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How Long to Cook Corn?

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I have always cooked my corn the same way--bring a pot of water to a boil, put corn in, bring back to a boil, reduce heat some and cook 5 minutes. This year, however, my corn is very crisp and chewy. Do I need to just cook it longer? Will it get mushy if I do? Or is this just another side effect of corn being grown in drought conditions? Help!

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  1. You cook it *that* long??

    I bring water to a gentle boil, drop in the corn for about 10 seconds, then scoop out.

    5 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Overcooking fresh corn is practically criminal. one or two minute boil or maybe 4 minutes in a steamer is probably about average for me. On the grill is fantastic...especially when some of the kernels begin to caramelize.
      Microwave works too, just not for more than 90 seconds.

      During my growing up years, we always had access to great, fresh corn in the summer...back in the days when there were farm stands just about everywhere you went in NJ (except the densest urban areas). I always loved it and still do to this day, although it pains me now to think back on how my mom cooked it in a 15 minute boil! When I went to college in Iowa for a few years, I learned quickly that fresh corn didn't need more than a minute or two of cooking. And the freshest corn didn't need cooking at all.

      1. re: The Professor

        One of the big long-running debates among my family back in Jersey when I was growing up was "Where to get the best sweet corn?"

        Fewer options now:(

        1. re: Heatherb

          I know. It's so sad, especially because of the fact that compared to just 40 years ago, "The Garden State" (as NJ is ironically still called) has so few farms left. So many farms have turned into housing developments full of expensive (but shoddily built) homes.

          NJ once had the _best_ sweet corn, tomatoes, and apples...all in abundance.
          Not any more.

          1. re: The Professor

            Honestly, it's kind of why I left. Staying seemed pointless when everything I loved about the place was being bulldozed over. Some of the best cropland in the country has been turned into McMansions. I'm in Colorado now, and it's so hard to get good veggies out of this soil! I can't believe farmers make a profit here.

        2. re: The Professor

          Nothing quite like raw, fresh young corn!

      2. Wrap an ear of corn in waxed paper, put in in the microwave on a plate or the rotating disc, microwave 2 1/2 minutes per ear on high. Done .... delicious. Careful; hot steam in the wrapped package when it comes out of the microwave.

        1 Reply
        1. re: todao

          Thanks, I'll give this a try. We just love corn--I buy it each week at the farmer's market during the season, and I've been very disappointed in the way it's been tasting this year.

        2. I steam my corn in an inch of water (a little more for a pot full). When it smells like corn it's done. I also like to put it on the grill and let it caramelize a little.

          1. We've had some odd corn this year, too. Chewy comes close to describing it but doesn't fully capture it. I find it pretty off putting. It's happened with grilled corn and boiled corn and with corn from a couple of different farmers.

            If I'm cooking in water (as opposed to on the grill), I cook it pretty much as ipsedixit described.

            1. For me, it really depends on how good the corn is. If it's really fresh and good enough to eat raw (Yes, I do that!), I will only cook it for a minute or two at the most. When it's really fresh and tender over cooking tends to turn it to mush. I think what I'm doing is just heating it up a little.


              1 Reply
              1. re: Burghfeeder

                yes! freshly picked corn is wonderfully delicious raw - if you can find a roadside stand for 'just picked' ears. It's like eating candy.
                I grew up eating Ohio sweet corn... now, when we're in Fresno, we'll stop at Fresno State to buy freshly picked corn.

              2. Does it look like regular corn? Maybe they're selling cow corn or something else, due to the drought?

                1. I have finally perfected cooking corn (if I must say so myself).

                  Most important step is to shuck the corn a couple of hours before making. Get a bowl of water and add some sugar and salt and soak the shucked ears anywhere from 1-4 hours or so.

                  If you are making a bunch of corn, melt and season butter (I like lemon pepper and hot sauce along with salt and white pepper). Brush each ear with the butter and wrap in foil. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes. This is a good method especially for a bunch of corn as you can prepare it early in the day and then just throw it in before your meal.

                  Method #2. Place soaked corn on pie plate, cover with damp paper towel and microwave for a minute an ear for the first three ears and for 3 1/2 minutes for four ears (rearranging halfway through time). Then brush with seasoned melted butter.

                  People rave about my corn.....the soaking in salted, sugared water is key.

                  1. Why heat up the kitchen with a pot of boiling water when you can microwave corn? I like it fairly crisp so just microwave it for 1 1/2 mins per ear (wrapped in plastic wrap).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: thymeoz

                      Well, in my case, when I want corn I often want it NOW. I don't really have the time to get dressed, find my keys, and run out to Target to buy a microwave. :)

                    2. I've been doing the microwave thing... one ear, 4 minutes. Shuck after cooking. Granted I'm only doing two ears at a time.

