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Marinating Grilled Corn on the Cob for 1,000 People!

Once a year, I grill burgers/dogs, etc. at a music festival with attendance of about 1,000.

Next year, I want to serve grilled corn on the cob. In order to have the operation run smoothly, I need to completely shuck the corn in advance (there's limited grill space, and limited time).

If I'm not boiling the corn in advance, and not leaving any of the husks on the corn, is there any point to marinating the corn in advance? I'd rather not serve dry corn (though, that's how I eat it at home off the grill, and I love it). I'd love to do something involving Old Bay.

What can I do? I'm envisioning shucking the corn in advance and putting it in a large container with oil/Old Bay + (whatever), and then throwing it right on the grill. But will the marinade have any impact at all, or am I just wasting my time?

Also, if anyone has any suggestions for speciific marinade recipes involving Old Bay, that would also be helpful.


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  1. When I dress my corn first, I cook it in a steam table pan so it doesn't burn too much. It still does get black spots but not too much. I do more of a Mexican style marinade though, with lime juice, chili powder and parmesan cheese.

    1. i would grill, throw them in steam pans and brush/toss with oil/Old Bay/salt at the end . Marinading it in the oil will just cause a lot of flareups as the oil drips IMO.

      1 Reply
      1. re: boogiebaby

        I agree. Marinating in oil is asking for trouble. I never marinate corn. When I want a boost of flavor, I just brush on a seasoned/flavored butter before serving: cilantro-lime, Old Bay, lemon pepper,etc

      2. At the County Fair, the grilled corn booths have large containers of various condiments on another table for the non-purists. That seems to be a lot less trouble(and less waste if the flavor profile you choose isn't popular with some).

        You can also see it is grilled in the husk. One booth cleans the silk off, puts the husk back, soaks the corn in water before grilling and then the husk is turned over and a "handle. However one other booth grills the corn whole(also soaked in water) and after it is cooked, cuts off the bottom 'handle' and then pulls up on the husk-taking the silk along with the husk.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cathy

          Here are photos from the San Diego County Fair, the fifth most attended County Fair in the USA. This one vendor sells more than 1000 ears a day. He does not shuck. He does not marinade or pre-season.

          You can see three ears 'shucked' after cooking on the far right end of the grill in the first photo- silk ends up attached to the husk and not the ear. You can see in the second photo that most of the ears are semi 'pre cooked' and on the back area off the grills. They are then re-heated to complete the cooking, for serving. You can see condiments offered in the third photo.

          Since you say you want to do this for next year, practice *now* to see what is efficient as well as tasty. Marinate some ears overnight then cook 8, 12 and 24 hours later and see if the quality and/or taste of the corn is affected. Try cooking and shucking as shown in the photos. You'll have a 'system' ready for next year.

        2. My advice is to grill them dry. BUT, take old bay, lemon juice concentrate and water and pour into a squirt bottle (the windex kind).
          Now, when you're grilling the cobs, Keep dousing them in the lemony good marinade and serve. This way the marinade stays lemony fresh and the cob tastes amazing.

          1. Unless the corn will be husked with the silks removed and placed on the grill with nothing between it and the heat, I wouldn't go through the effort of grilling it. Just boil it. I don't understand grilling corn with the husk on. That simply steams the corn and prevents any substantial browning or charring..

            To grill it, lightly brush the corn with oil mixed with salt and Old Bay and/or any other spices or herbs you want such as chili powder. Grill it over coals that are putting out medium-high to high heat rotating as needed until it's lightly charred all the way around, about 10 minutes.

            1. Thanks, everyone. This is helpful. Due to various constraints, the corn is definitely going to be shucked prior to the event, and grilled.

              Should I parboil the corn at home prior to the event? This would cut down on the grilling time, right?

              4 Replies
              1. re: hallmt18

                No need. It will grill in 8 - 12 minutes.

                Make sure you brush the corn with oil before it goes on the grill.

                1. re: hallmt18

                  Here's my take.....you can partially shuck the corn to remove the silk, but it's not necessary. Most fairs I have been to remove the most of the silk before grilling. I would not remove the entire husks, only the dirty outermost layers....but then instead, soak the ear of corn in water to trap some moisture inside to aid in steaming the corn on the grill to reduce the cooking time. The husks protect the kernels and will brown underneath the husks from my experience for a nice visual presentation. When the husks are sufficiently browned or charred, you can keep them warm. When ready to be served, you have the added benefit of pulling back the husks so the patron can hold onto the corn easily without burning their hands.



