Grilled Corn-on-the-Cob

(It’s corn season! From the recipe archive. First posted 2007.)

The first time I tried grilling corn-on-the-cob, by placing shucked corn directly on the grill, the results weren’t all that stellar. Too dried out and chewy. I consulted “She-who-knows-everything-when-it-comes-to-home-cooking” (a.k.a. mom) who informed me that the best way to grill corn is to cook the corn in their husks, directly on a hot grill.

The husks protect the corn from getting dried out and the corn essentially steams in its own moisture while getting infused with smoky flavor from the charring corn husks. It’s also so easy! No need to even break off the silks. Just place the corn, as is, in husks, on a hot grill.

Many people call for soaking the corn in water first. There’s no need if you are working with fresh corn to begin with. Some techniques also have you pull back the husks, take out the silks, and then put the husks back over the corn before grilling. I’ve tried that. It does make it easier after the corn is done when removing the husks. But I find the corn more easily dries out this way, and the best way for juicy grilled corn is to not mess with the husks.

If you want some grill marks (as shown in the photos), you can pull off a few of the outer husk leaves, leaving less of a barrier between the outer leaves and the corn, for more the charring to reach the corn.

Corn hot off the grill

Grilled Corn-on-the-Cob Recipe

  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 4 ears fresh corn, in their husks
  • Butter (or an herb butter) for serving

Method

grilled-corn-1.jpg grilled-corn-2.jpg

1 Prepare your grill, gas or charcoal, with direct, high heat, about 550°F. (You know the grill is hot enough if are able to hold your hand one inch above the grill for only 1 second.)

2 The corn husks will protect the corn from burning or drying out while it is on the hot grill. If you want a bit of char on your corn, peel off a few of the outer layers of the corn husks first, before grilling.

Place the corn in their husks on the hot grill. Cover the grill. Turn the corn occasionally, until the husks are completely blackened and charred on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes.

3 Remove the corn from the grill. Let them sit for 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Remove the silks and charred husks from the corn. If you need to, use a damp towel to protect your hands from any sharp edges from the charred corn husks as you peel them off.

Serve with butter. (Or you can sprinkle with a little chili powder, cotija cheese, and some lime juice for a Mexican twist.)

Links:

Mexican corn on the cob with cayenne, mayo, lime, and cotija cheese, from Lisa of Homesick Texan

Corn on the cob with basil butter from Stephen Cooks

Mexican street corn from Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats

How to Grill Corn on the Cob

(Original photo)

63 Comments

  1. Heather

    I have been doing this all summer. I have used the same method, except with the addition of soaking the (de-silked but still husked) corn in water for 30 minutes. I also think mine has been overcooked. I am going to try your method of cooking and resting. Thanks!

  2. Jaden

    I think I’ll have to grill corn this week. Its so very July 4th! You don’t have to soak the corn in water?

    If you are using fresh corn (like fresh from the farmer’s market fresh) there is no reason why you need to soak the corn first. ~Elise

  3. Patrick

    A few comments on your recipe.

    1. Although there is no “need” to soak the corn first, it helps by adding a little more moisture and floating out any remaining critters (we get field-fresh corn, which is usually teeming with wildlife). 15-30 minutes in a bucket is fine, silks up if you can arrange them so. The little extra water might help the kernels from getting burnt, as in your picture.

    2. I’ve always done a quarter turn every five minutes, for a total of 20.

    3. If you’ve clipped the silk to just beyond the end of the ear, when they’re done and rested the silk will just peel off easily. Work from the cut end back, and it falls off.

    4. If you fold the husk back and don’t tear it off, you can fashion it into a handle by wrapping a paper towl around it. That might save a few seconds to butter-and-eat time, and every second counts when you’re trying to pound down a half-dozen ears.

  4. Kristen

    Another thing that works while grilling corn is wrapping the individual ears in foil and then putting them on the grill. It helps if you want to add flavors while cooking and it keeps the corn very moist.

