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Most recommendations for cooking corn on the cob suggest putting it in boiling water for 10 minutes. I find this very undesirable for a number of reasons:

  • it takes a long time to boil the required water
  • takes too much of the flavour out
  • the water is wasted
  • so much energy is wasted

So, I cut them in half, and place them upright in a tiny amount of water—about 1mm depth—in a covered saucepan for 10 mins, making sure the water at the bottom is gently simmering.
What is the result?

  • It takes little time to cook in total: 10 minutes for the corn, and 2 minutes for the water.
  • I can use the water to flavor.
  • I barely uses energy once the water is boiled and the saucepan is covered.
  • The corn is juicy and delicious retaining its maximum flavor.

Now, I seriously doubt I'm some sort of culinary genius that has invented a new way of cooking corn, but I've never come across this method, so maybe there are more modern methods.

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I think the Modernist way would involve sous vide, foaming, and possibly spherification. –  BobMcGee Aug 31 '11 at 17:13
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@BobMcGee - Apparently so..blog.sousvidesupreme.com/2011/06/sous-vide-corn-on-the-cob –  rfusca Aug 31 '11 at 17:21
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@BobMcGee - Indeed. Frankly I'm surprised nobody has frozen a cob in liquid nitrogen, shattered it, sous vide it, and then made that result into a foam. It seems like such a natural progression. –  rfusca Aug 31 '11 at 17:33
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@Physiks lover - You're basically talking about steamed corn in your description of your method. Try a simple steamer basket and your corn won't even have to sit down in the little water there is. –  rfusca Aug 31 '11 at 18:42
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@Physiks - because you're still boiling a portion of the corn, which removes vitamin C (among other things). The vitamin C (some studies show about 8-10% of daily recommended value) in corn is one of the few nutritionally good things about corn. It would shock me if a steamer basket added a whole lot of time - but i've never tested the difference. Its just a more standard approach to steaming veggies. –  rfusca Aug 31 '11 at 21:33
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6 Answers 6

Lately, I've been direct grilling them fully stripped of the husk, with a brush of olive oil first. Its relatively quick, but requires a bit of attention as you'll need to turn the ears. You don't want the heat too high and it can be difficult not to dry the corn out.

It produces a distinct favor but its absolutely wonderful, everybody raves. The slight smokiness and carmelization of the sugar in the corn heightens its favor considerably. It produces a much different result than grilled corn wrapped in foil (which is essentially steaming the corn) or boiled corn. Grilling in the husk is another common way, but its a much different result and not too different from grilling it with foil.


It was brought up in the comments, but the most 'modern' correlation to boiling the corn like you said, would be to sous vide it. It's definitely 'modern', but sous vide is not quick. It does preserve and intensify flavour well though.

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We do a similar grilling version in my household, but with softened butter instead of olive oil. It's probably not that modern, as they've done it that way in Mexico for a long time, but it is excellent. You hit on the right answer with sous vide, though. –  justkt Aug 31 '11 at 18:08
    
@justkt - Right, I guess I was throwing out 'alternate' version for the grill, rather than just 'modern'. I was just covering it because the OP had mentioned that most recommended boiling, but that there's plenty of other non-modern, excellent methods for corn on the cob. –  rfusca Aug 31 '11 at 18:15
    
+1) I am all in favor of editing "modern" out of the question in favor of "another". Grilling is corn, the way God intended it to be eaten. I have gotten great results out of husk on/husk off techniques, with a marginal preference to husk on after soaking in water. Of course it almost time for the state Fair and Roasted Corn. –  Cos Callis Aug 31 '11 at 18:42
    
We follow Mark Bittman and grill corn as described then serve with chili lime mayonnaise, see nytimes.com/2010/07/28/dining/28mini.html. –  David Norman Aug 31 '11 at 19:20
    
@justkt: I also do it with butter. Yummy! –  nico Aug 31 '11 at 20:33
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The very most best way is to wrap them in lightly oiled foil and grill or broil them.

They are tender and it concentrates the sugars and flavors instead of diluting them as boiling does.

They can be left in their husks before wrapping which makes them never stick (of course) as well as giving them little bit of an interesting grassy flavor.

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If you've never tried it, grill without foil or the husk. It's good. –  justkt Aug 31 '11 at 18:08
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When I want corn quickly, I husk it, get the silks off, and drop it into a microwave-safe casserole dish. Add 1/8" - 1/4" (3-6mm) water, cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for 1-2 minutes per cob.

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Even faster (since you don't have any cleanup!) is to use a microwave steaming bag. They're plastic, look sort of like Ziplocs but are thicker. I cut the cobs in half, put them in the bag with a tiny bit of water, and steam away. If you get corn that's somewhat less than sweet, you can add a bit of suger to the water in the bag and it will infuse the corn as it steams. –  EmmyS Aug 31 '11 at 21:04
    
Or wrap them in wax paper for microwaving -- just rinse before wrapping to get enough water for steaming. –  Martha F. Sep 1 '11 at 21:23
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Other than the BBQ, the best way is to steam the corn

Gently open the the top of the husk, let clean water flow in for a moment, and then hand form it closed again. Do not remove any of the husk, that is your "free" microwave container

Microwave (1Kw) on high for about 6 to 8 minutes for two cobs. Let stand a minute or two before peeling off husk and silk (very easy now it's cooked) and serve

In New Zealand the traditional method is to place the whole cob (husk and all) into a geothermal mineral water pool. This is an exceptional way to cook corn, but not convenient if you don't have a geothermal pool in your back yard :-)

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I've found that, if you have fresh good corn, cooking it for way less time makes it taste a lot better. I've found that after only around 3 minutes (I use the "steam in a bit of water" method) it is best. At first I was nervous, but now 10 minutes feels like tremendous overkill!

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Look up elote. It's a mexican variety where the corn is flavored with lime and covered in cotija cheese and red chili powder.

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