                      1. Put a pot of water on to boil. Pick (or husk) corn. Drop into pot of boiling water. Turn off heat. Take corn out. Serve. Been doing this for years....

                        1. The way I cook corn comes out perfect every time. I take the corn still in the husk and peel just afew of the outer layers of husk (not all) and some of the "hair" on top. I put the ears , still in the husk into a pre-heated oven for 1 hour. It steams in it's own husk and comes out with a slightly roasted flavor.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: ctfoodguy

                            I do that as well but don't remove any husk. I leave it as I buy it from the farmer's market. Turnes out great everytime.

                            1. re: ctfoodguy

                              Does it matter what temp you've preheated to?

                            2. I finally tried the microwave cooking method and it's in that the husk and silk come right off. Of course, it's about the temperature of molten lava when it comes out so you need to be careful. The other way is to husk it then steam it for about 5 minutes. Husk right before you're ready to steam. The sugars start to turn to starch as soon as the corn is picked and the process is hastened by removing the husk. That's why you should never, ever peel back the husk in the store to see if the corn is "ready". Drives me nuts when I see people do this. Ruins the corn for anyone else.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: gourmanda

                                Gourmanda, that drives me nuts, too!!! I've been grabbing corn out of the back of pick-up trucks since I was 5 years old. I think I've grabbed fewer than 10 bad ears in all of that time.

                                1. re: debbiel

                                  Same here! I just make sure the ear feels good, and the last batch, the gal behind the table at the market counted them out and put them into the bag for me. Not a bad ear in the bunch. When at the grocery store, I try to find ones that haven't been messed with. The batch on display at the grocery store is rather homogenous, and have rarely gotten a "bad" ear, unless the whole lot is not as tasty, but no, I don't get it home, husk it, and find it with bugs or worms, or shriveled up, or otherwise slighted in a way that the discovery of such would be assisted by partially husking in the store.

                                  1. re: wyogal

                                    Around here, some of the supermarkets and farmstands have trash barrels next to the corn bin. Shoppers stand there, shucking the corn before bagging and buying it. In doing so, they rudely prevent other customers from getting to the pile of ears. Any time I have cheerfully suggested they try nuking it in the husk (easiest, least use of natural resources, AND tastiest), I've gotten gape-mouthed stares. I no longer say anything.

                                    I've only had two ears of local corn so far this season, and it was rather tough but also was picked before it was really ripe, I think. If this continues I will try brining it still in the husk in hopes that the water gets to, and absorbed by, the kernels. That may mean partially shucking without actually removing the husks, so they can be repositioned before microwaving.

                                    I am fighting mightily against the urge to administer imaginary dope-slaps to those who resist the idea of unshucked nuking without having tried it. I guess they use the time it takes to boil that pot of water to do some laundry with the washboard.

                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      But I don't have a microwave!!!

                                      I kind of want to slap that store with the in-store husking trash bin. Damned enablers.

                                      1. re: debbiel

                                        I don't think it's enabling so much as preventing people from dumping husks on the floor. Which I have seen at stores. People can be such idjits.

                                        I never buy corn on the cob at the grocery store. I grew up living next to a farmer who would keep us up to date on which fields were ready (my dad would pay him at the end of the season for what we ate, over the farmer's protests). We would put the pot of water on to boil, go pick the corn and cook it right away. I don't buy cob corn unless I can be reasonably assured it was picked that day or the day before. Mr S calls me a corn snob.

                                        I bought a dozen on the weekend at the farmer's market. Picked them by feel...not too full at the top, not to skinny at the top. And I ended up with 12 nice cobs that weren't overripe.

                              2. If cooking more than 4-5 ears, will go with boiling salted water... maybe3 minutes or so. If cooking 2-3 ears, will go to microwave... in glass dish with 2-3 T of water and covered... about 1.5 minutes per ear.

                                1. These days I forgo the boiling in favor of sticking it on the grill or under the broiler. YUM!

                                  1. Two ways I cook corn, and both turn out great:
                                    Leave it in the husks and microwave for a few minutes. It has lots of earthy flavor that way.
                                    Shuck 5 or 6 cobs, place in Pyrex dish, add 1/2 inch water and a teaspoon sugar, cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave 8 minutes.

                                    1. I like my corn *somewhat* overdone I guess. The kernels should be soft but not mushy.

                                      1. We do a simple steam method, and I've never had better corn anywhere, or done any way. Put about an inch of water in a big pot, bring it to a boil, add the corn, put the lid on and steam for about 5 min, 6 - 7 if you are doing a stock pot full. Turn off and serve.

                                        This saves time, AND $$ as you are cooking it less time and using less energy. I am 68 years old, and my father taught us to cook corn this way. It has been around for a long time, yet I've never come across anyone who does it that way. He was an Agronomist @ Purdue, PennState, UMass, & Rutgers.

