The best corn on the cob is fresh and sweet with a bit of crunch. Here's how to capture the flavor of summer in every bite!
When I was a kid, there were nights we had nothing but fresh corn for dinner. And there was nothing better than sinking my teeth into that first ear of corn. Juices would go flying, butter would drip down my chin and each bite was filled with a sweetness you only get from farm-fresh corn.
What I didn’t realize then was my mom had a secret for cooking the best corn on the cob. I like my corn cooked but still with a bit of a crunch. There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than mushy, soft kernels. Over the years, I cooked corn on the cob many different ways—steamed it, boiled it, you name it. I loved them all but nothing beats mom’s version.
How to Cook the Best Corn on the Cob
4 quarts water
4 ears of corn, shucked
Step 1: Bring water to a boil
Lots of water is the first secret you need to know. Pour 1 quart of water per ear into your largest pot; the more room the better. In fact, if you’re cooking a lot of corn, go ahead and use two or more pots. Bring the water to a full rolling boil.
Step 2: Add only the corn
Once the water is at a full boil, add the shucked ears of corn. I know a lot of recipes say to add salt or sugar to your boiling water, but don’t bother. The corn isn’t going to be in the water long enough to absorb either, so don’t waste them. I add the salt, and plenty of it, after it’s done cooking. Have you ever boiled cobs with milk? Learn how to make corn on the cob with milk and butter.
Step 3: Turn off the heat
After you add the corn, cover the pot and immediately turn off the heat. Let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. At that point your corn is ready. If you’re not quite ready to eat, you can let the corn stand in the water for an additional 10 minutes without it overcooking.
You can definitely slather this perfect corn on the cob with butter. But sweet corn makes even healthy corn recipes taste indulgent!
Tips for the Best Corn on the Cob
Yulia Naumenko/Getty Images
Pick fresh corn
When the corn is growing in the field, it spends a lot of time converting starch into sugar. The longer it stays on the stalk, the sweeter it will be. However, once the corn is picked, the process pretty much reverses itself; the sugars start to convert back to starch.
In fact, the process starts almost immediately, so if you want the freshest, sweetest corn possible, you should pick it yourself and immediately cook it. I don’t know about you, but even though I live in the middle of farm country, this isn’t usually an option for me. It helps to know how to pick the best corn at the grocery store.
Keep the corn cold
Chilling the corn right after picking helps slow down the sugar-to-starch conversion. If your farmers market just piles the corn on a table in the sun, keep walking. Only buy ears that are on ice or in a cooler. Bonus points if you bring your own cooler to transport the corn home.
Don’t make the corn ahead of time
It’s best to cook the ears as close as possible to the time you’re planning on eating. Once you pull them out of the water, get ready to spread on some softened butter or, better yet, any of these flavored butters. I also love to slather mine with mayonnaise, lime juice and cayenne pepper, similar to Mexican street corn. Or, you’ll be amazed at what kind of creative corn recipes are out there!
One of the best things about summer is fresh sweet corn, and this recipe is a definite standout. We love its creamy dressing, crunchy panko coating and spicy jalapeno kick. If you're really feeling wild, sprinkle these with a bit of cooked and crumbled bacon! —Crystal Schlueter, Northglenn, Colorado
Grilling corn in the husks is so easy. There's no need to remove the silk and tie the husk closed before grilling. Just soak, grill and add your favorite flavored butter. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Since we have plenty of fresh sweet corn available in our area, we use this recipe often in summer. Parsley, chili powder and cumin accent the corn's just-picked flavor. —Connie Lou Hollister, Lake Odessa, Michigan
A restaurant here advertised Sriracha corn on the cob, but I knew I could make my own. The golden ears cooked up a little sweet, a little smoky and a little hot—perfect if you ask my three teenage boys! —Julie Peterson, Crofton, Maryland
This pot is a fun way to feed a crowd for a tailgate. You can serve it two ways: Drain the cooking liquid and pour out the pot on a paper-lined table so folks can dig in, or serve it as a stew in its liquid over hot rice. —Melissa Pelkey Hass, Waleska, Georgia
I like to eat corn all year long, so I came up with this recipe. It's my favorite side to serve when I make sloppy joes. You can use a butter substitute for a skinny version of this corn. —Teresa Flowers, Sacramento, California
This picnic-style medley of shrimp, smoked kielbasa, corn and spuds is a specialty of South Carolina cuisine. It's commonly dubbed Frogmore stew or Beaufort stew in recognition of the two low country communities that lay claim to its origin. No matter what you call it, this one-pot wonder won't disappoint! —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
I like to peel the husks back and rub ears of sweet corn with delicious dill butter before putting them on the grill. The butter melts over the golden kernels as the corn steams inside the husk. —Jeannie Klugh, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
After one bite of this grilled corn on the cob, you'll never go back to your old way of preparing it. The incredible flavor of roasted corn combined with bacon and chili powder is sure to please your palate and bring rave reviews at your next backyard barbecue. —Lori Bramble, Omaha, Nebraska
I'd never had grilled corn until last summer when my sister-in-law served it for us. What a treat! So simple, yet delicious, grilled corn is now a must on my summer menu. —Angela Leinenbach, Mechanicsville, Virginia
My husband and I agreed that the original recipe for this corn needed a little jazzing up, so I added the thyme and cayenne pepper to suit our tastes. Now fresh summer corn makes a regular appearance on our grill.
—Kathy VonKorff, North College Hill, Ohio
In Mexico, grilled corn sometimes comes slathered in mayonnaise, rolled in grated cheese, and served with lime and chili powder. This is my family’s take on the dish, with our own flavor enhancements. —Carolyn Kumpe, El Dorado, California
Roasting fresh-picked corn is as old as the Ozark hills where I was raised. My Grandpa Mitchell always salted and peppered his butter on the edge of his plate before spreading it on his corn, and I did the same as a kid. Today, I continue the tradition by serving lemon-pepper butter with roasted corn—it's a favorite! —Allene Bary-Cooper, Wichita Falls, Texas
Corn on the cob is a comforting and cherished Midwest dish. It's amazing when grilled, and my recipe adds a few unexpected ingredients to make it taste even more like summertime. —Caitlin Dawson, Monroe, Ohio
I came up with these everything-in-one seafood packets for a family reunion, since the recipe can be increased to feed a bunch. The foil steams up inside, so open carefully. —Allison Brooks, Fort Collins, Colorado
We love Mexican food and corn on the cob. So I combined them into something fresh and spicy. For Italian flair, I make this corn with basil and oregano butter and Parmesan cheese.—MacKenzie Severson, Germantown, Maryland
Formerly Taste of Home’s Deputy Editor, Culinary, James oversaw the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and managed all food content for Trusted Media Brands. He has also worked in the kitchen of Williams-Sonoma and at Southern Living. An honor graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, James has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.