Cook My Corn
September 6, 2008 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Help me make some corn on the cob that doesn't come out stiff. Looking for tried and true methods for boiling or BBQing corn on the cob.

I have some corn on the cob that i bought from Costco. It is already off the husk.

I normally boil some water, and some salt, and then add the corn on the cob. I let it cook for about 8 minutes and then pull it out. A few times it came out perfect, but the last few times it has been too tough.

I also like cooking my corn on the BBQ sometimes, and because I will be at the BBQ tonight, I would like some tips for cooking it there too. In the past I have buttered the corn, wrapped it in tin foil and put it on the BBQ, but it has always been a trial and error sort of thing.

Does anybody have any methods for cooking corn on the cob perfect, each and every time?
posted by B(oYo)BIES to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Never. Ever. Take the corn out of the husk.

Perfect corn: Soak the entire mess in water at least 10 minutes, ear-in-husk, or longer you can do hours if you want. Put in a pinch of salt if you want. The kernels will absorb some water, and the husk will retain water.

Place entire ear, unhusked, on the grill. Grill until that side turns brown (the husk) rotate until brown, rotate, rotate. 4 rotations, should take maybe 3-5 minutes a side, less if it's a really hot grill.

Remove from grill, peel husk. Do NOT remove greens/silk from the bottom of the cob, that's your handle. It'll be hot. Holding the entire cob now by the husk, slather with butter/salt, or not. Good corn will not require anything, but it never really hurts, either.

The water in the husk steams the corn, the layers of husk and silk protect kernels from overcooking or burning.

Heaven. I've converted all my "foil using" friends to this method.
posted by TomMelee at 1:35 PM on September 6, 2008 [5 favorites]

For the grill:

Leave the husk on. Have the coals/gas at about medium heat. Cook for 8 minutes, turn 1/3 of the way, cook for another 8 minutes, turn another 1/3 and cook a final 8 minutes.

Peel (the silk comes off very easily) and enjoy.

Good luck!
posted by Dorri732 at 1:36 PM on September 6, 2008

Wrap it loosely in microwave-safe paper toweling and microwave it. I do two ears for about four minutes (my microwave is pretty low-power), one ear for about 2.5 minutes. Let the ears sit for a few minutes to finish cooking and to begin cooling. Helps to turn the ear over in the middle of the cycle.

This works very well and is much easier than boiling it. If you have corn in the husk I just throw the whole thing in the 'wave and husk later. The silk comes off well with a paper towel.
posted by Mayree at 1:36 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ninja'd. Looks like Tom knows what he's talking about, too.
posted by Dorri732 at 1:36 PM on September 6, 2008

Yeah.. always cook in-husk. For extra flavour, cook for slightly less time and then grill really quickly on a really high heat after removing the husk. This will caramelize (and, optionally, slightly char) the outside. Om nom nom nom.

And the easiest way of coating with the optimum amount of butter is to stick the non-handle-end into a dish of butter (about 2") and twist. Then hold upright for long enough to let the butter drip down.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:38 PM on September 6, 2008

Response by poster: Cosco corn comes off the husk. I will keep that in mind the next time I buy corn. So... what can I do with the corn that is already off the husk?
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 1:41 PM on September 6, 2008

I boil a big pot of water with a couple spoons (I do about a tablespoon and a half when I make 2 ears) of sugar and a little bit of salt, and put my (naked) corns in there for 10 minutes. Sugar makes it awesome.
posted by phunniemee at 1:42 PM on September 6, 2008

Damn, I only put my corn in boiling water for 2 minutes, max. Comes out perfect every time.
posted by gaspode at 1:49 PM on September 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

We had a crab boil last weekend. One of the best parts besides the crabs are the potatoes and corn that boil with the crabs in the seasoning.

You can do the same w/o the crabs.

Buy a bag of crab boil. Add it to boiling water, no more than 10 quarts. Add a liberal amount of red pepper. I usually add about 2 tablespoons, but I like pepper. Throw in the corn, boil as long as 15 minutes. (We add it right before the crabs and then dump it with the crabs.) It's slightly overdone at this point, but it's soaked up all the yummy crab boil seasonings and red pepper. We ate it w/o butter and salt, because it's...well, different. AMAZING, but not something you've probably ever experienced if you haven't had a crab/shrimp/crawfish boil.

Crabs are a great end of summer treat, the corn is something else to nosh your lips around. Also, the red pepper builds on your lips so you feel it while you eat, and it builds. We break the ears in half before throwing them into the pot, so when you grab one you're actually eating half an ear, not a full ear. Eat it up, then eat a crab or 4, then eat one, rinse repeat.

