Boiling Down The Best Methods To Prepare Corn On The Cob

July 13, 2000

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Who better to ask how best to cook corn on the cob than a vegetable expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences?

"The most important element in cooking corn on the cob is freshness," says Pete Ferretti, professor of vegetable crops. "Ideally, corn should be cooked soon after you buy it at a local market or pick it in your garden. After picking, corn immediately will start to convert the sugar in its kernels to starch, while also losing its aroma and nutrients."

Ferretti offers three methods for cooking corn on the cob:

Boiling

--Bring fresh water to a rapid boil.

--Add 3 tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of skim milk. "The milk seems to remove some minerals and enhances the color of the corn," Ferretti explains. "Extra sugar helps the corn better retain its own sugars and discourages leaching into the water."

--Add husked ears and remove after about 7 minutes of boiling.

"Never add salt to the water," Ferretti says. "Salt will toughen the kernels."

Microwave Cooking

--Remove outer husk so only clean, thin, inner husks remain.

--Wash single ear in cold water, and wrap in a paper towel dipped in cold water.

--Microwave each ear for about 2 or 3 minutes on High setting. "Since many microwave ovens differ in wattage and heating times, try several settings under or over the three-minute mark to suit your taste," Ferretti says.

--Using gloves or mitts, remove ears and shuck husks downward to remove husks and silk in one easy motion. "With fresh corn, this method gives you the best flavor, aroma, sweetness and tenderness," Ferretti says.

Barbecue

--Soak unhusked corn in ice water for about one hour.

--Place on hot grill.

--Cover with clean, wet burlap or wet seaweed.

--When outer husks become brown and brittle, check kernels for doneness. "For barbecue preparation, you can't predict how long to cook corn on the cob because it all depends on how hot the coals are, how far the corn is from the coals, and what type of grill you're using," Ferretti says.

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EDITORS: To contact Pete Ferretti, please call 814-863-2313.

Contacts: John Wall jtw3@psu.edu 814-863-2719 814-865-1068 fax

Last Updated March 19, 2009