Peak-season corn is so sweet and tender you can happily eat it raw, but when you want to cook your cobs, don’t stick to boiling them. Try grilling your corn on the cob for a little smoky, extra-summery flavor. There are a few ways to do it, all of them easy, but of the two most common methods, one is superior.
Lots of people swear by grilling corn in the husk, which acts as a natural barrier to protect the delicate kernels while they cook, and in effect steams the corn while still imparting a faint hint of smoke. Just trim off any tangled, discolored silk at the top of the ears before you place them on the grate (of a gas or charcoal grill) over direct medium to high heat. Let them cook for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally, then cool enough to handle and strip off the blackened husk and silk. Roll your corn in butter and seasoning and enjoy.
Cooking corn before shucking it actually makes removing all the pesky strands of silk easier, and the peeled-back husks can make a nice natural handle, but if you’re a fan of charred bits and more pronounced smoky flavor, you’ll find this option a little lacking. The point is to grill the corn, after all. So we like the following method even more.
For those who want more char, shucking the corn first, per our Basic Grilled Sweet Corn recipe, is the only way to go. You don’t need to stress about peeling off every last clingy filament of silk since it’ll mostly burn off anyway, and you don’t need to season the corn first, although you can if you want (just slick it with a bit of oil or melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper). Stripped-bare corn cobs can be placed on the grate directly over medium to high heat too; turn them periodically to get relatively even char on all sides, and they should be done in 10 minutes—maybe double that if the heat is lower. If you didn’t season them first, roll them in butter and spices hot off the grill, and bite into a perfectly juicy taste of summer.
You could grill your corn in the husk, then peel it back and put the ears on again for another few minutes to pick up some smoke and color, but that’s complicating matters for no real reason.
What to Do with Grilled Corn
Simply add some metal-pronged holders to each end and grilled corn on the cob is a great partner as-is to any protein, from burgers to grilled shellfish, and of course, fellow cylindrical summer icons, hot dogs.
OXO Good Grips Interlocking Corn Holders, $10 on Amazon
They’re not shaped like corn, but they are the right colors—and snap together so none go missing in storage.
When it comes to seasoning, if you want to branch out from plain old butter, try these unusual toppings for your corn on the cob.
And if you don’t like gnawing on the cobs themselves, you can shave the kernels off to use in salads, salsa, pasta, pizza, soups, and any other dishes that could use pops of sweet, smoky flavor.
You can also grill extra ears, cut off the kernels, and freeze them for later use.
Grilled Corn Recipes
Check out some of the grilled corn recipes below for inspiration.
Just because you grill your corn sans husk doesn’t mean you have to throw the outer leaves away; use them to keep meaty halibut steaks moist and intact on the grill, then top them with the charred corn itself in the form of lime-spritzed salsa (which is also great on tacos or in rice, burritos, enchiladas, and pretty much anything else). Get our Corn-Husk-Wrapped Grilled Halibut with Charred Corn Salsa recipe.
Grilled corn and grilled scallions join bacon and barbecue chicken on a cheesy pizza. This is a great way to use up leftover shredded BBQ chicken or even pulled pork, and if you want, you can grill the pizza itself too. Get the BBQ Pulled Chicken Pizza with Grilled Corn and Scallions recipe.
Sweet grilled corn kernels, bright tomatoes, and creamy avocado make an ultimate summer salad, and you can toss in any fresh herbs you have on hand. Arugula adds a nice peppery note to contrast the sweet and acidic flavors. Get the Grilled Corn Salad with Tomato and Avocado recipe.
Juicy ripe peaches and sweet charred corn are a gorgeous summer duo, and even better with fragrant, spicy basil and super-rich burrata. This simple yet striking dish can be a side salad or a light meal with a bit of grilled toast, and maybe a bed of mixed greens. Get the Spicy Grilled Corn and Peaches with Burrata recipe.
A shrimp boil on a stick is a delightful (and obviously delicious) dinner, with andouille sausage, shrimp, corn, and baby potatoes all skewered and grilled with butter, garlic, and Cajun seasoning. You’ll need a sharp knife to cut the corn into sections, and plenty of lemons for squeezing over everything. Get the Grilled Shrimp Boil Kabobs recipe.
Creamy corn pudding is an often-underappreciated side dish, but it’s perfect with all sorts of things, from grilled chicken to steaks, or even on its own with a salad. While this one calls for roasting the corn, you can use grilled kernels in their place. The cobs infuse the milk and cream with even more sweet corn flavor. Get the Roasted Corn Pudding recipe.
This pasta salad is bursting with summer flavor from grilled corn and zucchini and fresh, sweet cherry tomatoes. A little feta tops it off, and the cilantro can be replaced with basil or parsley if you prefer. Bring this to all your summer cookouts, potlucks, and picnics. Get our Grilled Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad recipe.
Grilled corn kernels add dynamite flavor and texture to jalapeño corn muffins, with some sour cream and cheddar cheese in the batter for good measure. These would be particularly great with chili as we slide from summer into fall. Get the Jalapeño Grilled Sweet Corn Muffins recipe.
Related Reading: Everything You Need to Know About Grilling & BBQ
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