I'm sad because today's crab boil got cancelled. Sad face.
posted by TomMelee at 2:02 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sweet corn doesn't need a lot of cooking. Too long and you convert the sugars.

I like the soak and husk on the grill. But getting the husk off is a drag. Also a short cook. If you don't take the husk off quickly the butter won't melt like it should. I usually have to use a leather glove to husk it. Doesn't work for a big crowd. Then I'd shuck and boil. Not with sugar but salt. Remember to put them into already boiling water and be sure there's enough room. 10 or more ears I'd cover and boil for 5 minutes. But that's me. I also like Tony Cachere's for the salt.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:04 PM on September 6, 2008

If you soak it for a while before cooking it should help plump it back up.
posted by fshgrl at 2:04 PM on September 6, 2008

Seconding a short cooking time. If you're cooking it in water, get the water boiling first and cook for about 5 minutes. The cooking is more about heating the cob through than anything else.

Of course, if the corn is any good, it should be edible without cooking. Freshly picked corn is very sweet and tender; the sugars start to turn to starch straight after picking, and the longer it's off the stem, the harder and starchier it will become. Ideally try to source your corn locally (like from a roadside stand or a farm) and eat it the same day. You won't regret it. And if you've got a few square feet of garden going spare, plant a block of a ten or twenty corn plants next year.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:09 PM on September 6, 2008

I don't have any tips specific to the barbecue, but if it's tough, it's probably because it's overcooked. For naked corn on the stove, I put about an inch of water in a large frying pan on medium heat and put them in when the water is boiling. Turn them after 3 minutes or so. What I look for is color - the corn's done just after it turns a bright yellow.

Anyways, my condensed advice is: Don't cook the hell out of it.
posted by out of context at 2:14 PM on September 6, 2008

I steam corn instead of boiling - just stand it up in the pot in an inch or so of water, make sure the lid is closed tightly. 8 minutes or so usually, I think. Main advantage of this is that it's way quicker since you don't have to wait for a giant pot of water to boil. I agree with the sentiment above re local and very recently picked corn - I think most of the variation in how good corn on the cob is comes from the corn itself, rather than how it's cooked.
posted by yarrow at 2:19 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Whenever I cook [Taber] corn I boil the water and put the corn in for 6 minutes. No more, no less. It comes out perfect everytime.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:24 PM on September 6, 2008

What yarrow said.

I think people got in the habit of boiling when they had to lug water from the well. Steam everything! (Except grain cereals and herb teas, like yarrow.)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 2:27 PM on September 6, 2008

2 ears, 2 minutes per ear in the microwave is the fastest steaming method I know. Cooking corn on the grill is delicious, but my picky-eater family gets in a dither if the kernels darken, so I nuke it.
posted by briank at 2:28 PM on September 6, 2008

Also, if the corn is already kind of old, it will often be starchy and tough no matter how you cook it.
posted by exceptinsects at 2:33 PM on September 6, 2008

Boiling in a pan is a fine method for preparing but 8 minutes is way too long and never put salt in the water - that right there could be the reason it's tough. As long as the water is really boiling when I put the corn in, I only do 3-5 minutes. My mom insists on putting a bit of sugar in the water, although I don't think it does anything. Also, the corn could just have been old. Try to find some fresher, local corn.
posted by cabingirl at 2:34 PM on September 6, 2008

I steam mine in the vegetable steamer, unhusked or husked doesn't matter. Takes 7-8 minutes.
posted by agentwills at 2:35 PM on September 6, 2008

The corn being too tough probably has more to do with the corn itself than with the cooking method. Life's too short to be buying shrinkwrapped corn at Costco.

It's in season right now; if at all possible where you are, get to a farm stand or a farmer's market and buy the real thing. The difference is unbelievable.

That said, I always grill with soaked husks on, as Tom and Dorri suggested, or boil for just two or three minutes, just enough to get it hot, no longer.
posted by ook at 2:38 PM on September 6, 2008

I've tried the Cook's Illustrated method with good results. Pull off all the husk but the final layer, as in so much that you can actually see the kernels translucently. Cook for about 8-11 minutes, or until the kernels are lightly browned in places.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:44 PM on September 6, 2008

According to the Joy Of Cooking, and seconded by me, I cook each ear, one at a time, with all but the inner layer of husk and the silk removed, in a large pot of water at a roiling boil for one or two minutes. The short cooking time preserves the flavor and sweetness best, and the silk and husks come off easy after being boiled. Its important to eat it immediately, so cook each ear only when you are ready to eat it.
posted by bzbb at 2:47 PM on September 6, 2008

