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Grilled Corn on the Cob

A few minutes over a hot fire adds subtle smokiness, a perfect accent to today's super-sweet varieties of corn

Fine Cooking Issue 40
Photos: Martha Holmberg
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Certain things just taste like summer, and corn on the cob is one of them. Popular kitchen wisdom used to dictate that the way to cook corn on the cob was to set a large pot of water to boil, run out to the garden, pick the corn, shuck it on the way into the house, and plunge it, post haste, into the boiling water. But now with the sweeter varieties of corn readily available at farmers’ markets and grocers, a subtle smokiness from the grill adds just the right flavor.

Grilling in the husk: protection and flavor

I prefer to grill the corn while still in its husk, silk and all. This method seems to steam the corn to perfection while giving it a slight smokiness that brings out the corn flavor. Some people recommend soaking the husks before grilling, but doing this keeps the husks from charring and eliminates the smoky flavor that I find so desirable.

How to grill corn in the husk:

Step One: Peel away the outer layers of husk. If the ears have many layers of husk on them, I’ll peel off the first few, leaving a few layers for protection, but allowing the kernels to see a little action.

Step Two: Use a lively fire. I usually put the corn on the grill as soon as the initial flames from the charcoal die down and the coals are still red-hot. Corn protected by its husk is very forgiving, so if a few flames lick the ears and light the husks, don’t worry. Take care, however, not to crowd the grill, which would choke off too much air to the coals.

Step Three: Keep turning those ears. Grill the corn, turning often, until the first layer of husk is completely charred. Depending on your fire, this could take from around 5 to 10 minutes. You can push the corn to a cooler spot if you’re grilling other things for your meal, or transfer the grilled corn to a platter and keep it warm in the charred husks until serving.

Step Four: A final turn with the husks off. Just before serving, I sometimes peel back the husk and brown the kernels on the grill, turning the corn frequently. You don’t need to oil the corn for grilling directly like this, as it only takes a minute or so for it to develop a roasty color and a little additional smoke flavor. But if the corn spends too long on the grill without the protection of the husk, the kernels will become dry and a bit chewy.

To remove the corn from its husk, cut the stem end up to the bottom of the ear and peel back the husks and silk. You might need to brush away burnt silks. Now just dress the corn as you like: butter, olive oil, salt. I suggest my Lime-Cayenne Butter.

Bonus Video:

Learn our Test Kitchen’s secrets for grilling corn on the cob so that it’s tender and sweet with just the right amount of char.


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