AmazingRibs.com is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

The Science of Corn

Share on:

The only time to buy corn is when it is in season. In the South it comes into season in early summer. In the North local corn isn’t available until late July (although some of the new hybrids like Precocious come in earlier). Frozen corn is OK as an ingredient in a dish, but I just can’t eat it straight. It just tastes like plastic to me.

The best corn comes from nearby. This is where the locavores have it right. Trucking it cross country in a hot truck can kill its flavor and sweetness. Like fruit, I think the best corn comes from the cooler northern climates, where the days are hot and the nights are cool. If you buy at a farm stand, select ears that are in the shade. If you buy from a supermarket, ask the produce manager what state it came from. Look him/her in the eye. Ask when it arrived.

Inspect the ears. Don’t pick the biggest. Pick the midsized ears. The husk should be pale green and moist. The cut end of the stem should not be brown. The silky threads coming out of the top may be brown, that’s not a problem, but black is. The silk under the husk should be blond and as delicate as a child’s hairs. Pull back the husk a few inches and look at the kernels. Not just the top kernels, which tend to be undersized, but the kernels 1-2″ down. Leave behind the ears with big gaps, uneven sized kernels, really big kernels, and really small kernels. Don’t worry if there is a worm hole. You can cut it out. You’re dealing with nature here. She ain’t perfect.

Some kernels are white and some are yellow depending on the variety, and some varieties even have both white and yellow on the same ear. When nobody’s looking, find a typical ear and with the nail of your thumb, puncture a kernel. The juice should be milky and taste sweet. If it is, find identical ears and load up. If it isn’t, skip the corn and make potato salad.

When you get it home, leave it in the husk and get in into the fridge ASAP.

New corn varieties stay sweet longer

Once upon a time, the strategy was: Get the water boiling, run to the field, pick the corn, run back husking all the way, and throw the fresh corn into the hot water. That’s because the natural sugars in corn start turning to starch shortly after it is harvested. But now there are new hybrids that stay sweet for 2-4 days. Called SE or sugar enhanced and shrunken-2 varieties, they allow city dwellers to get corn as sweet as farm folk.

Now don’t panic. These hybrids are not Frankenfood. In fact, sweet corn, called sugary, is a mutation from dent corn, a.k.a. field corn, that is used for animal feed, corn oil, and ethanol.

Perhaps the best known of the sweet varieties is Silver Queen, but there are many others whose names make the mouth water (those breeders must be transplants from Madison Avenue). Some farm stands list their names so here are a few: Bodacious, Calico Belle, Challenger, Crisp N’Sweet, Dazzle, Even Sweeter, Incredible, Landmark, Maple Sweet, Pinnacle, Platinum Lady, Snowbelle, Ssupersweet (yess there are two letterss ss), Summerflavor, Sweetie, Top Notch, Viva, and Zenith. My alltime fave is one called Mirai. Tender and sweet enough to eat raw.

Related articles

Published On: 1/22/2017 Last Modified: 8/10/2021

Share on:
  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.

 

High quality websites are expensive to run. If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and a lot of freebies!

Millions come to AmazingRibs.com every month for high quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 2,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club. But please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get MANY great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial, and help keep this site alive.


Post comments and questions below

grouchy?

1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.

Moderators

  Max

Click for comments...

Spotlight

These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on AmazingRibs.com and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys: https://tinyurl.com/amazingribs


The Cool Kettle With The Hinged Hood We Always Wanted


Napoleon’s 22″ Pro Cart Charcoal Kettle Grill puts a few spins on the familiar kettle design. In fact, the hinged lid with a handle on the front, spins in a rotary motion 180 degrees. It’s hard to beat a Weber kettle, but Napoleon holds its own and adds some unique features to make the 22″ Pro Cart a viable alternative.

Click here for more about what makes this grill special


Fireboard: The Ultimate Top Of The Line BBQ Thermometer

Fireboard Labs Product Photo Shoot. Kansas City Commercial Portrait and Wedding Photographers ©Kevin Ashley Photography

With the ability to monitor up to six temperatures simultaneously with either Bluetooth or Wifi on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer, Fireboard is the best digital thermometer we’ve tested.
Click here to read our detailed review


The Good-One Is A Superb Grill And A Superb Smoker All In One


The Good-One Open Range is dramatically different from a traditional offset smoker. By placing the heat source behind and under the smokebox instead of off to the side, Open Range produces even temperature from left to right, something almost impossible to achieve with a standard barrel shaped offset.

Click here to read our complete review


The Pit Barrel Cooker May Be Too Easy


The PBC has a rabid cult following for good reason. It is absolutely positively without a doubt the best bargain on a smoker in the world. Period. This baby will cook circles around the cheap offset sideways barrel smokers because temperature control is so much easier.

Click here to read our detailed review and the raves from people who own them


Groundbreaking Hybrid Thermometer!

Thermapen One Instant Read Thermometer

The FireBoard Spark is a hybrid combining instant-read capability, a cabled temperature probe, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. We gave Spark a Platinum Medal for pushing the envelope of product capability while maintaining high standards of design and workmanship.

Click here to read our comprehensive Platinum Medal review


Our Favorite Backyard Smoker

The amazing Karubecue is the most innovative smoker in the world. The quality of meat from this machine is astonishing. At its crux is a patented firebox that burns logs above the cooking chamber and sucks heat and extremely clean blue smoke into the thermostat controlled oven. It is our favorite smoker, period.
Click here for our review of this superb smoker


Compact Powerful Sear Machine For Your Next Tailgater


Char-Broil’s Grill2Go x200 is a super-portable, fun little sizzler made of heavy, rust-proof cast aluminum. The lid snaps shut. Grab the handle and you’re off to the party! Char-Broil’s TRU-Infrared design produces searing heat while reducing fuel consumption. A 16 ounce LP gas canister is enough to keep you flipping burgers for hours.

Click here to read our detailed review and to order