How To Cook Corn Perfectly – the August Gold Rush

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(Perfectly Cooked Sweet Corn – how-to in post)

“Sex is good. But not as good as fresh, sweet corn.” – Garrison Keeler

Every summer there’s a little glitch in my memory, where I forget just how much I love sweet corn. Then I buy some, and the next thing I know I’m stocking up by the dozen, piling the cobs on the counter until I’m up to my ears in, well… ears!

This year, though, I didn’t forget… this year I was ready. Ever since last summer, when I fell head-over-heels in love with the sweetest sweet corn I’d ever tasted, I’ve been lying in wait for these golden kernels, these nuggets of sweetness, to hit the market. A few weeks ago, they finally did… and you can bet I’ve been taking full advantage.

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(Doesn’t produce always taste better when it comes from a rickety ol’ cart by the side of the road?)

Now, there are a lot of ways to cook and eat corn. One of my favorite dishes is Mexican Calabacitas – a summery mix of zucchini and peppers, made one hundred times better by the bright pops of sweet corn bursting through every bite.

(Click here for recipe: Calabaticas)

Or you could throw together a bowl full of this Black Bean and Quinoa Salad, with sweet corn and cilantro:

(Click here for recipe: Black Beans & Quinoa Salad )

Or perhaps you’re in the mood for these Sweet and Spicy Corn Fritters, topped with a little sour cream and salsa:

(Click here for recipe: Sweet & Spicy Corn Fritters)

But if you’re like me, you don’t really need a recipe to enjoy corn… you just need, well. Corn. And maybe a bit of butter and salt.

As for cooking, there are a few popular methods… boiling is nice, but takes a bit of time. Baking can be good, but who wants to turn on the oven in the middle of summer? Grilling brings lots of flavor and a nice char, but not everyone has a grill (ahem – yet).  Also, most of these methods require the corn to be shucked prior to cooking. I have many a fond memory, as a child, being sent outside with a paper bag to shuck a mountain of corn. I hated it… and it almost made me hate corn all together. Fortunately, I discovered an easier way.

The microwave! Not always my favorite kitchen tool, but for certain things the microwave gets the job done better than any other. As for corn, it turns out perfectly steamed every time. And the best part is, removing the husk is a breeze! You see, corn comes in its own, special steaming pouch… so don’t go ripping it open! Just pop the corn in the microwave, remove to cool, then peel back the husk. Trust me, all those little threads will come right off.

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Here’s how:
Microwave one ear of corn, on high, for 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 minutes (I like my corn a little al-dente, and usually go for 1 min. 45 sec.)*
Carefully remove the corn from the microwave, and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes, or until you can handle it.
Peel back the husk, season as you like with butter and salt, and enjoy!
For two ears of corn, double the cooking time. Stop halfway through to rotate the ears. I don’t suggest doing more than 2-3 ears at a time, unless you have an absurdly large microwave.
*Note that the times may vary depending on your microwave.

And there you have it – perfectly cooked sweet corn, done in just a few minutes, without dirtying a single dish and without heating up the house in the middle of summer.

Now, if you’ll excuse me… my microwave just dinged.

Tell me – what’s your favorite way to enjoy summer’s sweetest vegetable/grain/starch?

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21 Responses to How To Cook Corn Perfectly – the August Gold Rush

  1. Jen @JuanitasCocina August 5, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    I love my corn done Mexican style…with a parmesan/mayo combo, cayenne, and lemon pepper.

    I just added corn to my shopping list. :D

    • Willow August 5, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      Mmm – sounds good to me! I love corn with a dash of heat, but haven’t tried it with parmesan… awesome, awesome idea. :)

  2. Eric M August 6, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    My favorite is grilled (on hardwood — don’t bother with gas!), soak the corn in-husk for ~5min and toss on the grill. It’s a much slower process, but well worth it, for the smoky flavor and Maillard Reaction, IMO.

    Still, when I’m in a hurry, which seems like more weeknights, I’ll try the microwave. Much faster than what I usually do, heat up the house with a big pot-o- water.

    One thing to note, is that not all microwaves are equal, my wimpy little one will probably take 2x the time, while the monster on at work would cinderize it!

