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How to Cook Corn 10 Different Ways, From Roasting to Microwaving

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 ten different ways, plus what to make with it once you’re a pro. 

How to Pick Ripe Corn

Fun fact: Corn doesn’t *technically* 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. But don’t forget to abide by the cardinal corn-buying rule: Don’t peel the husk down and leave that ear behind. It’ll only leave the kernels susceptible to damage and drying out before someone else gets to it. 

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:

  1. Prepare the grill for medium-high heat.
  2. Once it’s hot, brush the corn cobs with olive oil or butter (if desired), then place them on the grill.
  3. Rotate the corn cobs periodically to get even charring.
  4. Remove them from the grill when the cob feels tender, 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 (or if you don’t own a grill). Here’s how to roast corn:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Remove the corn from its husk.
  2. 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.
  3. Wrap the cobs tightly in the foil and place them on the oven rack. They should be tender in about 10 to 15 minutes.

Try It: Roasted Poblano and Corn Guacamole

How to Boil or Steam Corn

This is a great way to cook corn in a flash and, we’d argue, the most classic preparation. Just one note about that pot of water: Your gut may tell you to salt it, but you shouldn’t. Salt will toughen up the kernels. Season the corn after it’s cooked instead (and add a generous spread of butter). To boil corn:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Choose a pot that’s large enough to hold the shucked ears you’re cooking. If you don’t have a pot that’s big enough, you can cut the cobs in half.
  2. Add the shucked corn to the pot and cover.
  3. Turn off the heat. Cook the corn until it’s tender and bright yellow in color, about 4 or 5 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready because it will be 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 texture:

  1. Fill a pot a third to halfway with water and bring it to a boil.
  2. 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.
  3. Steam the corn 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 for tasty caramelization. Here’s how to sauté corn:

  1. 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.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and place the corn in the pan.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 

  1. 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.
  2. Add vegetable oil or butter to a pot or deep skillet. Heat it to your desired temperature for frying.
  3. 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.
  4. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Try It: Corn Fritter Caprese with Peaches and Tomatoes

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 for ultra tender texture. Here’s how to prepare corn in the slow cooker:

  1. Shuck the corn. Brush with olive oil or butter (if desired) and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add about ⅔ cup 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.
  3. Cover and cook until the corn is yellow and tender, about 2 to 4 hours on high depending on how much corn you’re cooking.

Try It: Crock-Pot Corn Chowder

How to Cook Corn in the Instant Pot

You can also cook corn in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker, whether you need it fast or your stove is preoccupied with other tasks (potato salad, anyone?).

  1. Add about ⅔ cup water to the Instant Pot, then the corn (you can stack them in sets of two if needed).
  2. Set the Instant Pot to High Pressure and cook for 2 minutes. Perform a quick release to release the steam, then remove the corn with tongs.

Try It: Instant Pot Corn on the Cob

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:

  1. Shuck the corn. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut about half an inch off both ends of every cob. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  2. Blanch the corn by briefly boiling it in the water, then plunging it into the ice bath. This locks in the flavor and texture.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. Once it’s boiling, it’ll be ready to eat in 5 to 8 minutes. 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.