You’re Probably Overcooking Your Corn

You’re Probably Overcooking Your Corn
Photo: elenamazur, Shutterstock

Hello, it’s me, your friendly internet corn truther, here to tell you that you are probably overcooking your corn on the cob. If you’ve been reading me for any real length of time, you know that I love to shout about how you don’t even have to cook corn, but sometimes people like their corn hot, so that the butter melts (and I get that).

The trouble is that most corn on the cob “recipes” or methods tell you to cook your corn for far too long. Corn enthusiasts have been shouting about this since 1992, yet people refuse to listen. (Yes, even I am guilty of telling people to cook their corn for a too-long length of time, but I’ve seen the light, and now must spread the good word.)

The truth is that modern corn is far more tender and much sweeter than it used to be. (My great-grandfather wouldn’t even eat sweet corn, which was cloying compared to the field corn he grew up on.) But those sugars start converting to starch the moment the corn is harvested, and heat only speeds up that process. Overcooked corn is mushy, yet somehow chewy, and nowhere as sweet as you deserve. (My great-grandfather, however, would have loved it.)

Hot corn on the cob is, however, very very good, and butter does not melt on cold kernels. Luckily, heating corn is not hard — it takes mere minutes. Here are my two favourite methods for when you need hot corn on the cob now.

Method #1: Quickly plunge your corn in boiling water

You could get fancy with low(er)-temp buttery milk baths, but after trying many different methods — including the milk bath — I find myself returning to simple water more often than not. Boiling water is, as we all know, very hot, and a mere two minutes is all it takes to bring your corn to a butter-melting temperature. Shuck the corn by chopping off the very ends with a sharp cleaver or knife, then grab as much of the husks and silks as you can and pull ‘em off. Repeat as needed.

Once the corn is husked, bring a pot of water to a boil, then plunge the corn into the water, put the lid on the pot, and walk away for two minutes. Come back, remove the hot corn from the pot, and eat it. (You may need to cook it a minute or two longer if you are cooking a lot of corn all at once, as a sudden addition of cold things will drop the temperature of your water down to below boiling.)

Method #2: Nuke it

I’d like to think that we, as a society, have moved beyond arbitrary microwave hate, because it truly is an amazing little cooker. (My step-mum almost exclusively cooks her corn in the microwave, and she has never had any complaints, but she also does not share her secrets unless pressed.)

Microwaving is a really effective, fast way to steam your corn in its own husk to hot and juicy perfection, but conventional wisdom would have you believe that you need to nuke your corn for five (5) whole minutes. No. You do not. Half of that is plenty, especially if you are only cooking an ear or two.

Leave the corn in the husk — strings and all — and run it briefly under some running water. Wrap it in a paper towel and microwave it on full power for two and a half minutes, maybe three minutes. Unwrap it. Eat it. Repeat, if needed. (Keep in mind that this is all dependent on how full you pack your microwave, but err on the side of less time, and increase in 30-second increments, if needed. The last time I went all in with a full five minutes for two ears, I ruined some perfectly good corn.)

I like both methods because they are fast, but microwaving corn is limited by the size of your microwave, and I prefer boiling if I’m making a whole bunch of ears all at once. Even if I have to work in batches, the boiling water can be used over and over to cook a steady stream of cobs for your family and friends. If they demand even more corn, tell them to nuke it themselves — it only takes two and half minutes.

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