Is it even summer yet if you haven’t had corn on the cob? Biting teeth first into a buttery, bright yellow ear of corn is one of those moments of pure summer joy. It’s a rare vegetable that kids enjoy just as much as adults. The fuss-free summer staple is delicious topped with just a pat of butter and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Peak season for sweet corn is May through September, so pick it up at the grocer or farmers market and enjoy it while you can.
1. pick out the best ears
Husks should have a green sheen to them and should be tightly wrapped against the cob. The tassels on top should be moist and tacky to the touch. If they’re black or dry, then you’re looking at an old ear of corn.
If you have the rare opportunity to peek a bit deeper, peel back the husk a few inches and look at the kernels. They should be brightly colored and free from worm holes. But peeking is mostly considered bad grocery store etiquette (and some farmers, rightfully, don’t want you poking at their produce), but no fret. You can still get a really good idea of freshness by feeling the kernels through the husk with your fingers. Make sure they are plump and plentiful. If you notice lots of spots where corn is missing, pick another ear.
Examine the exterior. Brown spots visible on the outside or the inside are usually a sign of less-than-ideal corn.
2. Boil a pot of salty water
Some southern cooks swear by boiling your corn in milk, but most people prefer the taste of corn cooked in salt water. Fill a pot with water and make it really salty — don’t be shy! It should taste like the ocean. Bring the pot to a boil. Your corn won’t taste this salty, but it’s the best way to make sure the corn soaks up enough flavor.
3. Shuck it
While your water boils, get to shucking. Pull off those husks. Start at the tip, grab the husk, and rip in a downward motion toward the base. It’s best to do this over a trashcan or outside — somewhere that can tolerate a bit of a mess, since those tiny stringy bits can get strewn everywhere.
4. Boil it
Drop your cleaned ears of corn into the boiling water using tongs to help minimize splash. Let fresh corn boil for about 5 minutes. Set a timer so you don’t overcook it. Overcooked corn can be chewy and lose its texture. What you want is a juicy, crunchy kernel.
If your corn is freshly-picked but several days old, add about two minutes to this time. Corn should have the firmness of an orange when it’s cooked vs. an apple when it’s still undercooked. Kernels should still look plump — not flat or worn (this means you’ve cooked them too long).
5. Bring the butter!
Everyone likes a little butter with their corn, so brush it on! Season with pepper and more salt if desired, and serve with chicken, steak, pulled pork, shrimp, or all on its own. It’s just that good!
How to make corn on the cob
- 4 ears of corn, shucked and cut in half (if desired)
- 4 tbsp butter
- Fill a large pot about half way with water and salt liberally. Bring to a boil.
- Add corn and cook 5-7 minutes, then drain.
- Brush corn with butter and season with salt and pepper.
- Happy summer eating!
Also see, Zucchini, corn, and goat cheese panini.