How to Make the Best Corn on the Cob

The best corn on the cob is fresh and sweet with a bit of crunch. Here's how to capture the flavor of summer in every bite!

When I was a kid, there were nights we had nothing but fresh corn for dinner. And there was nothing better than sinking my teeth into that first ear of corn. Juices would go flying, butter would drip down my chin and each bite was filled with a sweetness you only get from farm-fresh corn.

What I didn’t realize then was my mom had a secret for cooking the best corn on the cob. I like my corn cooked but still with a bit of a crunch. There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than mushy, soft kernels. Over the years, I cooked corn on the cob many different wayssteamed it, boiled it, you name it. I loved them all but nothing beats mom’s version.

How to Cook the Best Corn on the Cob

Bowl of corn on the cobJohnrob/Getty Images


  • 4 quarts water
  • 4 ears of corn, shucked


Step 1: Bring water to a boil

Lots of water is the first secret you need to know. Pour 1 quart of water per ear into your largest pot; the more room the better. In fact, if you’re cooking a lot of corn, go ahead and use two or more pots. Bring the water to a full rolling boil.

Step 2: Add only the corn

Once the water is at a full boil, add the shucked ears of corn. I know a lot of recipes say to add salt or sugar to your boiling water, but don’t bother. The corn isn’t going to be in the water long enough to absorb either, so don’t waste them. I add the salt, and plenty of it, after it’s done cooking. Have you ever boiled cobs with milk? Learn how to make corn on the cob with milk and butter.

Step 3: Turn off the heat

After you add the corn, cover the pot and immediately turn off the heat. Let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. At that point your corn is ready. If you’re not quite ready to eat, you can let the corn stand in the water for an additional 10 minutes without it overcooking.

You can definitely slather this perfect corn on the cob with butter. But sweet corn makes even healthy corn recipes taste indulgent!

Tips for the Best Corn on the Cob

Fresh corn cob on dark backgroundYulia Naumenko/Getty Images

Pick fresh corn

When the corn is growing in the field, it spends a lot of time converting starch into sugar. The longer it stays on the stalk, the sweeter it will be. However, once the corn is picked, the process pretty much reverses itself; the sugars start to convert back to starch.

In fact, the process starts almost immediately, so if you want the freshest, sweetest corn possible, you should pick it yourself and immediately cook it. I don’t know about you, but even though I live in the middle of farm country, this isn’t usually an option for me. It helps to know how to pick the best corn at the grocery store.

Keep the corn cold

Chilling the corn right after picking helps slow down the sugar-to-starch conversion. If your farmers market just piles the corn on a table in the sun, keep walking. Only buy ears that are on ice or in a cooler. Bonus points if you bring your own cooler to transport the corn home.

Don’t make the corn ahead of time

It’s best to cook the ears as close as possible to the time you’re planning on eating. Once you pull them out of the water, get ready to spread on some softened butter or, better yet, any of these flavored butters. I also love to slather mine with mayonnaise, lime juice and cayenne pepper, similar to Mexican street corn. Or, you’ll be amazed at what kind of creative corn recipes are out there!

Ways to Eat Corn on the Cob This Summer
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James Schend
Formerly Taste of Home’s Deputy Editor, Culinary, James oversaw the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and managed all food content for Trusted Media Brands. He has also worked in the kitchen of Williams-Sonoma and at Southern Living. An honor graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, James has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.