How to boil corn on the cob from fresh or frozen for a sweet, juicy, tender summer side dish to impress at BBQs, potlucks, cookouts, and mid-week meals! Including choosing, shucking, and how long to boil corn on the cob for perfect results!
In-season corn is one of my favorite summer vegetable sides. Whether you grill, roast, microwave, pressure cook, or boil it, cooking corn on the cob is a guaranteed dish for happy bellies. This time, I’m focusing on everything you need to know for perfect boiled corn on the cob in minimal time (under 10 minutes) and effort.
Boiling corn on the cob yields some of the juiciest results, tastes super sweet and fresh, and is versatile enough to enjoy alone or dressed up with dozens of meals.
How to Buy Perfect Corn on the Cob
The best cooked corn comes from using the freshest corn. Luckily, the tips below will help you choose the best cobs from a farm stand, farmers’ market, or store.
- Look for corn with a tight green husk that is firm and heavy for its size. Avoid any with dry, cracked, and yellow or brown-looking husks.
- Inspect the silks/tassels (the fluffy/hair bit at the top). They should be light gold/brown and slightly sticky, with a sweet smell. Avoid it if it’s dry, dark, mushy, or smells moldy.
- Feel the cobs to check there are no gaps in the kernels, and they feel plump with no soft spots. It’s best to avoid peeling back the husk to peek at the corn, as it will start to dry/lose freshness immediately.
- I also recommend checking for any wormholes or other signs of bugs.
Once purchased, aim to use the corn within 2-3 days, storing it in an airtight Ziplock in the refrigerator to maintain freshness.
How to Boil Corn on the Cob
Shuck the Corn
My favorite quick way to shuck corn (remove the corn husks and silks) gets the job done in seconds:
- Use a sharp knife to cut off the root end of each cob.
- Then, using a firm grip on the other end of the corn, pull and twist the husk so the corn slides out of the open end.
To avoid cutting the corn:
- Remove the outer leaves until there’s just one thin layer left.
- Peel back the leaves until you can see the first few rows of kernels.
- Grasp the tops of the leaves and tassel in one hand and pull it down in a firm tug to invert the husk. Then, simply break it off.
Microwaving the ear of corn for a minute or two can make the second method easier.
Boil the Corn
While shucking the corn, bring a large, deep, heavy-based pan of water to a boil. Ensure the pot is large enough to fit all the corn in 1-2 layers. Otherwise, you’ll need to cook it in batches.
Optionally add sugar (not salt) to bring out the sweetness of the corn.
Alternatively, replace some or all the water with milk as a sugar-free way to bring out the sweetness in the corn.
Once the water is boiling, carefully (use tongs) add the corn to the pot, ensuring they’re fully submerged.
How Long To Boil Corn on the Cob?
Boiling sweet corn takes 3-5 minutes, turning/stirring once halfway until the corn is tender and bright yellow. If it’s from a supermarket, it can take up to 10 minutes (mine took 6 minutes) as the corn is older.
The fresher the corn is, the faster it will cook. To check it’s tender, use a sharp knife tip.
Remove the corn from the water with tongs, optionally get the kernels off or dress it up, and enjoy!
What’s the Easiest Way to Get Kernels Off of Boiled Corn on the Cob
I find the easiest way to remove the kernels is to use a Bundt pan. If you don’t have a Bundt pan, you can use an inverted small container/bowl placed in a large bowl.
Place the corn upright in the hole in the middle of the pan (or over the small bowl). Then, using a small, sharp knife, slice downwards, shaving the corn. The kernels will drop into the Bundt pan/large bowl, avoiding mess.
Ways to Dress Up Corn on the Cob
- Butter and salt,
- Compound butter – herbed butter, roasted garlic butter, or lemon garlic butter sauce,
- Fresh herbs – like cilantro, parsley, basil, or chives,
- Seasoning – like paprika, chili powder, fajita seasoning, tajin, etc.,
- Cheese – parmesan, cheddar, crumbly feta, or cotija cheese,
- Sauce – like chimichurri, hot sauce, or ranch dressing,
- Make elote – slather the corn in mayo/Mexican crema with lime juice, cotija and/or parmesan cheese, and a dash of chili powder or tajin.
