How To Grill Corn On The Cob

Photo: Randy Graham

See this and other recipes in my new book, Ojai Valley Grill It Cookbook. Now available on

I used to throw corn on the barbecue and cook it until I thought it was done. This method was not only hit-and-miss but insured an over-cooked cob and charred corn silk that stuck between my teeth. Learning how to properly grill corn, however, has made all the difference in how I enjoy it.

Enjoyment begins with selecting fresh, good-looking corn. I look for husks (outer covering) that are bright green and fit snugly around each ear of corn. I then peel back the husk, just a little, to see if the kernels are in tight rows right up to the tip of the corn. If they aren’t, I replace that ear of corn and look for another.

This photo shows kernels that aren’t fully formed toward the tip. Again, no good. You want kernels that are firm all the way up.

Photo: Randy Graham

This photo shows corn with rotten kernels. No good. Put it back.

Photo: Randy Graham

Here’s what a good ear of corn looks like when you get it home:

Photo: Randy Graham

Here’s how to prepare the corn for grilling (and where BBQ purists and I part ways). The purist will say you should peel back the husk and remove all of the corn silk. Then fully immerse and soak the corn (with husks) in cold water. After soaking, remove the corn from the water.

I find it hard to get all of the corn silk off the ear of corn while not disturbing the husk. So I make it easy. After soaking the corn in water, I peel off all of the husks. I then gently scrub all of the corn silk off the ear of corn before it goes on the grill. Because the corn has absorbed moisture during its water bath, it stays moist enough after it comes off the grill and it has wonderful grill marks.

So once the corn is grilled and ready to eat, what do you serve with it? I like grilled corn just fine without any seasoning except maybe a little salt. More often than not, however, I slather the hot corn with some kind of butter-based spread. I recommend the chili-butter spread included below. There is something about the combination of chili and cumin in this spread, especially when prepared with a bit of honey, which is mighty tasty on grilled corn. Please try this chili-cumin butter at least once and, if you have a chance, let me know how you like it!

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature – divided)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½  teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon honey
6  ears of corn

Preheat grill to medium heat (about 350 degrees).

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add chili powder, cumin, and stir for ten seconds. Remove from heat and transfer to a medium bowl. Add oregano, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, honey, and balance of the butter to the bowl. Whip until smooth and transfer to a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Photo: Randy Graham

Prepare corn for grilling by soaking in cold water for 15 minutes. Remove corn from water, shake off excess water, and remove all husks and corn silk.

Grill the corn until charred in spots, turning 3 or 4 times, for about 10 – 12 minutes. If you have a cover for the grill, put the cover down in between each turning. Transfer corn to a large platter and serve with chili-cumin butter on the side.

About Valley Vegetarian

The fresh chef providing consistently good vegetarian comfort food recipes.
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