                                        1. Wow! Methods ranging from TWO MINUTES in boiling water to ONE HOUR in an oven!!!!

                                          Time to ask how people LIKE their corn? Crunchy or soft????

                                          I usually do ours on the grill, in the husks, for about 20 minutes. We like them a little on the soft wise, I guess.

                                          1. Fun thread. I've always believed that the time from pick to pot was crucial, and I usually boil mine for two to three minutes, pull an ear out & try it. I don't have a microwave. I look forward to steaming a batch, per Nanzi. I've only had local corn twice so far this year - one batch was in the weirdly chewy category and the other was etherial.

                                            1. Drop it in boiling salted water cover and then take it off the heat.

                                              After 2 min lift the cover and see if it smells like corn.

                                              If so, fish those suckers put. If not, check after 3.

                                              Key is : smells like corn

                                              Corn is 90% water and needs very little cooking time.

                                              Overcooking corn is a crime !

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                                Mom always said that when you could smell it, it was done. She used to put the big pot of water (maybe 1/3 full) on to boil, add a little salt, then go out to pick the corn. By the time it was husked the water was boiling and she'd drop in maybe a dozen ears. and when it smelled done, it was!

                                                Still works for me -- except for the picking it out of the garden part!

                                                1. re: mwright

                                                  And approximately how long before you can smell it?

                                                2. re: C. Hamster

                                                  Makes sense. I've use the "smell it" test for most things...

                                                3. I actually eat it raw pretty frequently. It's incredible raw. But that is when I make it into a corn salad. Raw corn sliced off the cob, a little thinly sliced red onion, some fresh cilantro, salt and pepper, and a little olive oil and vinegar, yummmm.

                                                  I rarely eat it on the cob, if I do, it's wrapped with bacon and then the bacon tied on with butchers string and then it's grilled. I really don't like corn boiled.

                                                  1. Shuck the corn. Put in pot of cold water, just enough so that the ears float off the bottom of the pot. Cover the pot. Heat on high. As soon as the water boils, remove the corn from the water. It will be perfectly done every time.

                                                    1. I don't know what I could be doing wrong, but I had some fresh corn the other night and decided to boil it (we usually cook it directly on the grill). I dropped it in boiling, salted water and waited for the smell..................... as so many have posted above. Not much smell at all after a few minutes, so I just went by the seat of my pants ................. and my old Joy of Cooking. 8 minutes or so and it was perfect!

                                                      It seems to me that corn boiled for only two minutes is still pretty much raw. Nothing wrong with that, but is it really cooked after that little time?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                        Sure. If it is good corn, 2 or 3 minutes is plenty. I find that any longer than that, it starts getting a bit soft.
                                                        My feeling is that if you can start to smell the corn, that's some of the flavor cooking out of it.

                                                        I usually trust Joy Of Cooking (at least the editions prior to the late 70's) but I'd say that they're dead wrong about 8 minutes for fresh corn. On the other hand, you do have to go with what your own palate dictates.
                                                        As such, there is no real right or wrong.

                                                      2. Try steaming it. Faster and CHEAPER. put 1 inch of water in bottom of corn pot, bring to a boil, put corn in and time it(with lid on) for 4 or 5 min.. It couldn't be quicker. No need to run stove so long for big pan of water, and flavor doesn't leach out of the corn.

                                                        1. If cooking for a crowd, will put corn in already simmering water for just a few minutes... maybe 2-3?!? If cooking 1-2 ears just for me, I use microwave. Put corn in glass casserole dish with 1-2 T of water, cover with hunka parchment paper, cook for 1-2 minutes per ear. Comes out great every time and no CALDRON of boiling water in kitchen in AUGUST!!

                                                          1. I leave mine in the husk and soak it in water for a bit. Then when I fire up the grill, I throw the corn on the top rack. I turn it occasionally, and just take it off whenever what I'm grilling is done. Usually not more than 30 minutes. I shuck it after it's done, I use a towel so the heat doesn't hurt my hands. I like my corn a bit on the softer side and this usually does the job.

                                                            1. After following this topic on and off for almost a year, I have concluded that most people like their corn a lot 'crispier' than my family does. I grill in the husk for 20 minutes or in a steamer for 10-12 minutes. Always have.

                                                              1. I've seen this method a few different places and it works great - cut about 1 inch off the bottom end of the cob with the husk on. Throw the entire thing with husk in the microwave for around 3 minutes. When it's done, hold the silk end with a potholder or towel and you should be able to pull all the husk layers and silk off in one piece. Obviously boiling or steaming would be more practical if you're doing a lot of corn, but this method works great if you only need to do a couple. Though I wonder if it might also work with steaming.

                                                                Here's a video: