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Grilled Corn

We’ve got a large lake in our backyard right now, and I don’t think the dog has been fully dry since Friday, but I want to believe that there are places in this country where people are not gazing upon the water seeping into their basements and preparing their arks.

In that hopeful spirit: grilled corn. It’s so good and so easy.

Sometimes I tell you things are easy, and I mean they’re easy relatively speaking. Grilled corn is straight up easy.

I’m sure there are great benefits to elaborate corn soaking processes* and I’m missing out in some profound way, but it’s just hard to imagine when un-soaked corn is so good. So I don’t soak the corn. In fact, I don’t even fully husk the corn. I just pull off the outer layers.

Here’s where I get picky, though: I feel strongly about charcoal versus gas grills. I’m sure gas grills are convenient, but so is my broiler, and ultimately if you’re cooking on a gas grill, you’re broiling outside. That’s fine, but let’s not act like it’s real grilling.**

Finally, a note about picking corn: you don’t need to pull back all the husk to see if the corn is ripe. I was taught that you can feel the tip of the corn with your fingers— if it’s pointed, that probably means that the kernels at the end haven’t developed. If it’s rounded at the top or blunt, that means the kernels there have filled out and you’re good. Generally speaking, it’s not great to do something to fruit or vegetables in selecting them that will make the next person less likely to buy them. That includes poking or squeezing tomatoes and husking all the corn in your search for the most perfect ear.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

The corn should take about 8 - 12 minutes. I put it slightly off to the side, away from the very hottest spot in the grill.

Pull off the toughest outer layers of corn husk, leaving the thinner and lighter green inner layers. You should be able to easily feel and almost see the kernels, but they should be covered with the husk still (so don’t pull it all off). Trim off the excess silk at the end of the cob.

Add the corn to the grill. Give it a quarter turn every 2 - 3 minutes, until you see the outlines of the kernels and the husk is a bit charred. Often the husk begins to peel back a bit as I’m grilling, that’s fine. The kernels should be a deeper color (darker yellow, for instance) and look plump.

Spread with butter and salt, and enjoy.

(If your spouse grew up in the midwest among corn fields, try to avoid getting into a conversation about where the corn came from and how far out of season it is.***)

* From a 1999 New York Times article on grilled corn:

Corn grillers in Lynchburg, Tenn., have soaking down to a science. Regina Qualls, the treasurer of Metro Moore County Volunteer Fire Department treasurer, who has seen 11 years of corn-roast fund-raisers, described how the corn is soaked in salted water for 24 hours to make the ears more tender. Ice is added to the salt water every few hours to keep it from souring. The ears are then grilled over blazing-hot charcoal until the husks are as charred as cinders. When those are pulled off, the plump roasted kernels are exceptionally succulent, thanks to the salty water.

** This is one area in which I feel real superiority over my older brother, so I cling to it pretty strongly.

*** Florida, and very far. It was still delicious. We picked it up at Rosemont Market, which also has a fantastic meat counter and incredibly knowledgeable butchers.

Image: World War I poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Photo Archive. Corn - the food of the nation Serve some way every meal - appetizing, nourishing, economical by Lloyd Harrison; Harrison-Landauer Inc. Baltimore. 1918.

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