  5. Bevely W

    You can also buy bushels of fresh sweet corn in season and throw it husks and all in the freezer. I put them in big paper grocery bags. Then you can grill them as you crave sweet corn on the cob anytime of the year… I’ve done this in the dead of winter and nothing lifts the winter greys more than a little butter dripping off your chin. I’m making this tonight! bjw

  6. Malinda

    I love grilled corn. I take off the husk and rub it with olive oil and sprinkle Susie Q Tri-Tip Seasoning on it and throw it right on the corn. Absolutely delicious. I always do a few extras and cut the kernals off for a tomato and corn salad the next day.

    A great way to cut off the kernels is use a bundt pan. Learned that from watching Easy Entertaining :-).

  7. Ken

    Actually, I encourage you to try the “shucked” version again – but this time, cook the corn directly on the coals themselves.

    Of course, this won’t work with a gas grill, and I would also avoid briquets. But I’ve gotten stellar results by cooking directly on wood coals (rotating every 15-20 seconds until done), then rolling the corn in brine to wash away any residual ash.

  8. Darren

    I like to shuck the corn, then spread melted butter on them. Then I wrap them in foil and make vertical slices (around 5 or 6) in the foil. I give a slight twist to the foil so some portion of the kernels will be exposed to the coals. Then I cook them on the grill for about 10 minutes.

    The foil covers them enough to allow some steaming of the corn and the exposed kernels get the light char from the coals. YUMMY!

  9. Juandy

    I love grilled corn, In my town there is a shop that sells grilled corn, when grilling the corn they rub the butter mixed with chili sauce, It tastes really great, Sweet, salty, and spicy…

    When the corn has been grilled over, they put some chopped cheddar cheese.. :)

  10. dksbook

    In parking lots in West San Antonio, vendors with charcoal roasters, pull back the shucks from cooked corn when you order it, which makes a handy corn holder. Then they slather the corn with mayonnaise and sprinkle it with “parmesan” cheese in the green cylinder. It’s down-home authentic; but wusses like me take it dipped in margarine with chili-limon seasoning sprinkled on. Take you pick, it’s all good.

  11. Genny

    Another way to cook it, (in the husk) is in the microwave. Just pop them in the microwave on high setting. (time depends on the amount of corn you cook at a time)……half way through the cooking time, turn each ear….Delicious!!

  12. charm city cupcake

    Yes, keeping corn cobs in their husks is the way to go when grilling. I’ve soaked and not soaked (sometimes you’re just really hungry and don’t want to wait another 20 minutes!) and while there is a difference, it’s not really THAT big a difference. I like to grill the corn in the husks for 20 minutes or so on high heat, but you do need to keep a close eye on it so you don’t burn a side.

    As for indoor corn cooking, I NEVER boil corn. I put the oven on 450 and throw the corn in its husk right on the rack. Takes about a half hour, so I put that in first and then go about making the rest of my meal. The corn always comes out great.

    Ah, how I love corn on the cob!

  13. Lisa

    I tried this last night and it was amazing! I chickened out and soaked my corn for an hour. Not a single kernel was burned, which was impressive, but I might try it again dry. Those charred kernels in the photo look tasty!

    But charred or not charred, it was the husks that gave this stuff its amazing flavor. I may never cook corn “bald” again!

  14. PV

    Ken’s got it right. In India, grilled corn-on-the-cob is street food. It’s shucked and cooked directly on coals. It cooks quickly so the kernels develop a toasty exterior with the moisture sealed in. Then you take a wedge of lemon, dip it in a mixture of salt and cayenne pepper and rub it all over. Yummy! It’s easy to make it this way at home if you have a gas stove – which is the cooking fuel of choice in most middle-class homes in India. Cook it directly in the flame. I’m lucky to have a gas stove here in SF, I think I will go grill me some corn right now….

  15. Jessica

    My hubby cooks with beer at every opportunity, and this is one of them. He soaks the cobs in beer for as long as possible, but 20 minutes at least. And they are always juicy and delish!

