How to Cook Corn on the Cob
Corn on the cob is a nutrition-packed and uniquely flavored treat that's as easy to cook as it is versatile. Check out below for everything you need to know about corn plus step-by-step instructions to grill, roast, steam, boil and microwave your most flavorful and tender corn on the cob yet.
Cooking corn on the cob is an amazing skill to have. Corn is a great side to any dish and also can be a fun way to spice up dinners, especially in the spring and summer. This is perfect for when it’s too warm to turn on the oven or when you’re hosting a barbeque and want a flavorful, comforting yet nutritious side.
Corn on the cob is particularly amazing because it’s so versatile. You can cook it with just oil, water, or butter, or easily turn it up a notch with cheese and spices.
Corn kernels are also low in fat, high fiber, and are a starchy complex carbohydrate. One serving has substantial amounts of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C, which are great for your eye and skin health.
Table of contents
- What to Look Out for When Buying Corn
Preparing Your Corn
- Proper Storage
- How to Shuck an Ear of Corn
- How to Oven-Roast Corn on the Cob
- How to Grill Corn on the Cob
- How to Steam Corn on the Cob
- How to Boil Corn on the Cob
- How to Microwave Corn on the Cob
- Serving Suggestions
What to Look Out for When Buying Corn
Corn on the cob is an amazing side dish for any occasion, but before you can serve it up you have to pick it out. Here are a few things to look out for in order to buy your corn sweet and fresh:
Make sure your husk is bright green and damp. Try not to peel back the husk in order to check on your corn. The husk itself says a lot about what’s inside! Stay away from dry husks that are starting to yellow. If there are small brown holes around your husk that means there might be insects.
Check the tassel. The tassel is the bunch of corn silks sticking out of the top. The tassel should be a light brown/gold color and slightly sticky if you touch it. It should also smell sweet if you give it a whiff.
Squeeze test. This is why you shouldn’t peel back the husk; you can actually squeeze the stalk to check its ripeness. The corn should feel nice and firm while the kernels feel plump. Try and lightly squeeze the length of the corn to see if there are any soft spots.
Preparing Your Corn
If you'll be cooking your corn within a few hours after buying, you can just leave it out at room temperature. If you'll be waiting a few days, refrigerate it in a tightly wrapped bag, which will prolong freshness. Wrapped this way, corn should stay fresh in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. When you are ready to cook, try to take your corn out of the refrigerator for at least a couple hours prior. If they're too cold, the corn kernels can seize up and get tough during cooking.
How to Shuck an Ear of Corn
A fresh ear of corn’s gustatory pleasures are made even sweeter by the fact that you have to work for them. The fieldberry-sweetness and toothsome butter notes which separate fresh corn from its store-prepared, bland-flavored brethren, is largely a product of its tough outer leaves, which need to be removed before cooking. The process is called shucking, or husking, and comprises removing the barky husk, fibrous interior skin and wads of sticky corn silk which protect the cob during growing, and aren’t removed from some varieties of fresh corn before selling. The process of shucking adds a few minutes of prep time compared to buying pre-shucked, and takes a little muscle at the beginning. But believe us, the flavor advantages that come with cooking fresh corn as opposed to canned or frozen varieties, greatly outweighs the minorly inconvenient, sort-of-fun-way-to-take-out-your-aggression, step of shucking your fresh corn.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Microwave your corn for 2-3 minutes. Microwaving helps loosen up the hard outer skin and fibrous inner silk and threads of the corn, helping everything glide off more easily.
2. Peel off the outer layers. Starting at the top of the husk, which will have brown, dried silk threads coming out of it, start peeling off the hard outer leaves, one by one or a few at a time if you can. Peel off all leaves except for the innermost layer surrounding the kernels.
3. Create a pull path. Slightly separate the leaves at the top to create a small opening, and grip the inner layer of kernels through the opening.
4. Pull. With your other hand, grip the dried silk stalk threads. In one quick move, yank the tassel of corn threads down, until the husk is completely removed from the corn, turned inside out on the other side, with all corn silk, inner leaves etc. enveloped within the outer husk.
4. Remove the husk. Get a hard grip on the husk about an inch away from the corn’s base and jerk your wrist firmly and quickly to snap it off. Alternately, you can just cut it off. If you do , remember to cut a bit into the cob, as cutting into the husk will leave a small stump.
5. Final check. You’ll probably still have at least a few silk threads still woven through your corn, so make sure to do a double check and pick out as many remaining strands as you can find. These can toughen up during cooking and overwhelm the corn’s natural texture.
How to Oven-Roast Corn on the Cob
Oven-roasting really enhances corn’s natural flavor, and is particularly delicious with the addition of a fattier seasoning, like butter, olive oil or cheese, as well as fresh herbs and more robust spices.
