Grilled Corn Four Ways 4.000

Scott Suchman for The Washington Post

Smoke Signals Jul 15, 2015

There’s more than one way to grill a cob of corn, and all of them are great. It just depends on the flavor and texture you seek. Grilled naked, the kernels blacken and, although a little drier than foil or husk-on treatments, provide the undeniable flavor of an open flame. 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.

Smoked, the corn gives off a pleasant woodsy scent, adding dimension to its natural flavor. Foil steams the corn, which reduces the grill flavor but makes the kernels plump and exceedingly juicy.

Oak and apple woods work especially well because they are mild, but other hardwoods, such as pecan and cherry, are fine.

Beyond the tastes imbued by caramelizing and smoking, no extra seasoning or flavoring is called for here, so folks can add condiments at the table. However, before putting the naked or smoked corn over the fire, you can smear the corn with softened butter or brush it with extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, and cook at the same time and temperatures detailed below.

For more grilling and outdoor cooking ideas, see: 8 trusty tips for hosting a cookout.

Make Ahead: For each of these four grilling methods, you’ll need to first soak the ears in water for 15 to 30 minutes.


Servings:
4

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

Ingredients
  • 4 ears husk-on sweet corn

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Directions

To grill the corn naked: 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.

To grill the corn husk-on: 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.

To smoke the corn: 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.

To grill foil-wrapped corn: 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.

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Recipe Source

From Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.

Tested by Andy Sikkenga.

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Email questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.