    • Willow August 7, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      I’ve never tried it grilled in-husk before, over hardwood… sounds incredible!
      And you’re right, microwaves are all over the place in terms of power. I’ll make a note in the post. :)

  3. Kat August 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    I’ve done boiled and grilled but never microwaved. I can’t believe it only takes two minutes! I like my corn right on the cob with a bit of salt – doesn’t need much else!

    • Willow August 7, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      It’s the quickest way to sweet corn I know of… keep in mind that the time may vary a little based on your microwave. As another commenter noted – some will cook it faster, some will take a little longer.

  4. Foodie Stuntman August 6, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    Isn’t this post a little corny? hahahaha

    My favorite way to eat corn? Does polenta count?

    • Willow August 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

      Haha – absulutely, polenta counts! Mmm, polenta…

  5. Eileen August 6, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Yay corn! Fresh summer corn is possibly mu favorite vegetable ever–but only if you don’t count fresh summer tomato. :) I like it just barely sauteed with some butter and chopped scallion. Perfect!

  6. Mtn2 August 6, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    How did I miss the calabacitas recipe? Too funny! It’s perfect right now. We have all the ingredients coming into season around here. And, I do mean these in particular – hence the New Mexican tie. We finally got some rain over the past few days. Our own garden has these items, but the corn isn’t likely to produce due to the drought. The zucchini, peppers (hot), and tomatoes are making a comeback, so I need a recipe to freeze – perfect timing! On another note, I just made red plum jam, or puree, or whatever it is technically, it is really good. It should be made into ice cream. And btw, Taos Cow serves lavender ice cream. Ohmygawd, I woke up dreaming about it the other day :-) Oh, and I did make the corn fritters. Given my German grandmother’s precedent, I had expectations. Congrats, you met and exceeded them – those were delicious!

    • The Sister August 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

      Actually, that should have read as being from “The Sister” …

    • Willow August 7, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

      Haha – I was a little confused, reading it. I didn’t think Mtn would be the type to say ‘Ohmygawd’ ;)

      And that’s wonderful! Glad you liked the corn fritters. Good sweet corn (and other veggies, for that matter) have been hard to come by this year because of the dryness. Be sure to get really sweet sweet corn for the calabacitas… it makes a huge difference!

      P.S., lavendar ice cream rocks my socks. There’s a place in Ohio called Jenny’s, and they make some of the best ice cream. They’re famous for having really unique and incredible flavors. Last time I was there I had a scoop of lavendar with a scoop of honey pistachio, and holy cow were they a good combo! Looked like superman ice cream, tasted like awesome. :)

  7. Grubarazzi August 7, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Great idea! So much easier. :) those recipes are all amazing, especially the fritters. nom.

  8. August 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    hahah that first quote is awesome! i love corn – YUM! And those fritters…holy cow!

  9. Riley August 8, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Corn is my absolute favorite part of the summer! And I’m always looking for fun new ways to use it up! Thanks!

  10. Puja Thomas-Patel August 9, 2012 at 12:18 am #

    Just came across your blog and am really enjoying it. Love your post on corn.
    I usually make Indian style fire roasted corn and eat it right off the cob with lemon, chili and salt.

    I’ll have to try microwaving some corn! Sounds easy and quick and entirely delicious! :)

    • Willow August 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

      Sounds wonderful! Happy to have you as a reader. :)

  11. Peg August 16, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    I cook corn in the microwave, too, but don’t peel back the husk and silks. Lay the corn on a cutting board, use a big knife and slice the stem end off, a little above the end of the ear. Pick up the corn by the silks at the top and shake it. The clean ear of corn slides right out. Almost never leaves a strand of the silk behind.

    • Willow August 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

      I’m so glad you mentioned this! I’ve seen this method, but have yet to try it. Most of the time when I make corn I don’t want to cut off the stem end because I want to hold on to it for easier eating. I’ve seen it done, though, and you’re right… the silks come right off!

  12. Jenny August 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    Grill grill grill grill grill. Which in the UK means what I think you in the US call “broiling”. Almost no kitchens in the UK lack such a thing. Quicker than baking, so less frustrating than putting the oven on, and gets a better char.

  13. beth May 8, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    I microwave mine in a wet paper towel after I husk it. Then I use the paper towel for clean up. Comes out perfect every time.

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