Begin by preheating your oven to 375ºF, placing your rack in the center. Take a sheet pan and cover it with a long piece of aluminum foil, approximately double the width of the pan (we’ll be folding the extra over to to create a pocket for the corn in a later step.)
Place your shucked corn on the foil-wrapped pan and season with salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil per cob, and additional seasonings per your taste preference. Red pepper flakes, onion or garlic powder, and even parmesan cheese are all great toppers.
Tightly wrap your corn in the foil and roast directly on the oven rack, butter side up, for around 30 minutes. Allow corn to cool for at least 5 minutes before opening the foil wrapping.
How to Grill Corn on the Cob
Grilling your corn on the cob is the perfect summer treat, bringing out its natural freshness and intensifying its butteriness and texture with a crispy-delicious char. And remember, you can easily make this recipe year round in your kitchen with a grill pan.
Start by preheating your grill to high heat, about 400 to 450ºF. Place your shucked corn on a plate or sheet pan and drizzle generously with olive oil, making sure to coat all sides. Do the same with a handful of salt.
Add the corn to the grill and cook covered, flipping sides every 2-3 minutes, for 8-10 minutes total. When finished, the corn should be golden brown, with patches of nice dark char. If you like a more intense char on your grilled corn, cook for 2-4 more minutes.
You can also grill corn on the cob using the same aluminum foil method we went over in our Oven-Roasting section. Instead of putting in the oven, simply place the aluminum-wrapped corn on the grill at 450ºF and cook for 10-12 minutes.
How to Steam Corn on the Cob
If you’re looking for an excuse to use your steamer basket, this method is for you. It yields perfectly tender ears of corn and doesn’t need any added butter or oil to cook, making it low in fat and calories but high in vitamins and minerals.
Place your steamer basket in a large pot and add enough water so it reaches right below the basket, without breaching it. Turn heat to high, and boil until heavy steam is generating in the pot. Place your shucked corn in the basket and cook for 4-6 minutes, or until the kernels are tender.
How to Boil Corn on the Cob
Boiling corn on the Cob is great for when you don’t want to turn on an oven or grill. This also allows you to use less oil or butter while cooking.
Shuck your corn and place them in a large pot, filling with water until all cobs are fully submerged. Add a pinch or two of salt to the water and bring to a boil. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until ears are tender.
How to Microwave Corn on the Cob
Microwaving your corn will save you some cooking time. This leaves the corn more soft and tender than it would be if you were to roast or grill it. You also don’t dirty any pots or pans.
Start by placing your unshucked corn on a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 4 minutes.
Cook until kernels are tender, microwaving for an additional minute to two minutes if need be.
Let the corn cool for around 8-10 minutes, until cool enough to work with, then shuck.
Elevate Your Cob. Fresh herbs are a super simple way to quickly elevate a humble corn on the cob into a deeply flavorful and elegant appetizer suitable for company. For a delicious spread that goes with about any preparation of corn (not to mention a great kitchen staple) simply rough chop a mix of whatever herbs you have on hand (parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary and basil are all great options), and combine with a clove or two of minced garlic and a few tablespoons of room-temperature butter or extra virgin olive oil. Fully combine and you have a delicious herb butter or drizzle that’ll turn your corn on the cob into a restaurant-quality dish. Simply rub or drizzle it onto your corn before cooking, and serve with an extra cupful for your guests to dip into.
Make it Plant-Based. While a pad of butter or a sprinkling of cheese might be the most classic toppings for corn on the cob, vegans shouldn’t feel left out. A good kind of margarine or other vegan butter will melt beautifully under the steady warmth of a corn on the cob, and its natural butteriness is a good pairing with most nut cheeses. There are also limitless non-dairy toppings that taste delicious with corn on the cob. Sirracha, garlic salt, red chili flakes and even salsa are some of our favorites.
Try it Street Style. No corn coverage worth its salt would be complete without an entreaty to stop what you’re doing and cook Mexican Street Style corn this very instant. Also called elote, this classic Mexican dish serves as a decadent take on the traditional cob, smothering the corn in a mixture of creamy, spicy and acidic flavors and textures that yields a nearly-perfect, certainly habit-forming, bite.
It’s a great way to mix up your regular corn dishes, and is super simple to prepare. Simply mix ¼ cups of sour cream and mayonnaise with a half a clove of garlic, a few tablespoons of lime and lemon juice and a dash of chipotle powder until fully combined. Smother the mixture onto a cob of corn fresh off the grill, and sprinkle with cotija cheese (feta works if you don’t have it), fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.
Corn on the cob might sound like a humble dish, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s packed with nutrition and unique fresh flavor, not to mention one of the most versatile vegetables around. Whether you’re preparing your corn on the cob as a healthy vegan lunch side or decadent, cheese-drenched dinner appetizer, there’s no question that you’re in for a treat. Want to know how to cook corn on the cob another way, or have a suggestion for the next installment of our How To series? We'd love to hear from you! Shoot us an e-mail at email@example.com.