Grilling corn is one of summer’s tastiest pleasures, so here are a few ways to make sure you’re eating the best ears possible.   

By David McCann
July 08, 2020
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There are a few ingredients that just scream SUMMER to me: Tomatoes, basil, beef on the grill… But I don’t think you’ll argue with me when I say that fresh corn says summer like nothing else.

Summer also means grilling season for many of us. And corn takes to the grill like nobody's business. That said, there are a few pointers that I’d like to share that will make grilling corn virtually foolproof.

Lose the Silk

The first, and possibly the most important, is silk removal. Now whether you grill in the husk or out of the husk, no one likes corn silk in their teeth. So pull back the husk, keeping it attached at the bottom if you choose, and pull off as much of the silk as you can. Don’t rush this; clean cobs are worth the effort.

Hector Manuel Sanchez; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Give It a Soak

Step two involves soaking—I’m a big believer in this. A 15- to 30-minute soak in water gives you a margin for error, so you won’t toughen your corn when grilling. If you’re leaving the husks on, this also lessens burning. When I was working in New Hampshire many years ago, I tasted grilled corn that was soaked in milk prior to cooking. That may sound odd, but it was a real game changer. The corn was like candy. (And, it was tough, end-of-season corn to boot!)

Try Husk-On vs. Husk-Off

Now on to grilling. If you want to grill the corn without the husk, just pull it off, grill, and you will get a very smoky, caramelized taste and look. If you grill the ears in their husks, just pull the husks back up to their original position, and grill. You will still get smoky, caramel notes, just not quite as strong. Obviously, this is “cook’s choice.” So my advice is to try both and see what you like the best. (Bonus: You get to eat your experiment! It’s a win-win.) The timing window is really up to you, but 10-15 minutes is pretty standard for corn grilled in the husk. You’ll need a little less time for corn out of the husk. This all depends on how “done” you like your corn. I try to find a balance between “hardly cooked” and some dark kernels.

Which brings me to a confession. I love grilled corn. It’s one of those campfire memories that takes me back decades. But sometimes, the grill is not a planned part of the meal. And for those instances, I have a perfect “Plan B.” I put water on to boil while someone else goes to get just-picked corn, and then I dip an ear in the water for maybe 30 seconds, remove it, butter and salt it, and eat it. And I am happy. 

Both of these cooking methods will produce delicious corn, and summer memories that will last a lifetime.