How to cook the Best Corn on the Cob either on the BBQ or grill… Juicy, tender and sweet with a little char… Perfectly seasoned and slathered in your favourite butter (plain, garlic or flavoured).
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The Best Corn on the Cob… Make the most of BBQ season
BBQ sweetcorn and summer are perfect partners. The Best Corn on the Cob is sweet and juicy… Covered in plump yellow kernels… And smoky with a hint of char. Melted butter running down the chin with each succulent bite is all part of the experience… Sunshine grilled and ready to devour.
But is there a secret to grilling the best corn? On the face of it, grilled sweetcorn sounds like a straight forward proposition. But there is little consensus on how to do it ‘right’… And all too often, what comes off the Barbecue is dry and shrivelled.
I share the options, whys and hows, so that you too can enjoy the best corn ever… whether grilled indoors or out.
How to choose the Best sweetcorn for grilling
Sweetcorn on the cob comes in three basic forms. There’s the natural, unpeeled, ‘still jacketed in its husk’ variety… The de-husked and trimmed, fresh variety… And lastly, there’s cobs which have been frozen. But which is best for grilling?
I’ve tried all three on the BBQ… Aside from literally just picked from the garden (which is a sublime treat), there’s actually little difference. Providing the corn is fresh and juicy and is cooked properly, the results should be good either way. But while the best corn may be the one you have available… there are still a few things to bear in mind when choosing corn for grilling.
- Whether fresh or frozen, check that the kernels look plump and not ‘shrivelled’. The fresher and better the corn, the more rounded and succulent the kernels will be. Wrinkled, dry-looking kernels will be even drier after grilling.
- For corn which is still covered with husk, look for husks that are tight and still green, with silky tassels at the top that are golden. Tassels which are black and dry, or husks which are brown and cracking usually indicate sweetcorn which has gone past its best.
- If the cobs still have their husks when buying, do a ‘quality control’ check… If possible, carefully peel back a little of the husk of one or two cobs to check the kernels are plump. Generally, this will be a reasonable marker that the rest of the pick will be good too.
- You can also gently press the sweetcorn from outside the husk to feel for any gaps where the kernels may not have grown.
- The fresher the corn the better the flavour and juiciness… The very best sweetcorn will be picked and grilled within a few hours… Make the best of growing sweetcorn in the garden, or ‘pick your own’ farms if you can find one.
Kitchen Grilled or BBQ Corn… Which is best?
While summer BBQ Corn fresh from the coals in the garden is always a treat, the British weather can be less than kind… But if the barbecue gets ‘rained off’, you can still enjoy the best corn from the kitchen.
I’ve tried grilling sweetcorn in 3 ways and all come up with pretty good results…
- Over the hot barbecue coals. (Some people even throw it direct on the coals, but there’s every chance you’ll end up with corn which is incinerated or a mouth full of ash)
- Under the direct heat of the kitchen grill
- On a ridged griddle pan on the hob
My favourite route to grilled corn will always be the barbie… Mainly because of the extra smokiness it adds and the whole ambience of the experience. But having said that… If you want to add a little extra ‘smokiness’ in the kitchen, you can always throw a bit of Oak Smoked Water over the sweetcorn to impart some of that BBQ flavour indoors…
As for great barbecue equipment? If you want to head out of the garden for your corn on the cob, then I thoroughly recommend getting a Cobb portable Barbecue. It’s a fabulous bit of kit that’s perfect for taking off to the beach or anywhere else… And it’s even got a cooling system which keeps it safe enough to use in the middle of the garden table sharing-style. We bought ours about 10 years ago and its one of the best summer purchases we ever made!
Is it best to grill corn with or without husk?
Some people prefer their corn to be grilled with the husk still intact. (Often with the internal silks and tassels removed by peeling back first and then re-folding the husks over the corn). Personally, I think you get the best corn when it’s grilled (husk removed) with the kernels exposed. So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
- It’s a bit of a faff to prepare the sweetcorn for the grill.
- There’s a greater likelihood of the husks catching fire over/under a naked flame or on direct heat.
- Assuming the husk doesn’t set alight, the corn won’t get any or as much ‘char’ and is less likely to absorb the characteristic smokiness from the barbecue.
- It’s harder to work out when the corn is done.