  16. Elise

    Thank you Harste, I couldn’t agree more. Those toasted kernels were full of flavor. You do have to be careful though, because in order to toast, the surface of the corn must be dry, so there is a balance between dry and toasted and juicy and no char marks. Of the four corn cobs I grilled, the toasted marks shown were the only “charred” or (in my opinion) caramelized bits on the cobs. It was just a little, and just enough.

    Regarding slathering corn with butter and then wrapping them in foil, I know this is a popular way of preparing grilled corn, but I personally don’t prefer it. I find the corn can get kind of soggy in the butter, and you end up tasting a lot more of the butter than the corn. Of course, if you don’t have the most tasty corn to begin with, this may be the way to go. But we try to get corn from the farmer’s markets which is usually as good as it gets out here. I love the flavor of fresh corn. Heck, if it’s really fresh, as in just picked, you don’t even need to cook it! But then again, this is my preference. Everyone has their favorite way of preparing corn, this is just one of mine.

  17. Annie

    Grilled corn on the cob is fantastic, but there’s an easy way to replicate it indoors for those rainy anti-barbecue days. Shuck the corn and brush it with butter (not too much), place the ears on a tinfoil-covered cookie sheet or broiling pan, then place it under the broiler, turned on LOW. Wait 5 minutes, then flip the ears over. Getting them to stay flipped takes a few moments, as they’re a little slippery. Broil for 5 more minutes. The kernels on the top and bottom will be brown and crispy and the ones on the sides will be golden and juicy. It’s fantastic and doesn’t need any other seasonings (except, of course, more butter).

  18. jack steinle

    If you like peanut butter, try it on the grill with one of the covered methods (husk or foil)–
    Simply coat the ear with a thin layer of peanut butter and cover with foil (or recover with the
    husks) and grill the prescribed time, turning a few times–don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it–what’s not to like!!!

  19. RV

    In India, come summer, you will see handcarts laden with corn. Once you select your corn according to size and how tender you like them, the vendor will shuck the corn and then put it over burning coal. This is deftly turned ever so often so that the corn is evenly cooked. Then a generous smear of salt and red chilli powder using a wedge of lemon and voila its ready to eat.

  20. KA

    Oh no.. let me explain how corn on the cob aka as ‘bhuta’ is had in India.
    It’s finally the monsoon…after the blistering heat of summer. You are about to walk to the beach and it begins to rain. Armed with an umbrella you get to the beach, the nearest ‘bhutawalla’ who roasts the cob, just as mentioned (moist or soaked in water) over a charcoal grill- peels of the outers, dabs in his homemade concoction of sea salt, pepper, red chili powder and some other secret stuff onto half a lemon and applies it generously onto the cob!
    This is PURE HEAVEN! right there, the rain, the wet sand, the cool breeze that calms the soul after the blistering summer and the perfect tangy, spicy sweet, roasted bhuta aka corn on the cob :) :):)
    BOY do I miss those rainy days in bbay!

  21. pat

    I’m entertaining 40 people tomorrow for my annual cookout and it’s forecast to be 95 degrees here in Philadelphia. I’d like to do the corn outside but have limited grill space. I’m thinking about doing it in layers in my charcoal smoker. It will cook fairly slowly since the ears will be layered in order to cook a lot at once. Any suggestions? Anyone think this simply won’t work??

    Sounds like you are planning to smoke the corn, not grill it. No idea how that will turn out. If you do it though, please let us know! ~Elise

  22. Bill

    Try soaking the corn in sugar water (use as much you want) for about 2 hours before grilling. adds a a bit of sweetness to the corn. Also try after you take off the husks grill them for a minute or 2 to get some grill marks on the corn. Happy eating!

  23. frank

    soak’d or no soak’d….either way enjoy the smiles coming from the good grilled corn. I like to make some Chipolte/lime butter with a hint of cilantro…fresh press’d garlic and cumino….salt and fresh blk crack’d pepper. gotta get grilling….see ya !!

