I haven’t been able to get enough grilled corn this summer. I even forgo throwing meat on the grill, preferring to make a couple of ears the centerpiece of my lunch or dinner plate. All it takes is a little butter or crema, salt, pepper and lime, and I’m all set.
For those who have never grilled corn before, it’s not hard. But you don’t just throw an ear on the grill the way you would a red pepper.
You can grill corn essentially two ways:
- Shuck the corn, spray or brush the ears with a little oil and place them on a grill that’s fairly hot. Turn the ears regularly and in about 12 minutes, they’re ready to eat.
- Or you can soak your ears of corn in water for about 15-20 minutes, then pull back the husks, making sure they stay attached, and remove all the silk. Spread some butter on each ear and salt before wrapping the husk back around it. Wrap in foil and place on the grill for about 15 minutes or so, turning regularly as it cooks.
What’s the difference?
The first method gives you plenty of grill-darkened kernels, which is visually appetizing to those of us who love grill marks and a few blackened kernels added to the yellow and while. It also tastes great because some of those kernels will caramelize in the heat, adding a sweetness as well as a chewiness. A few kernels get so hot, they will pop as they cook.
The second method steams your corn until it is truly tender while keeping each ear a pristine yellow and white. Each kernel pops in your mouth with plenty of steaming hot juice.
So, which is better?
That’s up to you. Which do you like better?
I asked Jeff White, executive chef at the Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden, if he had a preferred method, and he said it really depended on your situation.
If you’re grilling corn for your family and you’re going to eat it immediately after removing from the grill, then the strip away the husks and get some char marks on those kernels, he said. But if you’re grilling corn to be served later, then steam them on the grill inside their husks; they’ll hold up better in a steam tray.
Once the corn is finished, you can get as fancy or as plain as you want. If you’ve been to any festival around San Antonio that sells roasted corn, you know how elaborate the toppings can get. From buckets of butter to various kinds of spices, the array is extensive.
A Mexican-style elote would likely feature cayenne or some type of chile powder, a little drizzle of crema or a smear of mayonnaise, a sprinkling of cotija cheese (Parmesan will work) and lime juice. Or you could make your own border-style corn in cup with the kernels cut off the cob and served in a similar cheesy cream topping. You don’t need hard and fast recipes for these, just add the ingredients you like.
By the way, if you’re concerned about getting non-genetically modified corn, you can check out your local farmers markets and ask. Or you can go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, both of which have said their produced is GMO-free, though it still wouldn’t hurt to ask.