In my parents' home we've always just cooked corn on the cob (dehusked) on the stovetop's open flame until you get nice blackened blistered kernels. Then rub with a lime dipped in some salt and cayenne. It's really good, you should try it.
posted by peacheater at 2:53 PM on September 6, 2008

By "lime" I meant, of course, a lime wedge.
posted by peacheater at 2:54 PM on September 6, 2008

I also steam 7-8 minutes. My results are quite satisfactory, but I'm also using ears from the farmer's market.
posted by mimo at 3:01 PM on September 6, 2008

Corn off the husk? I grill it until it's starting to brown (making sure to rotate it enough so no part burns), and then rub it down roughly with quartered-limes dipped in kosher salt (sea salt, whatever -- big salt).

Very tasty.
posted by inigo2 at 3:18 PM on September 6, 2008

And on re-read, just like peacheater said.
posted by inigo2 at 3:18 PM on September 6, 2008

Then rub with a lime dipped in some salt and cayenne. It's really good, you should try it.

A similar preparation (served at Boston chef Ken Oringer's La Verdad and Toro restaurants) -- and just delicious:
4 ears corn, husked
8 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 cup cotija or parmesan cheese, grated fine or crumbled
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
2 limes, cut into wedges
Prepare hot grill or grill pan. Grill corn, rolling until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Remove corn from grill and brush on mayo. Roll in cheese and dust with cayenne.

Serve with lime wedges."
Another recipe for Grilled Corn with Cayenne, Lime, and Cotija.

Also, try famous Chicago chef Rick Bayless' Charcoal-Grilled Corn With Cream, Cheese And Chile. Yum.
posted by ericb at 4:09 PM on September 6, 2008 [7 favorites]

#1 is get good corn. This means local corn if at all possible, picked the day you are going to eat it. Corn loses sugar from the minute it's picked. It tastes amazing on the day it's picked, good the second day, and by day 3 it isn't very good at all.

#2 you don't cook corn, you just heat it. 5 minutes is more than enough, 10 minutes is way too long.

#3 just emphasizing #1. If you get great corn, it's going to taste great almost no matter what you do to it.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 5:12 PM on September 6, 2008

TomMelee has it - this is an awesome and flavorful way to go. I've been grilling with the husk on for a few years now; we call it "Cowboy Corn" and it is fantastic.

What I haven't tried is soaking prior to grilling or this amazingly great and simple way to consume the corn. I'll try this move out during tomorrow's grilling:

Do NOT remove greens/silk from the bottom of the cob, that's your handle.
posted by porn in the woods at 5:27 PM on September 6, 2008

I have been making my corn in the oven for years and everone who comes and eats it thinks I have some secret. It is really just the secret of laziness. I tear off one layer of outer husk and trim the hair stuff so it doesn't catch fire in my oven. I then toss the corn into a 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. no pan, no nothing. Just corn and heat.

Use an oven mitt on each hand to unhusk and prepare it. Add butter, salt, and whatever else and enjoy the goodness.
posted by haplesschild at 6:04 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you got old/over-ripe corn (the individual kernel shells are getting tough) exacerbated by an extended time-frame between picking and cooking (which makes the flesh inside the kernels tough). Once the corn is old, there aren't many things you can do to make it tender again -- the standard way of cooking (2-4 minutes in a pot of boiling water) just isn't going to work. You'll need to try one of those fancy ways up above to make the toughness less noticeable.

In the future, don't husk the corn until just before it goes into the pot. And don't keep it around for very long after you purchase it. The sugars start turning as soon as the corn is picked, and the longer it hangs around the starchier (and tougher) it gets.

The best way to prepare corn-on-the-cob is to grow your own. Put a large pot of water on the stove, turn the heat on high under it, then go pick the corn. Husk it, and drop it in the pot. Watch it, and when the kernels change color, it's done. With truly fresh sweetcorn, you don't need any tricks.
posted by jlkr at 6:49 PM on September 6, 2008

I place corn in a pot filled with water (husked), put the water on the stove, and let it come to a boil. It boils for 30 seconds, and it's done. Perfect every time. Most people overcook corn when they boil it.
posted by peep at 9:26 PM on September 6, 2008

You bought the corn already off the husk? That's your problem. Even if you plan on husking it/shelling it/washing it/cutting it/etc. anyway, there's almost* never any point in buying any sort of raw produce that's already prepared for you. It's almost always more expensive and/or less good.

*I'm sure that there are some good exceptions out there, but corn is not one of them.
posted by rossination at 1:14 AM on September 7, 2008

Listen to ook, jlkr and rossination.
posted by flabdablet at 8:07 AM on September 7, 2008

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