Summer is the season of grilling. It is also the season of a sometimes-underestimated vegetable: corn. There is a very good reason that you rarely see corn on the cob available for purchase in the off season. As soon as corn is harvested, the sugars in the kernels begin to break down into a bland starch. This means it is extremely important to buy corn fresh from the farm and cook it that day for the best results. There are a few different ways to grill corn on the cob, and they all lead to slightly different, but equally delicious, flavors.
Grilled in the Husk
Grilling corn in its own husk is a great way to steam the corn without charring it. The husk chars and the liquids within evaporate, thus steaming the corn to perfection. The simplest way to grill corn in its husk is to simply place the corn, husk, and all, onto a bed of hot coals. If you are using a gas grill, you can place the corn directly on the grate of a grill preheated to medium-hot. Turn the corn occasionally, until fully cooked. This should take about fifteen minutes. It is finished when the entire husk is blackened.
To add some flavor before grilling, you can carefully peel back the husk and remove the silk. Then, add butter and your desired seasonings (salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, etc.) and cover the corn back up in the husk. Use this same grilling method for plain, unflavored corn in the husk.
Grilling corn this way is extremely easy, and requires minimal preparation. The corn comes out flavorful. You can taste a slightly grassy note because of the husk. Unfortunately, this method does get a bit messy when you eat it. The char from the husk often rubs off onto your hands and clothing. It can also be a bit tricky to determine if the corn is fully cooked without getting the charred flavor on the corn kernels.
Grilled in Aluminum Foil
When you grill an ear of corn in aluminum foil, you eliminate the issue of having charred husk rub off on your hands and clothing. First, you need to shuck the corn and discard any remaining silk. Then take the cleaned ear of corn and wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil. If desired, add butter and seasoning inside the aluminum foil. Grill the corn on hot coals, or on a medium-hot grill for about fifteen minutes or until it is fully cooked.
Preparing corn this way makes it easier to serve. The foil helps maintain a hot temperature, which means this method is perfect for parties and other big groups of people. The downside to this method is that it requires a lot of preparation: shucking and cleaning corn is a pain in the neck. Corn prepared this way also lacks any char-grilled flavor.
For corn that tastes like it has been grilled, this is an ideal method. Start by removing the husk and most of the silk. If you do not get all the silk, don’t worry. It will still taste perfectly delicious, and the grill will burn any remaining strands off. On a high-heat grill, place the corn on a rack directly above the flame. Turn it occasionally, until it has a nice charred look and is completely cooked through. This should take about 10 minutes.
This method yields an ear of corn that is nicely charred, smoky, and nutty. The corn kernels sort of pop in your mouth. Corn cooked this way may cool off quickly, making it less ideal for large gatherings. The corn is also not as juicy when prepared outside of its husk.
Should You Brine Your Corn?
Many people believe that you need to soak your corn in brine before grilling, but this is not necessarily a good idea. If you are grilling your corn in the husk, and the husk looks like it has dried out a bit, it isn’t a bad idea because this will help the corn steam while on the grill. However, brining shucked corn can lead to kernels that shrivel up and dry out. Brining draws the moisture out of corn without replacing it which often creates inferior-tasting corn.