Use Boiled Corn to Make or Serve With
Boiled corn on the cob pairs perfectly with:
- Burgers, steaks, chicken, and other BBQ/ grilled proteins,
- Hearty salads (like a chicken Caesar salad) or side salads,
- Mashed potatoes,
- Grains (rice, Mexican rice, pilaf, quinoa, etc.)
- Stuffed peppers, zucchini boats, or stuffed tomatoes,
- Tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and burritos.
You can optionally cut leftover corn from the cob and use it to add to Texas caviar, Mexican street corn salad, and other salads – including pasta or grain salad, warm pasta dishes, casseroles (like corn casserole), creamed corn, and more.
Make ahead/Store: You can boil, cool, and store the corn for 3-5 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Freeze: To avoid overcooked corn, it’s best to blanch the corn for just 1-2 minutes then freeze it. It will finish cooking when you are reheating it from frozen. For more details, check my post on how to freeze corn (on or off the cob).
How to Reheat Cooked Corn on the Cob?
- Microwave: Wrap with a damp paper towel and heat in 20-second intervals until warm.
- Boiling water: Place it in the water just long enough for it to become warm.
- Oven: Sprinkle with water, wrap in foil, and reheat for 5-10 minutes at 300ºF/150ºF.
What to Do with the Leftover Corn Husks and Cobs
Don’t throw away corn husks and cobs. Instead, save them to make vegetable stock and corn stock. You can add the corn-infused broth to soups, risotto, or corn chowder for elevated flavor. You can also use the husks to wrap tamales or wrap food when grilling.
Finally, you can also compost them for mulch as they are a source of natural fertilizer.
More Vegetable Side Dishes
If you try this recipe for boiled corn on the cob, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
How to Boil Corn on the Cob
- 3 corn on the cob the fresher the better, as many as wanted
- 1 tablespoon sugar optional – to bring out the sweetness of the corn
Shuck the Corn
- Use a sharp knife to cut off the root end of each cob (or see next step). Using a firm grip on the other end of the corn, pull and twist the husk so the corn slides out of the other end.
- Alternatively, to avoid cutting the corn:Remove the outer leaves until just one thin layer is left. Peel back the leaves until you can see the first few rows of kernels. Then grasp the tops of the leaves and tassel in one hand and pull them down in a firm tug to invert the husk. Then, simply break it off. Microwaving the ear of corn for a minute or two can make the second method easier.
Boil the Corn
- While shucking the corn, bring a large, deep, heavy-based pan of water to a boil. Ensuring the pot is large enough to fit all the corn in 1-2 layers. Otherwise, you'll need to cook it in batches.
- Optionally add sugar (not salt) to bring out the sweetness of the corn.Alternatively, replace some or all of the water with milk as a sugar-free way to bring out the sweetness in the corn.
- Once the water is boiling, carefully (using tongs) add the corn to the pot, ensuring they’re fully submerged.
- Boil for 3-6 minutes, turning/stirring once halfway until the corn is tender and bright yellow. If the corn is colder and harder (especially when it comes from a supermarket), it can take up to 10 minutes to cook (mine took 6 minutes).Use a sharp knife's tip to check it's tender.
- Remove the corn from the water with tongs, optionally dress it up, and enjoy!
- Use the freshest corn: The fresher the corn, the sweeter and juicier it will be.
- To save time: You can use pre-shucked and prepared corn cobs to save time, though they won’t taste as fresh or sweet.
- Be careful not to overcook it: Otherwise, corn can become mushy. Use a timer and adjust the time based on the size and freshness of the corn cobs.
- Can you boil corn unpeeled? Yes, you can, though it will need an additional minute or two. Once cooked, remove the husk and enjoy.
- Can I cook frozen corn on the cob? Yes, increase the time by a few minutes. It usually takes between 5-8 minutes.
- To keep it warm before serving: Leave it in the hot water (off heat) to stay warm. Alternatively, drain the corn, place it on a large baking tray covered in foil, and keep it warm in the oven at 200ºF/95ºC until ready to serve.