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How to Grill Corn

Grilled fresh corn on the cob is one of the signature flavors of summer. Sweet, juicy -- and hopefully, fresh from the farm -- there are few better bites in the world of grilled veggies. We wanted to share some tips for how to grill corn on the cob that might make yours even better.

Why We Love Grilled Corn

We love grilled corn because it's so sweet. Corn has natural sweetness which you'll taste even if you boil or microwave it. But when you put corn on the grill, the high heat caramelizes the sugars on the surface of the kernels. When done right, this gives the corn a pleasing, slightly crispy texture, and amps up the sweetness factor.

How to Select the Best Corn for Grilling

The best sweet corn for grilling is the freshest sweet corn. Check for freshness by using these four steps to evaluate the husk.

  1. Look for the thickest corn. Skinny, narrow cobs with pointy ends were likely picked too soon.
  2. Look at the husk color. Is it light green? Green is a sign of freshness. Yellowing husks are drying out, and so are the kernels below them.
  3. Feel the husk. Do the kernels below feel plump? Plump kernels are another sign of freshness. If the kernels don't feel plump, they may be shrunken from age.
  4. Check the tassels. Are they turning black? That's a sign of degradation. The tassels can be a little dry, but should still be yellow or light brown.

There is a big difference between fresh and less-fresh corn. The sugars in corn start turning into starches very soon after harvest. In fact, corn is supposed to be shipped on ice to slow this process. That's why corn farmers usually eat corn the day it's picked.

Is It Better to Grill Corn With or Without the Husk?

There's no "best" way to grill corn. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to how they like to cook, and the presentation and flavors they like.

With the Husk: Grilling with the husk usually takes longer but the husk protects the kernels, so there's less chance you'll overcook them. Keeping the husk on lends a more rustic presentation. Because the corn will be on the grill longer, they may take on additional smoke flavor.

Without the Husk: Grilling without the husk is usually faster, and you may get more caramelization on the surface of the kernels. But with this method, there's a higher risk of overcooking the corn.

Does Corn Need To Be Soaked Before Grilling?

Corn does not need to be soaked before grilling but some people do it. One reason is to dampen the husks, reducing the chance that they will catch fire. Another is the idea that salty water will add moisture and flavor to the kernels. Actually, experiments show that brined kernels actually dry out faster while cooking. Corn can be tasty without any soaking.

Does Corn Need To Be Boiled Before Grilling?

Corn does not need to be boiled before grilling. Some cooks prefer to boil it first, which partially cooks the corn, then finish cooking over indirect heat on the grill to add smoke flavor. If you use a Traeger, you'll be getting smoke flavor throughout the cooking process, making boiling even more unnecessary.

How to Grill Corn With the Husk On

To grill corn with the husk on, prepare your grill for high heat (500 degrees Fahrenheit on a Traeger), close the lid, and preheat the grill for 15 minutes.

While the grill is preheating, prepare the corn for grilling.

  1. Peel back the husks and remove the silk (which has no flavor and an unpleasant texture).
  2. Rub the corn with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs and spices. We recommend our Veggie rub.
  3. Close husks, and place directly on the grill grate. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally until corn is tender. Serve hot with butter. Enjoy!

How to Grill Corn Without the Husk

To grill corn without the husk, prepare your grill for high heat (500 degrees Fahrenheit on a Traeger), close the lid, and preheat the grill for 15 minutes.

While the grill is preheating, prepare the corn for grilling:

  • Pull off the husks and remove the silk.
  • Rub the corn with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs and spices.
  • Place directly on the grill grate. Cook for 10 minutes, turning occasionally until corn is tender. Serve hot with butter. Enjoy!

How to Grill Corn in Foil

Grilling corn in foil steams the corn. You won't get the tasty char like you would if you place the corn on the grill grates, and you won't get any natural smoke flavor. One advantage: The corn is less likely to overcook using this method.

To grill corn in foil, prepare your grill for medium-high heat (400 degrees Fahrenheit on a Traeger) close the lid, and preheat the grill for 15 minutes.

While the grill is preheating, prepare the corn for grilling:

  1. Pull off the husks and remove the silk.
  2. Rub the corn with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs and spices.
  3. Wrap the corn in aluminum foil.
  4. Place the foil-wrapped corn directly on the grill grates. Cook for 30 to 35 minutes, turning occasionally until corn is tender.

How Do You Tell if Grilled Corn on the Cob Is Done?

The best way to tell if corn on the cob on the grill is done is to press against the kernels with your finger --if you feel safe doing so -- or with a blunt-edged object like the back of your grilling tongs. The kernels should be tender and should compress slightly. Undercooked kernels will be hard to the touch.

Grilled Corn Recipes

Here are some recipes to try the next time you have fresh corn.

Grilled Corn With Honey Butter and Smoked Salt

Ingredients

  • 6 pieces corn, husked
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon Jacobsen Salt Co. Cherrywood Smoked Salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Serves: 4

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Traeger Grilled Whole Corn

Ingredients

  • 3 green onions
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 ears corn, in husk

Serves: 4

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Grilled Corn on the Cob With Parmesan and Garlic

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • To taste salt and pepper
  • 8 ears corn, husked
  • 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Serves: 6

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Grilled Buffalo Blue Cheese Corn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 8 ears corn, husked
  • To taste celery salt
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese

Serves: 8

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Grilled Chili-Lime Corn

Ingredients

  • 12 ears corn, husked
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Traeger Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy Rub
  • 2 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest

Serves: 8

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Grilled Mexican Street Corn (Elote) by Chef Timothy Hollingsworth

Ingredients

  • 6 ears corn, husked
  • As needed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ancho or guajillo chile powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for serving
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • As needed salt
  • 1/2 cup Cotija cheese
  • As needed cilantro, finely chopped

Serves: 6

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Grilled Corn Salad by Chef Timothy Hollingsworth

Ingredients

  • 6 ears corn, husked
  • 1 cup Crema Mexicana
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic, smashed
  • 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • To taste salt
  • 1/2 cup Cotija cheese

Serves: 6

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Grilled Corn Salsa

Ingredients

  • 4 ears corn, husked
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, diced, and grilled
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • To taste salt
  • To taste black pepper

Serves: 6

Cook Time: 15 minutes