The Foolproof Guide to Grilling Corn—Plus 6 Creative Toppings

Ditch the enormous pot of boiling water. Here's everything you need to know about the easiest, tastiest way to cook summer corn.

Photo by Chris Everard Photography/Getty Images

Step 1: Buying

For the sweetest corn, go for just-picked from a local farm. The sugar in corn starts converting to starch the moment the ear is picked, so freshest is always best. Look for taut green husks and moist yellow to light brown silk tips. When selecting your corn, respect your fellow shoppers and resist the urge to peel back the husks and inspect the kernels--no one wants to buy your dried-out discards. Instead, run your hand along the outside of each husk: the cob underneath should feel firm and plump, without any divots or missing kernels.

Step 2: Shucking

Remove the husk, or leave it on—depending on your preference. A shucked cob will char with beautiful crackly leopard spots, intensify in sweetness, and taste extra smoky. (To quickly shuck, remove then outer leaves—then grab the silk tassel on top and pull down firmly. Brush shucked cobs with olive oil, as butter can burn.) Or, soak unshucked ears in a basin of water for about fifteen minutes before grilling them whole. The result will be steamed, slightly smoky corn that’s fresh and plump.

Step 3: Grilling

Crank up your grill to medium high. If you've shucked your corn, brush the cobs with olive oil, as butter can burn. Then, toss the corn onto the grill for about 10 minutes if shucked, or 15 if whole. Turn the cobs often, making sure they sit parallel to the grates so that there are no roly-poly casualties.

Step 4: Seasoning and Topping

Whether you prefer your corn plain or slathered with butter, be sure to season it first with salt and pepper. And, if you're feeling creative, try one of these other flavor variations:

  • Keep it simple: butter, salt, and pepper.
  • South of the border: extra olive oil, lime juice, chopped cilantro. Get the recipe.
  • Mexican style: mayo, cotija cheese, chili powder
  • Some like it hot: harissa yogurt sauce (Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and harissa). Get the recipe.
  • Compound butter: butter, chives, and hot sauce, or three other mix-ins
  • Sweet and salty: soy sauce, honey, toasted sesame seeds