Fresh corn is near its peak, and there’s plenty of it: neatly stacked at the farmers market, piled in a mountain at some stores, and even displayed end-out in tidy rows at one retailer. One of the best things about summer corn, besides its freshness, sweetness, and pennies-per-ear cost, is the variety of ways to cook it.
Since it’s summer, though, for many of us there’s a good chance that the grill is fired up at dinner time already, with room to add a few ears of corn. Grilling corn may be the best way of all to bring out taste of fresh corn. Actually, that’s ways, plural, because depending on the grill, or the grill team, there are numerous ways to grill corn: on the grill rack, directly on the fire, smoked in the husks, or steamed in foil.
For any of the methods, it’s best to soak the ears in water for half an hour before cooking. It keeps the corn kernels moist and juicy and, if you’re cooking the corn in the shucks, will keep the outer green layers of the husk from catching on fire.
On the grill rack, the corn can either have the shucks pulled off, resulting in nicely blackened kernels and an intensely roasted taste, or cooked in the shucks after the cornsilk has been removed. The advantage of grilling it with the shucks on is that, when they’re peeled back after cooking, they make a convenient handle for gripping the hot corn. Ten to fifteen minutes over hot coals will produce perfectly cooked corn.
For a big crowd, burying the ears of corn in hot coals frees up the grill space. Pull the husks back, remove the cornsilk, and then put the husks back in place, securing them with string or wire. After soaking the corn, it can be placed directly in the fire and covered with hot (not flaming) coals for fifteen or more minutes. As long as the corn has been thoroughly soaked, it’s almost impossible to overcook. The outer, ashy layer of shucks will have to be removed before serving.
On a gas grill, either direct heat or steaming will produce a great ear of corn. The steamed method is perhaps the least messy, since it involves shucking the corn completely, soaking it and then wrapping each ear tightly in foil before placing it on the grill rack.
Having extra ears of roasted corn is a boon, since it can be incorporated into salads, salsas, or cornbread, bringing a bit of the smoky taste and darker color to many dishes. Cutting grilled corn off the cob makes it easy to store in the fridge or freezer for mixing with summer’s other vegetable stars, including zucchini, tomatoes or beans.