There may not be any other food that screams Fourth of July cookout more than corn on the cob.
It goes with everything — burgers, steaks, chicken, hot dogs — plus it doesn’t require utensils, unless you count those cute cob holders. I simply use my hands and just have extra napkins at the ready. Toothpicks, too. It also could be the centerpiece of a vegetarian meal, piled high with grated cheeses.
Corn can be boiled, roasted or grilled, thus adding to its list of versatile personality traits, and that includes how well it meshes with other flavors.
Butter, salt and pepper have long been the most common way to dress up corn on the cob, though many of us like it without any adornment, especially when it is super sweet. But if you think of all the ways we eat corn in chowders, salads, vegetable medleys and blends and baked goods you realize how well it pairs with both savory and sweet.
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Our list of 25 ways to adorn corn on the cob proves that point. It’s a global survey of flavors that celebrates America’s melting pot.
The toppings should cover 8 ears of corn and are good candidates for experimentation. Another way to declare independence.
1. Oaxacan-Style: Combine 3 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco with 2 tablespoons chili powder, ½ cup sour cream, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper. Stir in juice of 1 lime. After the corn is cooked, dollop with mixture and serve with more crumbled cheese on top.
2. Maple-Mustard: Brush corn (after, if boiling; before, if grilling) with olive oil. While cooking, combine ¼ cup maple syrup, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and a pinch of allspice. Spread mixture on hot, cooked corn.
3. Barbecue Glazed: Brush corn with olive oil and grill. Meanwhile, combine ¼ cup barbecue sauce, 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion, 2 tablespoons honey and ¼ teaspoon coarse salt. Baste corn with mixture during last three minutes of grilling.
4. Olive Oil, Garlic and Parmesan: In a small bowl, combine 2 grated garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Baste hot, cooked corn with mixture and sprinkle with grated Parmesan.
5. Chilies and Lime: Cut corn into 3- to 4-inch lengths and cook. While the corn is cooking, mix ½ stick of melted butter plus 2 tablespoons each mayonnaise, sour cream and lime juice, and 2 teaspoons chili powder and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste in a large bowl. When corn is cooked, toss in mixture. Garnish with lime zest.
6. Curry and Pistachios: Stir 2 tablespoons curry powder into 1 stick of hot melted butter. Drizzle on cooked corn and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.
7. Tuscan Blend: Mix 2 tablespoons of dried Italian herbs, such as McCormick’s Perfect Pinch blend of rosemary and sun-dried tomato, with 1 stick of softened butter. Let sit for at least 30 minutes so that the dried herbs rehydrate. Spread over cooked corn.
8. Basil-Tomato: Seed 2 ripe tomatoes and grate, then drain. Discard as much liquid as possible. Mix tomato pulp with 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese plus 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh basil. Season with salt and spread on cooked corn.
9. Cilantro and Sesame: Mix 1 stick softened butter with 2 teaspoons each toasted sesame seeds and chopped fresh cilantro. Spread on corn and sprinkle with more sesame seeds and kosher salt.
10. Tarragon and Lime: Mix 1 stick softened butter with 2 to 3 tablespoons of minced fresh tarragon and the zest of 1 large lime. Spread on hot, cooked corn.
11. Bacon-Cheddar: Spread mayonnaise on warm corn. Roll in grated cheddar cheese and top with crumbled, cooked bacon.
12. Honey-Butter: Combine 1 stick softened butter with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and 2 tablespoons honey. Spread on hot, cooked corn.
13. Parsley and Chives: Combine 1 stick softened butter with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and 1 tablespoon each (or more, according to taste) of finely chopped fresh parsley and chives. Spread on hot, cooked corn.
14. Fruit Chutney: Mix 1 stick melted butter with 3 tablespoons fruit chutney, like Major Grey’s. (You could even use marmalade.) Drizzle over hot, cooked corn.
15. Guacamole: Spread homemade or prepared guacamole over hot, cooked corn. Top with a squeeze of fresh lime.
16. Bacon-Wrapped: Wrap raw corn with slices of bacon to make a spiral and brush lightly with honey. Grill on medium or roast in a 350-degree oven, either for 20 to 25 minutes. Turn several times during cooking so that bacon cooks evenly.
17. Pesto and Parmesan: You won’t need butter or oil when you spread pesto over hot, cooked corn. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.
18. Goat Cheese and Thyme: Stir together 2 tablespoons softened butter with 2 ounces goat cheese crumbles, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried). Season with freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt. Spread on hot, cooked corn.
19. Cinnamon Sugar: To 1 stick melted butter, add 1 tablespoon each cinnamon and sugar. Drizzle on hot, cooked corn.
20. Cumin and Pepper: Mix 1 stick softened butter with ½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and coarse sea salt to taste. Spread on hot, cooked corn.
21. Garlic and Old Bay: Blend 1 stick softened butter with 1 minced garlic clove and ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning. Spread on cooked corn and sprinkle with more Old Bay and kosher salt.
22. Lemon-Pepper: Incorporate 2 tablespoons of a lemon-pepper blend with 1 stick softened butter and spread over hot, cooked corn. Garnish with lemon zest.
23. Jamaican Sweet Corn: Prepare a mixture of ½ cup mayonnaise, 1?½ tablespoons curry powder, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Spread mixture on hot, cooked corn and roll in toasted coconut.
24. Spicy Asian Glaze: Mix ¼ cup hoisin sauce, ¼ cup honey, 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Brush on corn and grill or roast, basting and turning several times. Before serving, sprinkle with sesame seeds and sliced scallions.
25. Spicy Sriracha: Mix 1 stick softened butter with 2 tablespoons fiery Sriracha sauce. Spread on hot, cooked corn. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or cilantro.
Remove husks from corn just before cooking. Remove as much of the fine silky thread as you can by running your hands over the cobs and pulling them out. A wet paper towel will remove the rest.
To boil: The trick to cooking fresh corn is to not overcook it. Bring a large pot (a 6-quart stock pot will fit 4 to 5 large ears) full of water to a boil. Add the corn. When the water boils again, which will take a few minutes, the corn will be cooked but still crisp. If you want the kernels softer, let it boil for another three minutes or so. Some people add sugar to the water, but you should not add salt. It will make the corn tough.
To grill: Heat grill to medium. Grill corn, turning occasionally until all sides are charred and kernels are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. If you want to grill in the husks, you’ll need to peel the papery layers back, remove silks and then return husks to original position. Soak corn in water for about 15 minutes to prevent the husks from burning on the grill and to allow corn to steam a bit.
To roast: Corn on the cob can be roasted in the oven for 30 minutes at 375 degrees in or out of the husk. When the corn is in the husk, use the same technique for roasting as you do for grilling, placing the ears directly on the oven rack grate. If you remove the husk, place the ears on a baking sheet and turn them a couple of times during cooking. Corn without the husks can also be wrapped in foil before roasting. This is an especially good technique if you spread with flavored butter first.
Sources: Buzzfeed.com; Food Network; Cooking Light; Better Homes and Gardens; Real Simple