  24. Jessica

    I soak the corn in the husks in BEER overnite… and it comes out super juicey… beer just makes everything better in my opinion! :-)

  25. J D

    I like to peel the husk down to the thick end of the corn, clean the silk off, wrap the cleaned corn with a slice or two of bacon, then put the husk back on and grill. The corn gets a nice bacony flavor and the bacon come out almost like proscuitto… Best corn on the cob in Texas….

  26. Sue G

    I love to grill corn on the cob – pull husks all the way down without pulling it off the cob, remove silk, spread soften butter on whole cob, pull husks back to top & tuck ends underneath cob, then wrap in heavy-duty foil. Place on hot grill (gas or charcoal) 1/4 of a turn every 15 minutes for an hour! No burn marks ! It’s great ! To serve, use pot holders to break end off – corn will slide right out of husks.

  27. Jake

    I grilled corn on the cob tonight using your recipe. It turned out excellent! I had about 500F temperature throughout grilling time. I had the gas burner under the corn on low and the other two burners on high. I’m hooked on grilled corn now, thanks to you! ;)

  28. Andre in Santa Rosa

    I “Smoke” my corn using an Orion Cooker. It smokes in the husk. It also cooks with what ever else is in there, chicken, rib eyes, baby back ribs. So sometimes they’re in there for over an hour. There is nothing like the taste of hickory smoked corn on the cob. If you have access to a smoker or know someone with one give it a try.

  29. le bascombe

    If you soak the whole corn in water prior to grilling the husks don’t burn and you get a kind of steaming effect.

    You want the husks to burn. That’s what gives the corn a smokey grilled flavor. ~Elise

  30. brettinlj

    Thank you for posting this. I bought corn for a quick bbq meal, but didn’t want to wait 30 minutes to cook it the traditional way in foil. It came out the best bbq corn I have ever made. I didn’t soak it in water before hand, but the flavor an juiciness was perfect and the husk came off with ease.

  31. Nancy

    Last time I grilled corn it was dry and crunchy. Nice to hear someone else was in the same boat as me. Got some free corn at the farmer’s market, and I was worried that grilling it would make it gross again. Found this easy recipe, it’s delicious, juicy and tender and I’m a corn lover again. Thanks!

  32. Stephanie

    My favorite way to grill corn-on-the-cob is with ROSEMARY!:

    Peel back the husk, open them up like flower petals, and remove the silk.
    Place 5 or 6 sprigs of rosemary next to the corn, and fold the husks back up around it.
    Once all the husk has been replaced on the corn, wrap the cob with foil, and place directly on the grill.

    I have never soaked corn on the cob prior to barbecuing, and I have never had an issue with the corn drying out or becoming burned. It is always juicy and rosemary flavored! (I think the foil helps to retain moisture).

  33. Sherihan

    In Egypt during the summer we eat a lot of grilled corn with lots of toasted kernels, no salt or butter added, just toasted corn and it’s sold everywhere on the street. Yumm
    Now for an indoor version thats what I did for last night’s dinner, I opened the husks, cleaned the corn from the silk then brushed it with butter and paprika then wrapped them in thier husks again and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for 30 mins, it came out golden, juicy and DELICIOUS. no prsoaking was needed at all.

  34. Ty

    I like to mix a bowl of milk with sugar, shuck the corn, dip a paper towel in the sweet milk and wrap it around the corn, then wrap in foil and grill.

  35. Mama B

    Doing it this way again tonight. Thanks for sharing. I’m amazed by how many enjoy making more work for themselves (soak, husk, de-silk, smear, re-wrap, tie…) This is just as good, and way easier!

  36. GilaMonster

    I made this last night with fresh Olathe corn. Exactly as Elise said: left the cobs in the husks, no soaking, no fuss. Made the lime-cilantro butter in about 5 minutes. It was the best corn I have ever had in my 5 decades of life. I am NOT being hyperbolic. It was fantastic, and SO EASY…Thank you Elise ! And thank you Elise’s mother !

  37. Okihwn

    What I like to do is to open the husks, remove the silk, smear butter on the corn, recover with the husks, then put on the grill. Delicious!

