a great excuse to eat loads of butter and salt! There is absolutely nothing wrong with a beautiful steamed or boiled cob of corn, and providing you've got a good fresh batch, there is not too much that you can do to mess it up.

That being said, don’t over-boil your corn; it only needs a few minutes in the water. Once it is heated through, it is done.

But if you’re on a bit of a boiled-corn marathon, it can be nice to give that corn a kiss of smoke on the BBQ for a change of pace. Grilling this veggie is easy, and it makes cooking even easier when you can cook your vegetables and meat at the same station.

Generally, the most important thing is freshness. This is, of course, true for all vegetables, especially sweet corn. Corn starts turning its natural sugars into starches from the moment it's picked off the stalk. After only three days, it has transformed half of its sugar into tasteless starch. Refrigeration can retard this process slightly, but fresh corn is always best.

There are four basic corn-grilling techniques. Each produces a different result. Whichever you choose, it's sure to be delicious.

How Can I Cook Corn on the Cob?

My most-trusted methods are:

  1. Cooked in their shucks
  2. Cooked in just the inner silk
  3. Naked corn on the grill
  4. In tin foil

The first two methods require a bit of soaking beforehand to save the "skin" from premature burning. About half an hour of soaking is usually enough.

1. Corn Cooked in Its Husk

  1. Soak your corn for about a half hour.
  2. After you have soaked the cobs, just toss them onto your preheated barbecue, and cook with a closed lid for about 15 minutes.

This is the most effortless method and will always produce a great cob of corn, but it won't be noticeably barbecued. With this method, the ears basically steam inside the outer layer, and the end result is not that drastically different from a boiled or steamed cob.

2. Cooked in the Inner Silk

  1. Soak the corn for about a half hour.
  2. Peel off the outer layer, leaving only the inner silk as a coating.
  3. Cook for about 15 minutes. But take note: These will require a little more attention on the grill and will need to be turned occasionally to avoid burning. These should also be cooked with the barbecue lid down.

This method will protect the corn from the direct heat of the grill but will allow some of that smoky heat through. It should end up a touch blackened and smoky sweet.

3. Corn Cooked Naked on the Grill

  1. Soak the corn.
  2. Shuck it completely.
  3. Grill the exposed corn directly over the heat of the grill for about 15 minutes with the lid closed. Turn every minute or so.

This method requires the most attention and will result in a more blackened cob. This blackening is not a bad thing. As long as you are vigilant and turn the ear often, this corn will taste nutty, smoky, and sweet. You should keep the lid down but will need to keep turning the corn about every minute or so.

4. Cooked in Foil

In general, most people find that the second method is the best compromise. It's easier than the direct corn-on-the-grill method but will end up noticeably barbecued and not simply steamed (like in the first method). It depends a lot on your personal preference, and if you don't want to see any grill char on your corn, then the un-shucked method is probably best for you.

Try one. Try them all. Grilled corn is great!

Serve with lots of butter and salt, or as in Mexico, with lime juice, chili flakes, and thick sour cream. Make a fresh salad or soup, or just devour it hot off the grill.