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  • The Chopping Blog

Corny Tips on the Perfect Ear of Corn

Posted by Josh on Jun 29, 2016
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A very kind and tolerant person once said “There are no stupid questions.” But I think there are lots of stupid questions, like “Will there be another X-Men Movie?” or “Does this fedora look good?” Thankfully, there’s a place you can go to have all your stupid questions answered. Not by professionals, not by experts, but by unidentified people on the internet! 

Yahoo! Answers is the forum that allows anyone to chuck a javelin of inquiry into a field of random web surfing know-it-alls with the hope that they strike at least one person who won’t blame their simple plumbing question on the Illuminati.                

So naturally, sometimes, good hearted grandmas and doomsday preppers… or anyone else who hasn’t changed their homepage from Yahoo! set afloat a genuine plea for help into the expanse. It’s those questions I seek out, hoping to keep one more steak from burning, one more fork from going in the microwave, and one more fedora from being worn. Because I have culinary knowledge… and Google.               

Spring has sprung us right into the muggy heat of summer and if summer had a mascot  it would be a big yellow ear of corn. The traditional serving suggestions of Midwest moms and Colonial Sanders everywhere is to shuck, strip, and boil it before basting it with a butter type substance (or in my house, rolling it directly on the stick).    

Buttered Corn

Which brings us to today’s question from Anonymous: “How long do you boil corn on the cob?”               

Great question Anonymous! Glad you took time out of hacking Twitter accounts to up your culinary game. Let’s look at some of the top answers: “Place the corn in boiling water and after the water comes back to boil, 3 minutes. 3 minutes is all that is needed to heat through fresh corn on the cob.” - Emma               

Thanks for restating the thesis Emma, my high school English teacher would be so proud. So let’s try the three-minute corn technique: I heated a pot of water to a boil, dropped in my corn, and set a timer. I was a little skeptical that three minutes would do the job but true to Emma’s word I got an ear full…o f plump juicy corn. The kernels were still a little firm but very sweet.   

“about 10 minutes usually” - Sharon               

Ok, let's take a look and see what an extra seven minutes in the bubbles does for our kernels. In the exact same pot of water, I let a second ear of corn go a bit longer and the difference was subtle but the corn was definitely more tender although some of the sugar had cooked out. Although it wasn’t to the “mushy” stage, it was a little softer than I prefer.        

“After cleaning your corn, place in pan and cover with water. Add a spoonful of sugar (if you want sweet corn). Heat to boil. Boil for "2" minutes. Let sit for "10" minutes, and you WILL have perfect corn, Promise!!! Do NOT add salt, as this will toughen your corn! 💛🌽👍❤🌽💚😊” - Cindi               

Someone who uses that many emoticons to express their love of corn must know what they are talking about or be “14” years old (are we supposed to put quotes around our numbers now?). Ok, I tried this multi step approach and Cindi is clearly overcomplicating the process, you know, like how I’m overcomplicating corn boiling right now. After what ended up being nearly half an hour soaking in the water the corn was starting to get too soft and the added sugar just made the corn taste like it was over-processed. Compared to the naturally sweet corn I had just eaten, this stuck out like a Skittle in a bowl of M&Ms. Maybe this is a good method for adding some life back into out of season corn, but this is summer in the midwest, I’ll wait til October for my candy corn. 😩🌽👎                 

I did ask around the kitchen to see if anyone else had any corn boiling thoughts and one of The Chopping Block chefs told me that they always added a cup of milk to the pot in restaurants he’d worked in. I was curious, so I gave it a shot. I decided to split the difference and boil it for 6 minutes with a full cup of whole milk added to the pot. What I got was a plump and firm texture with kernels that popped and a creamy taste that lingered on the tongue. I’m not trying to oversell it, but this was a sexy cob and the best.                  

So what do I think the best way of cooking corn is? Grilling it! I spent a lot of time watching a timer and tasting for subtle differences in sugar content when all along I knew the best way to cook corn is to cut out the water and throw it right on the heat. Keep that sugar in the kernels and let that direct heat take you to caramelized heaven.  If your corn is fresh you will find that you may not even need salt and butter… or so I’ve heard.                

My favorite method is to make a chipotle compound butter, smear it directly on the corn, and throw it on the grill. The char lines bring out the sweetness and add complexity to the flavor and it’s just about everything boiled corn is missing.   

Chipotle Corn

Chipotle Compound Butter

1 stick unsalted Butter, cold

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon Worchestershire Sauce

1 chipotle pepper, diced

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika 

Salt and pepper to taste 

Combine all ingredients in food processor and mix.  

Chipotle Grilled Corn

4 ears fresh corn on the cob, husks removed

8oz Southwest Compound Butter

4 tablespoonss fresh cilantro 

  1. Heat grill to medium-high.  
  2. Smear corn with Southwest Compound Butter (can be stored in fridge prior to grilling).
  3. Grill corn until corn begins to char and then rotate. 3-4 mins per side, 10-12 mins total.  
  4. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve warm.

The Chopping Block's Owner/Chef Shelley Young has a video on how to select and cook corn. Watch it here to see how long she cooks it.


Want more how to cook videos? Check out our online video library. And if you need to remove the kernels from the cob, here's an easy trick to avoid a mess. 

videos cta

Topics: corn, Grilling, corn on the cob

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