Each season has its iconic foods, but I think summer has the best ones: fresh berries, peaches, tomatoes and corn. Corn is my default side of choice all summer for as long as I can get my hands on the wonderful locally grown stuff at my farmers market. You can take your pick of corn-cooking methods — boiling, steaming, microwaving, etc. — but if you really want to double down on embracing this time of year, what you really ought to be doing is grilling it.

“I grill corn all the time,” says chef and cookbook author Elizabeth Karmel, the expert behind our recently published grilling guide. “That is the very definition of summer.”

“Corn is like eating sunshine,” she says.

We think readers must agree, because our Grilled Corn Four Ways is one of our most popular recipes of all time.

It’s a brilliant four-in-one, choose-your-own-adventure kind of thing, devised by our former Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin, who tested more than two dozen ears of corn “in every conceivable way,” he wrote in 2015.

And because each method is pretty simple and, as we established, corn is so plentiful and cheap throughout the summer, you might as well try them all and see which you prefer.

“Perfection might be in the palate of the beholder,” Shahin wrote. “Each method accentuates different aspects of flavor and texture. So depending on what kind of corn lover you consider yourself — a smoke freak, char head or kernel worshiper — there is a method for you.”

Here’s what you have to choose from (for all of them, you’ll need to soak the ears in water first):

Naked

“Grilled naked, the kernels blacken and, although a little drier than foil or husk-on treatments, provide the undeniable flavor of an open flame,” Shahin says.

Discard the husks and silk; soak the ears for 15 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them under the cooking area for direct heat. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.

Place the ears of corn on the grate. Cook uncovered, giving them a quarter-turn about every 2 minutes for a total of about 8 minutes. Remove once the kernels have just begun to blacken in spots.

Husk-on (charcoal only)

“Husk-on grilled corn — done in the embers of a charcoal grill — exudes a hint of the field, rustic and grassy, with deepened corn flavor,” according to Shahin.

Pull back the husk of each ear and discard the silk, being careful to keep the husk largely intact. Pull the husks back over the ears and secure each at the top with a length of aluminum foil. Soak in water for 15 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill for direct heat. (This method is not suitable for a gas grill.) Light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.

Place the husk-covered corn directly on the embers. Use long-handled tongs to give them a quarter-turn about every 2 minutes, for a total of about 8 minutes. Once they’re just cool enough to handle, discard the husks.


(Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

Smoked

“Smoked, the corn gives off a pleasant woodsy scent, adding dimension to its natural flavor,” Shahin says.

Have ready 1/2 cup of hardwood chips; there’s no need to soak them.

Discard the husks and silk; soak the ears for 15 to 30 minutes. (You may also leave the husks on, which imparts a slightly less smoky but decidedly cornier flavor. Pull back the husks and discard the silks, being careful to keep the husks largely intact. Pull the husks back over the corn and secure at the top with a length of foil before you soak the ears.)

Meanwhile, prepare the grill for direct and indirect heat. If using a gas grill, turn the heat to high. Put the chips in a smoker box or foil packet poked with a few fork holes to release the smoke; set it between the grate and the briquettes, close to the flame. When you see smoke, reduce the heat to medium-high (450 degrees). Turn off the burners on one side.

If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on one side of the grill. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the coals for 4 or 5 seconds. Scatter the (unsoaked) wood chips over the coals. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Close the lid to reduce flames from the wood chips.

After about 3 minutes, place the corn on the hot side of the grill. Cook uncovered for 4 minutes, giving the ears a quarter-turn every so often to get a light browning. Use long-handled tongs to move the corn to the indirect-heat side of the grill. Close the lid and the top vents; let the corn smoke for 2 minutes.

Foil-wrapped

“Foil steams the corn,” Shahin says, “which reduces the grill flavor but makes the kernels plump and exceedingly juicy.”

Discard the husks and silk; soak the ears for 15 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them under the cooking area for direct heat. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.

Wrap each ear in foil. Place on the grill. Cook the ears for 8 to 10 minutes, turning them frequently. You can tell the corn’s done by pulling back the foil a little; the kernels will be plump and will look almost steamed or boiled. (This method of cooking corn is forgiving; if you’re not sure the corn is done, it can go back on the grill for a total of up to 15 minutes.) Once the cobs are just cool enough to handle, discard the foil.

Bonus method: Steamed


(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

Here’s another strategy from my colleague Tim Carman. It involves including a couple of ice cubes in the packets of foil-wrapped corn. “This technique for cooking corn on the grill is forgiving,” he says. “It produces sweet, plump ears even when you happen to forget about them while attending to other foods.” Also, no need to soak! Swing on over to this Voraciously post for the full recipe.

More from Voraciously:

Cleaning your grill now will help you get the most out of it this summer. Here’s how to do it.

Quick and simple recipes for sweet summer corn

Leave no corn tortilla behind: 6 smart ways to use them up