I love grilled corn on the cob so much. It’s part of that broad group of foods with natural handles: Bananas! Empanadas! BBQ ribs! Sweet corn is evolutionarily designed to be eaten with your hands, which is, without question, the most fun way to eat. Grilled corn on the cob also happens to be the best side to countless other grilling recipes.
How did corn become a summer BBQ staple? Well, the story goes back many, many centuries: Corn was first domesticated by Indigenous people in Mexico around 6,600 BCE. Though the exact date is unknown, the first iteration of grilled cobs, elote, was also invented in Mexico. The iconic ears, spread with mayonnaise, Cotija cheese, chili powder, and lime, are now sold all over the country (and beyond, often referred to as Mexican street corn) alongside tacos as a portable snack.
Indigenous people taught European colonists to grow this native grain. From there, corn spread to pretty much every corner of the globe. In Japan, you might find elote-esque, okonomiyaki-inspired cob recipes: grilled corn slathered with Kewpie mayonnaise, yakisoba sauce, furikake, bonito flakes, and scallions. Blackened ears basted with a garlicky soy paste and a sweet chili sauce are a favorite at night markets in Taiwan. And at street carts throughout India, you can get bhutta, roasted corn on the cob seasoned with lime, salt, and chili powder.
There are truly endless ways to customize those charred and beloved kernels. But first: How to cook corn on the cob on the grill so it comes out perfectly every time. You have a couple of options here, depending on your affinity for draaama (i.e. grill marks). The good news is that neither of these methods require brining (soaking your cobs in salty cold water), and husking (a.k.a. shucking or removing the green leafy exterior) is totally optional. You don’t need to boil your corn cobs or wrap them in aluminum foil either. Prep time? Unless you’re making a topping for your cooked corn, consider it zero. The total time, though, will depend on the method you choose. Here we go:
How to grill corn on the cob in the husk:
For that still-juicy, just-grilled smokiness, grill your corn on the cob in the husk. Don’t sweat it if the leaves get charcoal-colored and brittle—that’s what you want. The leaves prevent the kernels from overcooking while imparting big smoky flavor. Want more color? Just loosen those husks slightly before grilling.
- As many ears of corn as you want to cook
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Butter or mayonnaise, plus all the toppings you can handle