                  1. re: hallmt18

                    There might not be a need to parboil, but I would do it for convenience sake. Shuck and pre-cook your corn ahead of time. Day of, grill on high heat to get tasty char, quick and simple. Shake Old Bay as you go.
                    Depending on crowds, you can almost grill-to-order this way.

                  2. How fast do you need the 1,000 ears of corn to be ready?
                    All at once or is the 1,000 ears spread throughout the day?

                    Since the ears will be shucked and clean, I would boil the corn (in a light sugar solution - 1/3C sugar per 5 gallons of water) using a turkey fryer a few minutes before serving. Optional - You can take the cooked corn and slap on the grill for a few minutes to get a flavorful char on the corn.

                    In regards to Old Bay and marinading the corn, IMHO, eww!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: dave_c

                      Spread out over the course of the day, so I anticipate a half dozen to ten cobs on the grill at a time.

                      1. re: hallmt18

                        If the corn is at peak sweetness, in-season, you really don't need to cook the corn.
                        Since you're expecting 10 to 15 ears on the grill at a time... I would just start from raw and grill off corn as needed. You want the corn to be hot enough to melt butter. :-)

                        1. re: dave_c

                          You want the corn to be hot enough to melt butter. :-)

                          It would probably be easier, and more cost efficient, to keep the butter melted on the grill in a vessel and dip the corn into it if the customer desires it.

                    2. Parboiling the corn will save no time and will, instead, add unnecessary time, work, and complication.

                      When serving a very large amount of food and a large crowd, simplification and streamlining are paramount.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: 1POINT21GW

                        Agreed. Just make sure to have lime and chile ready for people to use on their own...

                        Grilling it "dry" makes the sugars come out more so it is sweeter than when steamed or boiled., IMO.

                        1. re: 1POINT21GW

                          I agree with the second paragraph but would add the word "preparation".

                          Perhaps it takes 8-12 minutes to grill raw corn. It would take 4-6 minutes (or less) to char parboiled corn on a hot grill - isn't this streamlining your serving process, cutting grilling time in half or more?
                          Not only that, but you can't "cheat" with raw corn on the day of - you have to make sure its done (cooked). Parboiling, on the other hand, gives you a little breathing room if theres a crush of orders - you could *lightly* grill and know the corn will be cooked regardless. If all goes to hell (and I've had this happen more than once) you could skip the grilling step altogether and simply serve heated, par-boiled corn.
                          I'm just saying.
                          In a relaxed situation you can afford plenty of luxuries to get it right. Your perspective changes in a food stand with a line-up full of impatient people.

                          1. re: porker

                            Porker - I tend to agree. Once we are actually at the event, we are stretched pretty thin on resources. There's 2 or 3 of us, and one of us is taking orders/money the whole time. So, if i can reduce the grilling time by parboiling in advance, that might make the most sense for me.

                        2. If you are going to put Old Bay on everybody's corn, make sure you have a big sign that doesn't just say "CORN" but "Old Bay Corn". hard to believe I know, but not everybody likes Old Bay, especially not on a food they may anticipate to be sweet.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: FrankJBN

                            Good point. If it were me and this were the first year I was offering Old Bay corn, I'd take about 25% of the corn and do it Old Bay style and leave the rest plain. I'd listen for feedback on the Old Bay corn to see if people liked it, loved it, or didn't like it and make the appropriate adjustments for next year.

                            1. re: 1POINT21GW

                              I'd do a corn tasting prior to the event with a few close friends. Ones that won't lie. I think it sounds great but I'd want to taste test before hand.

                            2. re: FrankJBN

                              Even in Maryland?!?!?! (I know. You make a good point.)

                              1. re: hallmt18

                                *raises hand* Born & bred Marylander who absolutely, positively hates Old Bay. I second the suggestion to serve some of the corn without it.

                            3. I would roast the Corn whole(in the Husk) just hill heated through.
                              They shuck super easy and you will be able to just get some nice color on them and they will be cooked. Toss or baste with seasoning after they are off the grill ( flare ups, as mentioned earlier in the thread).
                              We often do large amounts of grilled corn like this at summer events and it works like a charm.