Among cooks, when it comes to grilling corn, there are many ways and little consensus. In the past, I’ve been of no help, tossing ears onto the grill any which way, with the only goal being to produce a platter of relatively cooked corn on the cob to be done at the same time as the main event meat. It’s an insult to maize everywhere.
So today, with fresh native corn and a charcoal grill at my disposal, I decided it was time to be decisive about my corn.
In an uncharacteristically scientific fashion, I experimented with three grilling techniques and conducted a side-by-side tasting in order to determine the optimum method. Here are the results!
The Bare Minimum
The easiest way to grill corn would be to husk ‘em and drop those bare babies right onto the hot grates. Could simplest be best?
Pros: Fast and easy direct heat produces pretty, well-toasted kernels.
Cons: A lack of moisture makes for a final product that is dry, chewy.
Consensus: It may be easy and picture perfect, but take a bite and you’ll find that the beauty of this corn is only surface deep.
Soak It All In
Some chefs stand by this method of corn grilling, in which the husks are pulled back and silks removed, before returning husks to their original position and submerging the ears in water for anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 hour before grilling. I tested 5 minutes and 35 minutes to see if all this water held weight.
Pros: Moist, plump kernels.
Cons: Takes more time and results are more like steamed than grilled.
Consensus: Don’t waste your time on a double negative; soaking adds work and impedes that great grilled flavor.
Feeling like the Goldie Locks of grilled corn, I had a good vibe about the last method. Clearly the kernels needed a bit of steam heat to be pleasantly plump, but at the same time, begged for a bit of blister. Perhaps the naturally moist husks would provide just enough moisture to gently steam the corn, while allowing for some char in the last minutes of cooking.
Pros: The best of both worlds; juicy kernels with the sweet, nutty flavor of toasted corn.
Cons: It’s possible (though I didn’t have any trouble) that a tip of husk could catch fire. No big thing, you already know the drill, just roll it out and keep cookin’.
Dry Husk Grilled Corn
4 ears corn, with husks
- Prepare the charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium or to medium-high heat.
- Working from the outside in, peel husks back to the base, without removing completely. Brush out the silk strands and discard. Re-wrap corn in its husks.
- Place the corn on the grill, cover and cook, turning every few minutes, until the outer husks are quite charred and kernels are tender and browning in spots, 10 to12 minutes.
Get the Look!
Hanging around on set at photo shoots for Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, I pick up a lot of great tips from food stylists. This trick for serving corn with the husks on is beautiful, dramatic and so easy!
Once the corn is off the grill and cool enough to handle, pull back the husks as you did in step 2. Gather the husks in your fist, then pick one of the longer husks and wrap it around the other at the base of the cob. Tuck the end back through the loop once or twice to secure.
My favorite spot for grilled corn in NYC is a little Cuban restaurant called Havana Alma de Cuba. Here’s how you can re-create their “Mazorca a la Parrilla” at home.
Stir a splash of adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle chiles en abobo) or a good pinch of chile powder into a few tablespoons of mayonnaise. Slather grilled corn with a thin layer of spicy mayo, roll it in finely grated cotija cheese and serve with lime wedges.
State Fair Style
Forget cotton candy, I can’t resist a buttery stick of fresh corn.
Melt butter and season with salt. Pour into a shallow dish, like a 9- x13-inch baking dish and roll grilled corn in butter to coat.
Some of the best corn is grown in New Jersey, a state also well known for its feisty Italians….
Evenly coat grilled corn with a thin layer of tomato jam. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
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