Grilled corn on the cob, smothered with garlic mayo and topped with bacon bits, fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese.
What is grilled corn on the cob?
Essentially, we are talking about raw corn on the cob grilled on a grill until fully cooked. You don't need to pre-cook corn prior to grilling. Once finished, grilled corn is seasoned with something as plain as salt to very sophisticated dressings.
In Mexico, grilled corn on the cob is known as elotes - Mexican street food which is basically grilled corn on the cob smothered with a mix of mayo and Mexican crema. Additionally, elotes are spiced with Ancho or Guajillo chile powder, and sprinkled with Cotija cheese, chopped cilantro and lime juice. Those are ridiculously good.
How to pick corn for grilling?
Picking the right corn for grilling will ensure great results and vice versa.
- You want the freshest corn possible. Fresh corn on the cob has bright green color and tightly closed husks. These are the ones that you want. Fresh kernels are plump and juicy. Old one are dry and won't taste good grilled.
- Inspect the tassels at the top. They should be brown and sticky. If they are dry and black, the corn is old.
- Feel the kernels thought the husks, they need to be plump and plentiful.
- Inspect for tiny holes in the husks, especially near the top. Those are wormholes. You don't want those.
To remove silk before grilling or not?
Some say eating corn will be easier with if silk is removed prior to grilling. Some say it's not worth the effort and makes little to no difference. I personally do and I find that corn really is easier to enjoy when you don't have to deal with those little silk strands that tend to get in the way.
Do you need to brine corn before grilling?
Some people do but most don't. I've tried both ways and find corn soaked in water to be lacking flavor. It's almost like the flavor is more diluted. Serious Eats found brined corn to be dryer and tougher compared to un-soaked grilled corn. I tend to agree with that assessment.
If you do want to give brining a try, use a solution of 1 cup each of salt and sugar per gallon of water and soak for 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.
How to grill corn on the cob?
There many ways to grill corn but I find that the best way is to grill corn in husks, followed by a short period of 'naked' grilling. This provides a better control over final product and prevents charring and burning of corn. Grill over direct heat for about 30 minutes, turning every few minutes. The corn now will be nice a soft and ready to eat. Almost.
Next, pull the husks back and grill the corn for another 10 minutes or so, frequently turning. This will give the corn nice caramelizaiton and lots of flavor.
This is it. The corn is now ready for eating.
Other ways to grill corn on the cob
- You can grill corn wrapped in foil. To do that, remove husks and silk, wrap corn cobs in heavy-duty aluminum foil, then grill directly on charcoal or on a rack over hot charcoal for about 20-30 minutes or until done. You can also unwrap corns and grill them 'naked' for a few minutes for added color and flavor. If you don't, the corn will taste more steamed than grilled and will lack flavor.
- Another way to grill corn on the cob is remove husks and silk and grill 'naked' on a rack directly over hot coals, about 10-15 minutes. This grilling methods results in great flavor albeit less juicy corn compared to grilling in husks or foil. A slight variation to this method would be to brush shucked corn with olive oil and grill until lightly charred on all sides.
Seasoning grilled corn
There are dozens of great ways to season grilled corn. My favorite one is to smother corn with garlic mayonnaise and top with bacon bits, chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle some lime juice for extra brightness. It's so good!
Seasoning variations that work very well
- Plain salt on its own works very well on grilled corn. You can add a pinch of sugar per tablespoon of salt if you like a touch of sweetness.
- Use butter for a richer taste. And some lime juice for a little brightness and to balance out the butter.
- Use Cotija cheese instead of Parmesan cheese if you can find it.
Taking grilled corn to the next level
For a more gourmet way of serving grilled corn, cut the kernels from the cobs using a sharp knife and place in a bowl. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and cook until golden brown. Stir in 1 tablespoon of lime juice, 1 tablespoon of chopped tarragon, 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper and salt to taste. Then pour over grilled corn kernels, mix well and serve immediately. This will make enough sauce for 4 corn on the cob.
Grilled Corn on the Cob Recipe
- 4 corn on the cob (very fresh)
- 1/2 cup mayo (plus 1 Tbsp)
- 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic (add 1/2 Tbsp more for a really garlicy version if you like garlic)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (plus 1/2 tsp more for a bigger kick)
- 2 Tbsp bacon bits
- 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 lime (quartered)
- 4 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the grill to medium heat, about 325-350F.
- In a medium size bowl, combine the mayo, the garlic, the cayenne pepper and the salt. Set aside.
- Peel back the husks on the cobs, remove all the silk, then fold the husks back into place. I find it easier to deal with the corn silk when it's not burning hot.
- Grill the corn in husks for about 30 minutes, giving each husk a quarter turn every 7-8 minutes, until the corn is soft and ready to eat. Carefully remove each cob from the grill, peel back the husks and return to the grill. Continue grilling for another 10 minutes, frequently turning, until the corn is nicely browned and caramelized.
- Remove the corn from the grill and place on a large tray. Smother with the mayo mix, sprinkle with the bacon, chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese on top.
- Serve your grilled corn on the cob hot with a wedge of lime.