Zesty elotes. Sweet-and-savory breads. Pasta skillets. Fresh off the grill. There are a million ways to eat corn, summer’s most beloved side. No shrimp boil, rack of ribs or pulled pork is complete without a steaming-hot cob by its side, glistening with melted butter and a dusting of salt and pepper. Here, we teach you how to cook corn, plus what to make with it once you’re a pro.
How to Pick Ripe Corn
Fun fact: Corn doesn’t need to be cooked at all. You can eat it raw as long as the corn is fresh and tender. But how do you know a corn cob is prime for picking?
The next time you’re at the grocery store, look for corn with a tight, hydrated green husk with lots of moist corn silk (aka those annoying little strings that fly everywhere when you shuck corn). Take a sneak peek at the corn without pulling off the husk by looking for juicy yellow kernels at the tip. White kernels = premature corn. If the tip is rounded or flat instead of pointy, that signals ripeness. Avoid corn with holes in the husks (it means that worms got to them first).
Once you bring the corn home, store it in the fridge in its husk, wrapped tightly in a plastic bag. It’ll be at its tastiest for three days.
How to Grill Corn
Nothing beats a few charred ears fresh off the barbecue. You can shuck them and put them on the grill naked or grill them inside the husk. Just remove the corn silk first if you’re keeping them covered. Here’s how to make the quintessential summer side:
- Turn the grill on medium-high heat.
- Once it’s hot, brush the corn cobs with olive oil or butter (optional), then place them on the grill.
- Rotate the corn cobs to get even charring.
- Remove them from the grill after about 10 to 15 minutes.
Try It: Grilled Corn with Spicy Aioli
How to Roast Corn
Your oven is a great alternative to grilling after summer has passed. Here’s how to roast corn:
- Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Remove the corn from its husk.
- Place each ear of corn on its own piece of aluminum foil. Season them with salt and pepper, then top them with a pat of butter. You can also just line them up on a baking sheet and skip the wrapping.
- Wrap the cobs tightly in the foil and place them on the oven rack. They should be tender in about 10 to 15 minutes.
How to Boil or Steam Corn
This is a great way to cook corn in a jiffy. Just one note about that pot of water: Your gut may tell you to salt it, but you shouldn’t. Salt will harden the kernels. Sprinkle it on the corn once it’s cooked instead (and add a generous spread of butter). To boil corn:
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Choose a pot that’s big enough to hold the shucked ears you’re cooking. If you don’t have a pot that’s big enough, cut the cobs in half.
- Add the corn to the pot and cover.
- Turn off the heat. The corn will be ready in about 4 or 5 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready because it will be bright yellow in color and dry in seconds once it’s out of the pot due to all the steam.
If you want to steam it instead for a crisper mouthfeel:
- Bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Place a steamer inside the pot and add the shucked corn to the steamer. If you don’t have a steamer, you can use a metal colander, a heat-safe plate held up by balls of aluminum foil or a baking rack to balance the corn above the boiling water. Just make sure the water doesn’t touch it.
- Let the corn cook for 3 to 5 minutes. The longer it steams, the softer and more tender it’ll be.
Try Either Method: Mexican Street Corn Deviled Eggs
How to Sauté Corn
Whether you’re working with kernels or whole cobs, pan-searing is a solid option. Here’s how to sauté corn:
- Shuck the corn. Slice off kernels carefully with a sharp knife if you’re not sautéing the full cobs. Season with butter or olive oil and salt.
- Bring a pan to medium-high heat and place the corn in the pan.
- If you’re cooking whole cobs, rotate them every few minutes with tongs so they brown evenly. If you’re cooking kernels, stir them frequently for the same reason.
- After 7 to 10 minutes, the corn should be tender and ready to eat. Loose kernels may cook faster.
Try It: Easy 5-Ingredient Corn Soup
How to Fry Corn
If you’re frying corn, it’s likely because your recipe includes corn kernels in a larger batter (like our corn fritter caprese recipe below). But, little known fact: You can also fry corn while it’s still on the cob.