  38. Ms. Glaze

    Now that’s just not fair! Teasing me with corn. You know, they think it’s for the pigs here in Paris – not for human consumption. I made a salad one time for some chef friend’s with pan fried fresh corn (that I had a hard time getting) and they were surprised that it tasted good! Love grilled corn. Reminds me of India, where they rub masala spice and ghee on it after it’s cooked.

  39. corey nead

    I recently started throwing corn, husks and all into the smoker. Comes out great with melted butter and togarashi.

    • Dawn

      We smoke our corn in the husks too, with bacon wrapped around the kernels and the husk put back in place. The we heat a stick of butter gently with 4 cloves of garlic crushed into it. Leave on a low heat for about 15 mins. This is poured over the corn and then sprinkled liberally with freshly grated parmesan. Amazing stuff! Smokey, garlicky, cheesy heaven!!

  40. Ed

    I put the unhusked corn directly on the grill. (gas) Maybe it’s our midwestern corn but it comes out great. The charred parts smell like popcorn.

  41. Mark

    Chef John’s recent grilled corn recipe called for simmering the corn before grilling. Never heard of such a thing. I suppose one could try it both ways and compare. Counter-intuitive though.

    • Elise

      I love Chef John. I’m guessing that if you grill the corn with the husks removed it’s probably a good idea. That way the corn gets cooked with the simmering, and then you are just grilling it to get the grill marks and the flavor that comes from that. It’s also a good way for a chef or caterer to prepare a lot of corn in advance. You can parboil a bunch of corn, and then just throw on the grill when you are close to being ready to serve.

  42. Derek the Zen Chef

    I would definitely leave the husks on huge corn to avoid charring and also avoid the nasty meat juice already on the grill! (I know it’s atypical to eschew all meat, but that is just me ^.^ )

  43. Marianne

    Just heard this one today – wrap husked corn in foil packets with preferred seasoning and two ice cubes. As the corn cooks, the ice melts and steams the cob. Yum!

  44. D Ward

    Ok guys,
    There’s a new way of doing corn on the cob that’s been floating around the BBQ competition circuits that is making all this husking de-silking soaking stuff frankly obsolete and completely unnecessary. Cobs are left whole and generally untouched. They are injected with a meat injector with whatever can go through the needle just underneath the husk. Then smoke grilled baked nuked or boiled. With this method it doesn’t matter how just that some form of fat gets injected. (Pepper will clog your needle) when done from the stalk end cut through the whole cob husk and all at the largest cross section. Grab it from the silk end and squeeze the ear out like toothpaste. Out pops an ear of seasoned corn with the husk and silk as one piece ready for the trash. No fuss no mess and no leave edge cuts. Haven’t husked an ear in years.

  45. Rachel @ Tasty Thailand

    Here in Bangkok, we get grilled corn on the cob at street stalls all over the city. About 33 cents for 2 and it’s amazing. The Thais add sugar to the butter they drizzle on it, served hot and eaten straight out of the plastic bag. Yum :)

  46. Mark L.

    I used to de-silk then wrap the corn back in the husks and soak in water. Your method is way easier and the silks come off easily after cooking. Just started using miso butter on corn (mix equal parts white miso and softened butter) and it’s fantastic.

  47. Marilyn

    Sorry but I cannot imagine that this tastes better than fresh corn, husked and dropped in boiling water for barely 5 minutes. Then add butter, salt etc. Sweet, tender and so juicy. The trick is fresh corn and barely 5 minutes in the water. Fantastic ( and quick ).

    • Elise

      Hi Marilyn, they’re both great methods. With the grilling method you get the additional smokey flavor from the grill, without sacrificing any of the great corn flavor.

  48. Sarah

    Wow, what a perfect dish! I made this for a family picnic, and even my “I-don’t-like-to-try-new-things” mother loved her corn on the cob. I followed the instructions to the letter and they turned out fabulously! I did soak them for about 10 minutes in water beforehand just so that I didn’t have the husks turning into ash on me, and that worked really well. My corn on the cob looked exactly like Elise’s picture, and I have to say, I loved the browned bits the best!

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