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Boiled Corn on the Cob

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Boiled corn on the cob is a quintessential summer side dish!

Slathered in butter and sprinkled with a generous dusting of salt, boiled corn is very easy to prepare, and it’s one of our favorite ways to cook this fresh summer vegetable.

BUT – there is a right way and a wrong way to make it. We’re sharing all of the how-to details including exactly how long to boil corn on the cob so it’s perfectly tender, and not mushy and overcooked.

What to look for when buying corn on the cob

What to look for when buying fresh corn

  • The fresher the better – so try to buy in-season corn at local farm stands whenever possible. The sooner you eat it after it has been picked, the sweeter the corn will be. Farm stand corn is likely to be freshest because it doesn’t have to go through the same warehouse and distribution process that a supermarket chain goes through to get corn from the farm to your local store.
  • Buy corn with the husks still attached. Sure – those packages of corn cobs that are already husked with the tops and bottoms cut off are convenient. But the corn won’t be super fresh – in fact, a lot of times, supermarkets will peel and package up the corn that hasn’t sold because the husks were starting to dry out.
  • Look for corn with mostly clean and light green outer husks. A few dry, darker green husks still attached is fine, but the overall husk should feel firm and tightly wrapped around the corn with a moist stalk. Avoid husks with bruises and worm holes.
  • Looks for husks with silk protruding from the top that is light in color, not dark and mildewy. The very tips of the silk should be a lighter-colored brown. If they are red – that means the corn were picked too soon. If the silk is a dark brown or moldy – that means the husks were sitting around too long, or perhaps improperly handled. Below the lighter brown silk, you should still see some light yellow-gold silk toward the tip of the corn cob.
  • Kernels should be plump and vibrant. Avoid corn with lots of kernels that are dried and shriveled. If your market allows it, peel the corn back a bit to look at the top kernels before buying.

Boiled Corn on the Cob

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Other ingredients

  • Butter – We prefer to use unsalted butter so we can add as much or as little salt as we like to suit our tastes. If you have salted butter on hand, you might want to add less additional salt when serving.
  • Salt – We like the coarse texture of kosher salt on our corn on the cob, but table salt works fine too.

Special supplies needed

  • A large pot with a cover. Make sure your pot is large enough to loosely hold the ears of corn and enough water to ensure even cooking. (General rule of thumb is one quart of water for each cob of corn.) At the very least, fill the pot with enough water to make sure each ear of corn is covered.
  • Optional – Corn holders. These are little handles you insert into each end of the corn cob before eating. It can make it easier – especially for children – to hold hot cooked corn.

Boiled Corn on the Cob

Chef’s Tip –

Never salt the water in the pot for boiled corn on the cob. It actually dehydrates the corn as it cooks and makes it tough.

Boiled Corn on the Cob

How do I make Boiled Corn on the Cob?

  1. Shuck the corn by grabbing the husks and silk from the top of one side of the corn cob, pulling down to the bottom of the stalk. Repeat on the other side, then snap the stalk off with the peeled husks. Remove any remaining silk that is stuck to the kernels – rinsing under cold water while you do this helps.
  2. Heat your pot of water on the stove. Once the water is boiling, carefully plunge the shucked corn into the water.
  3. Bring the water back to a boil then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let the corn sit in the water for approximately 5 minutes or until tender. Smaller, sweeter corn may take less time; larger cobs or other varieties may take longer – up to 7 minutes or so.
  4. Remove the corn from the hot water, draining it on a paper towel if you’d like. Then slather the corn with butter and sprinkle on salt.

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Boiled Corn on the Cob

Chef’s Tip –

Easily butter your corn by folding or tearing back the wrapper on a stick of butter, then glide it over each corn cob. The heat from the corn will melt the butter instantly.

 Frequently asked Questions

  • Can I make corn on the cob ahead of time – You can. Slightly under cook your corn, then easily reheat it in hot boiling water (or the microwave) for just a few minutes.
  • How do I store corn? Store uncooked corn at room temperature, and do not leave it in the plastic bag from the supermarket. Refrigerate cooked corn in a sealed container or bag – still on the cob, or cut the kernels off for use in recipes like Mexican Street Corn Bacon Pizza and Corn and Bacon Casserole.
  • Can I freeze corn? Like most other foods, fresh corn is always the best. If you do want to freeze your corn, we suggest that you cut the cooked kernels off the cob (click here for an easy method to cut corn kernels off the cob) and freeze in sealed zipper bags.
  • Should I put sugar in the cooking water to make my corn sweeter? There’s no harm in doing so, but the sugar won’t really make your corn sweeter. Corn gets its sweetness by ripening in the sun. The longer it sits after picking, the less sweet it will get as the natural sugars turn to starch. The corn won’t absorb the sugar as it cooks in five to seven minutes, so it won’t make a difference.
  • Can I boil corn on the cob in milk and butter? This seems to be a Southern thing…so (being from New England) I’m the last person to tell you not to do it! 😉 Given that adding salt to the cooking water makes the corn tougher, if you do, I’d suggest using unsalted butter.

Boiled Corn on the Cob

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What recipes can I make with leftover corn?

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Boiled Corn on the Cob

Boiled Corn on the Cob

  • Author: A Family Feast
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 ears
  • Category: side dish
  • Method: boiled, stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

6 ears fresh corn on the cob, with husks still on

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

Kosher salt


Instructions

Shuck the corn by grabbing the top of the husks and silk, and peeling back one side all the way down to the stalk. Grab the second side and also peel down to the stalk.

Wrap your hand around the bunch of husks and snap off at the base of the cob, snapping the stalk. Discard the husks, silk and stalk.

Rinse under cool water as you rub any remaining silk from the cobs.

Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the corn you plan to cook.

Bring water to a boil (15-20 minutes), then place the uncooked husked corn in the water.

Bring the water back to a boil then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let the corn sit in the water for approximately 5 minutes or until tender. Smaller, sweeter corn may take less time; larger cobs or other varieties may take longer – up to 7 minutes or so.

Remove the corn from the hot water and blot with paper towels to dry. Serve immediately with butter and salt.


Keywords: how long to boil corn on the cob, boiled corn on the cob

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Boiled Corn on the Cob

Boiled Corn on the Cob

Boiled Corn on the Cob

Boiled Corn on the Cob

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