The Ultimate Grilled Corn on the Cob Recipe

"Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn."Garrison Keillor

The best way to cook corn is on the grill, and I have a few tricks that you can use to make the Ultimate Corn on the Cob. This corn is so good, it should be illegal.

Boiling, microwaving, and steaming make tender, juicy corn. But grilled corn is muuuuch more flavorful. Yes, it is a bit chewier, but I don't mind. The sugars caramelize, adding a depth of flavor no other method can produce. And when I am talking about grilling corn, I am not talking about the popular method of soaking the corn, husk and all, in water and then grilling it in the husk. Or putting it in foil. This is steamed corn, not grilled corn and you do not get all the flavors you get when it is nekkid.

Believe me, I have tried every method known to man, and this "how to" is the one that brings the most bang. A hint of tarragon adds an exotic sweetness, and the butter soaks in and drips off so the corn isn't the least bit greasy, yet it is buttery and so flavorful you won't want to put butter and salt on it at tableside. Do this once, and you'll never boil corn again.

Of all the many ways to prepare corn on the cob, grilling, by far, makes the tastiest corn.

Yield. 4 ears

Preparation time. 25 minutes

Cooking time. 20 to 25 minutes

Ingredients

4 ears of fresh sweet corn

8 tablespoons of butter

4 loosely packed tablespoons fresh tarragon, minced

Note. You can leave out the tarragon if you wish. It's still mighty good. But try it in. Tarragon really makes sweet corn sing. You can use other herbs such as thyme, oregano, rosemary, or basil, but tarragon is my favorite. You can also use margarine or a blend or corn oil and butter or margarine, but butter is best.

Method

1) Preheat the grill to medium high.

2) Remove the husks, pull off the silky threads that get stuck in your teeth. Respect your guests. Get them all. Wash the ear in cold water.

3) Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium low heat. Chop the tarragon and chuck it in. Let it steep in the butter for about 15 minutes so it is infused with tarragon flavor.

4) Put the corn on the grill about 20 minutes before everything else is ready. You don't want to overcook it or leave it sitting around getting cold. Rest the ears between the bars of the grates so you can roll them from groove to groove. Leave 2-4 grooves between ears for easy rolling. Paint them gently all over with the tarragon butter. Try not to let too much fat drip onto the fire so it doesn't flare up and get the corn sooty. Get the tarragon chunks on the corn. If there is a flareup, move the corn to another part of the grill. Close the lid and grill over direct heat for about 4-5 minutes until some of the kernels get toasty golden. Don't burn them. Roll the ears a couple of grooves, about 1/4 turn, and paint them again. Keep browning, turning, and painting until you have done all four quarters. If you run out of butter, don't sweat it. Remove and serve. You can put butter and salt on the table, but urge your guest to taste their ear unadulterated first. Chances are they won't use any butter or salt.

The unaccustomed flavor of Mexican Grill Corn is sure to startle and please your taste buds.

In Mexico and Central America they know a thing or two about corn. For them, a mayo and cheese topping is as common as butter and salt is in the US. It may seem odd, but remember, mayo is mostly oil, as is butter. It tastes strange at first bite, but with each bite you grow to love it more.

Makes. Enough for 4 ears

Preparation time. 10 minutes

Cooking time. 20 to 25 minutes

Ingredients

1/4 cup mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)

2 teaspoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon chipotle or other hot pepper powder (not flakes)

2 pinches of salt, more or less to taste

Optional. Add 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.

Optional. Finely grate 1/4 cup queso blanco, a simple fresh Mexican cheese, and sprinkle it on top of the mayo.

Method

1) Mix all the ingredients.

2) Strip and wash the corn as in the recipe at left. Grill the same way, but don't paint it with oil.

3) Serve the corn and, with a brush, slather it with the mayo mix.

Leftover Grilled Corn Salad

I always roast more corn that I can eat, although occasionally I have surprised myself with my capacity. I let the leftover corn cool, scrape it off the cob with a sharp knife, and put it in the fridge for a day or two. Then, when I need a quickie side dish, I mix it with chopped fresh tomatoes, minced jalape–o, some fresh tarragon, and thinly sliced red onion. Then I drizzle it with my best olive oil and it's a great salad.

You can riff on this theme with avocado cubes, cubed fresh mango or peach, chopped ham, crumbled bacon, or chopped leftover barbecue meat.

Roasted corn is also good in tomato salsa and in soups.

My most disgusting food fetish

When I have gnawed every last kernel off the cob, and I am pretty thorough, you will not find fuzzy cobs on my plate when I am done, I will bite off the small end of the cob and suck out the sugarry juices, I will work my way through the entire cob this way, and in the center, where the core of the cob is thickest and sweetest, a bit like sugar cane, I will eat the core. There are a lot of impolite sucking sounds made, so this is best not done with company present.

grilled corn

steaming corn

Before you get started, read my article on The Science of Corn.

If you must boil your corn

Although grilling corn produces a deeper, richer taste, boiling yields a more tender and juicy kernel. Here's how to do it:

Don't bother putting salt in the water. That just makes it tougher. And sugar will not penetrate much, so don't bother with that either. Use plenty of water so the cold corn will not reduce the temp of the water too much. Get the water boiling hard and then add the corn. It will take about two to three minutes for the water to boil again, but the cooking starts as soon as the corn hits the water. When the water starts to boil again, boil it hard for only three minutes.

I'd rather you microwave it

Microwave it right in the husk, 4 minutes on high.

Cooler corn

Although it isn't grilled, this is a fine method for making a lot of corn for a big crowd, a method that is perfect for camping with the Scouts or tailgating.

Get a large plastic beer cooler. Styrofoam will not work. Scrub it really really clean with warm soapy water. Peel as much corn as you need and stack it in the cooler. Boil enough water to cover the corn and pour it in. Close the lid and walk away for about 15 minutes. That's it! The corn will cook and hold for about an hour!

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