How to Boil Corn on the Cob Perfectly Every Time

Golden ears of corn dripping with butter is a delicious summertime treat. We've got the secret formula for how to boil corn on the cob so it's juicy and crisp-tender every time.

During summer, there’s nothing like fresh ears of corn slathered in butter and sprinkled with salt. And learning how to boil corn on the cob couldn’t be easier! For those of you who have ever wondered, “how long do you boil corn on the cob?”—we’ve got you covered.

Pair your corn on the cob with one of these easy summer recipes for a perfect warm weather meal.

How to Pick the Best Corn on the Cob

When picking corn on the cob, look for bright green husks wrapped tightly around the corn. When you pick up each ear, it should be slightly damp, too. Skip the ones that are yellow, dry or loosely wrapped. Here are more tips on how to pick corn.

After you bring the corn home and before you begin cooking, keep the ears cold to keep your sweet corn, well, sweet.

How Long Do You Boil Corn on the Cob? 

Sweet corn peaks mid-summer, so you’ll find the freshest corn on the cob during that time. Whether you buy it directly from the farmer or your local grocery store, take note of how sweet the variety is. The freshest corn and super sweet varieties may require a shorter cooking time, while older corn may take longer to become tender. Either way, you only need 3 to 5 minutes!

How to Boil Corn on the Cob

Ingredients

  • Ears of corn
  • One quart of water per ear of corn

Directions

Step 1: Prep the corn

corn on the cobTMB Studio

Remove the husks and silk. Cut out any blemishes with a sharp knife.

Step 2: Place corn in boiling water

Once your pot of water is boiling, add the cobs. Cover the pan and let the water return to a boil.

Editor’s Tip: Never boil your corn in salted water! It can make the kernels very tough.

Step 3: Boil 

Boil the corn until tender, 3-5 minutes. Remember, the cooking time will depend on the variety and maturity of your corn.

Step 4: Enjoy!

Turn off the heat and carefully remove the cobs with tongs. You can keep the remaining corn warm in the water for another 10 minutes without it becoming too tough. Or, place the corn on a platter and cover it with a dish towel. This keeps most of the heat in.

What to Put on Corn on the Cob

corn on the cobTMB Studio

Piping hot sweet corn is even better with a thick pat of herb butter. Each variation below makes about half a cup. If you have an abundance of herbs, make a few batches and freeze for up to six months.

  • Classic herb butter: Combine 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon, 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon minced fresh chives, 1 minced garlic clove and 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper.
  • Rosemary, hazelnut and lemon butter: Combine 1/2 cup softened butter, 1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts, 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary, 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel and 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper.
  • Basil butter: Combine 1/2 cup softened butter, 3/4 cup minced fresh basil, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper and 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt.
  • Blue cheese, walnut and sage butter: Combine 1/2 cup softened butter, 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts, 1-2 tablespoons minced fresh sage, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper.
  • Cilantro-chili butter: Combine 1/2 cup softened butter, 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • Cajun butter: Combine 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne and 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper.

After you master this method for boiling corn, we’ve got more tips for making perfect corn on the cob—and even more flavored butter recipes.

Planning to cook corn all summer? Here are other methods for how to cook sweet corn, including how to grill corn, how to cook corn in the microwave, how to make air-fryer corn on the cob, and more.

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Alexa Hackfort
Alexa is a writer who believes there’s always room for ice cream. Based in Milwaukee, she enjoys exploring the city, tackling new recipes and planning her next trip.