- Shuck the corn. Keep it on the cob or slice the kernels off by placing the cob vertically in a bowl and cutting down each side with a knife.
- Add vegetable oil or butter to a pot or deep skillet. Let it get hot enough for frying.
- Fry the corn kernels or cobs until they turn golden-brown. This should take about 3 or 4 minutes, but keep an eye on them—loose kernels may cook faster.
- Drain and season to taste.
How to Cook Corn in the Slow Cooker
While this is a longer way to get corn from the husk to your mouth, it can be worth the extra TLC. Here’s how to prepare corn in the slow cooker:
- Shuck the corn. Brush with olive oil or butter and season with salt and pepper (optional).
- Add water to the slow cooker, then the corn. If you don’t want to use any water, wrap the cobs tightly in foil instead and place them seam-side up in the slow cooker.
- Cover and cook until the corn is yellow and tender, about two to four hours on high depending on how much corn you’re cooking.
You can also cook corn in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Just add the water, then the corn (you can stack them in sets of two) and cook on high for 2 minutes.
Try It: Crock-Pot Corn Chowder
How to Use Frozen Corn
Frozen kernels are the best way to get a taste of warmer days in the middle of winter. So, stock up this summer and store it for the long haul. To freeze corn:
- Shuck the corn while bringing a pot of water to a boil. Cut a half-inch off both ends of every cob.
- While you wait, fill a large bowl with ice and water.
- Blanch the corn by briefly boiling it in the water, then plunging it into the ice bath. This locks in the flavor and texture.
- Once the cobs are cool, dry them and roll each ear in multiple tight layers of plastic wrap. Be sure to seal it at both ends.
- Store in the freezer for six months to a year.
You can also save thawing time down the road by cutting the kernels off the cobs after they’re blanched. Store them in plastic bags for six months to a year. If you don’t have time for blanching, don’t sweat it; just wrap the shucked corn in plastic and store in the freezer. Just be sure to eat it within three months.
When you’re ready to eat your frozen corn, boiling is the fastest way to thaw it. For frozen cobs, put them in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Then bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat. It’ll be ready to eat in 5 to 8 minutes once it’s boiling. But if you blanched it before freezing, you could simply wait for them to thaw in the fridge or under a stream of cold water instead. If you’re thawing frozen kernels, place them in a colander in the sink and let cool water run over them until they no longer feel icy.
Try It: Mexican Street Corn Dip
How to Use Canned Corn
All out of your farmers’ market haul from the summer? It’s canned corn to the rescue. Unopened and stored in the pantry or a dark, cool place, it has a shelf life of two to five years, says the USDA. As long as the can isn’t opened, dented, rusted or swollen, odds are it’s safe to eat, even after that two- to five-year period. Once it’s opened, it’ll last three or four days in the fridge.
While you could eat this stuff straight from the can, it’s a breeze to use in all sorts of recipes. Just drain and rinse the kernels before using; most canned corn is packaged with some additives, so washing the kernels will get them closest to that fresh-off-the-cob taste. Once they’re rinsed, just follow your recipe’s instructions.
Try It: Sweet Corn Doughnut Holes
Can You Cook Corn in the Microwave?
You betcha. And it just might be the most hands-off way to do it. Just place the corn in its husk on a microwave-safe plate and nuke it for 4 to 6 minutes. If it’s not soft enough for your taste, heat it a bit longer. Let it cool before removing the husk and corn silk.
What to Make or Serve with Corn
- 30-Minute Creamy Chicken, Corn and Tomato Skillet
- Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork
- Pan-Seared Scallops with Citrusy Corn Succotash
- Crispy Baked Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw
- Grilled Flank Steak with Lemon-Herb Sauce
- Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread with Tomatoes and Scallions
- Summer Skillet Gnocchi with Grilled Corn and Burrata