- But… The husk will help to protect the corn kernels and to keep them moist and tender.
- Once grilled, it’s the fastest route from barbecue to mouth. Other than a slather of butter and a sprinkle of seasoning, you’re all done!
- It’s the best method for getting some char and for controlling how much by turning when needed.
- The kernels are more likely to dry out if over-cooked… The solution? Don’t over-cook!
- Of course… You do have the option to wrap in foil which will help retain moisture, but you’ll not get the yummy char.
- If you grill the cob ‘naked’, you have the option to brush a little oil or add flavourings while it’s still cooking as you wish.
Tips to making the Best Corn whether on the BBQ or under the grill
So, what else do you need to know to barbecue and grill the best corn? Here’s my top tips…
- There’s no need to soak sweetcorn before grilling. It really won’t make a positive difference to the end result. Fresh corn kernels have all the plump juiciness they need to sustain them through the BBQ process.
- Choose your corn carefully… See ‘How to choose the Best Corn for grilling’ above.
- Have your butters and seasonings ready for when the corn comes off the grill. The best corn should be eaten fresh and hot and the butter should easily melt across the surface, nestling between the kernels.
- Don’t over-cook the sweetcorn and turn it frequently during cooking. Grilled and BBQ corn should only take a maximum of 8 to 10 minutes on the heat. Cooked corn will deepen in colour, but if the kernels start to look dry and wrinkled you’ve gone too far.
- Make sure the coals or grill are super-hot. The best corn needs a high heat to cook fast, stay juicy and char well. Long slow heat is more likely to dry out the corn.
- Although I have never bothered, you can encourage a speedy grilling by brushing the corn with a little oil or butter while it’s cooking.
The Best Corn with butter… Flavoured butters and seasoning for perfection
Well-grilled corn will be succulent and super-sweet. And that may be all you need for corn-heaven… A few seasonings and a little butter will take even the sweetest corn to the next level. For most people, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a simple pat of butter is the usual ‘go-to’. But for the very BEST corn… why not try some flavoured butter? My absolute favourites are a melted slather of garlic butter or garlic butter with chilli.
You can of course make your own flavoured butter by mashing your usual brand with garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, paprika, chilli flakes or even seaweed dulse.
Alternatively, you can literally make your own butter and flavour it as you go. It’s incredibly easy and actually lots of fun.
Or if you are dairy free or Vegan, I can thoroughly recommend trying Our Paula’s plant-based butters… Her garlic and garlic and chilli vegan butters are out of this world. I’m not vegan, but I reckon these are the closest I’ve found to the dairy thing.
Ready to grill the Best Corn?
So, there you have it… My top tips for the best corn on the cob, whether on the BBQ or grill. Ready to get grilling and charring?
Other summer-ready barbecue food at Gluten Free Alchemist
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Best Corn on the Cob – BBQ or Grill
- Barbeque (or grill)
- heat-proof tongs
- 4 full-size corn on the cob (ears) – with or without husk
- ¼ tsp oil if using a griddle pan, otherwise optional
- 30 g butter or dairy free alternative plain/herb/garlic/chilli/dulse/etc
- seasoning salt/pepper/herbs/chilli flakes/etc
- Prepare and get ready all butters and seasonings ahead of time (see main post for suggestions).
- Prepare corn if it still has the husk intact – Peel back the husk and remove all the internal silk and tassels to leave the kernels cleanly exposed. The husk can be completely removed or pulled back from the cob and secured.
- Pre-heat the barbecue, grill or griddle pan to a high heat (coals on BBQ should be red and glowing well; grill should be running for several minutes for full heat; griddle pan should be set over hob on ‘high’ setting and given a few minutes to heat fully).
- If using a griddle pan, lightly brush with oil. If using a BBQ or grill, there is no need to use oil, although you may opt to brush a little on the corn surface to speed up the cooking process.
- Place the corn cobs on the barbecue grill, under the kitchen grill or into the griddle pan.
- Check and turn frequently until the corn has turned a deeper yellow colour, is still juicy and has areas of slight charring on the surface. Be careful not to over-cook. Good corn should take a maximum of 8 to 10 minutes to cook. If the kernels start to look dry and shrivelled you’ve gone too far.
- Take the corn off the heat and serve immediately, slathered in your favourite butter and lightly seasoned as preferred.
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