Cook Perfect Corn on the Cob

Discover the top methods for serving up an ear of this summer favorite.

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob is in season from May to September.

Photo by: Mick Telkamp

Mick Telkamp

Corn on the cob is in season from May to September.

There is plenty of corn on the cob ready to be cooked at my house. It’s not a crop I grow, but the return of fresh corn to my local farmers market is always cause for celebration. From mid-June through August, pickups are piled high with ears of corn harvested that very morning and sold straight from the truck bed. We buy more than seems reasonable and yet it's never enough when corn on the cob is on the menu.

Is there a “best” way to cook corn on the cob? Here are our favorites.

Boiled. Corn on the cob has been cooked in a pot of boiling water since the pot of water was a cool new invention. And with good reason: It takes almost no effort to perfectly cook an ear of corn this way without trying to be clever about it, and works whether you’re cooking one ear or a hundred. To boil corn on the cob, shuck the corn and remove that pesky silk. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add corn, return to boil and turn off the heat. Corn is ready to eat within 5 minutes and the rest can be left in the pot until you’re ready for seconds.

Microwave. Perfectly cooked, tender, moist and flavorful, cooking corn is the reason microwaves were invented. Leave the corn in the husk and pop it in the microwave for 4 minutes (or 8 minutes for two ears, and so on). Now the cool part—when you take it out of the microwave, use a sharp knife to cut the stem-end of the corn off about half an inch up. The corn on the cob will slide easily out of the husk, leaving the silk inside. Fast, foolproof and delicious every time.

Grilled. It’s not the fastest way, not the easiest way and not always all that convenient. So why do it? Because grilling corn on the cob gives a depth of flavor the other methods lack, picking up smokey tones only found in outdoor cooking. It’s good corn, but it’s also pretty darn cool to throw corn in the husk on the grill.

There’s a little cheat to keep it moist and easy to eat: Peel back the husk, pull off and discard the silk and soak ears for 10 minutes in salted water. Fold the husk back over the corn and grill for about 15 minutes, turning once. The husk will char and some will burn away, which doesn’t harm the kernels inside and will make the grill master feel rugged and outdoorsy.

Each method has its advantages. For large batches, boiling is hard to top. For quick, no-muss no-fuss corn on the cob, the microwave is miraculous. And grilling has a cool factor and perhaps a little edge when it comes to flavor. If I’m grilling dinner, odds are there’s corn off to the side there. Can we say there really is a “best” way to cook corn on the cob?

OK, it’s the microwave. Bring on the comments.

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