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Grilled Corn on the Cob
By Charlie Burke

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When we are grilling over charcoal, I often grill our fresh corn rather than
steaming it. On a hot day, it doesn’t make sense to heat a pot on the stove when
we have a fire outside, and truly sweet fresh corn barely needs cooking, making
it ideal for a quick roast over the hot coals.

I’ve seen complicated recipes for corn on the grill, advising soaking the un-
husked corn in water, cooking them over the fire, and then removing the hot
husks before serving. This and other recipes using foil to wrap the cobs result in
good flavor but miss the opportunity to add the flavor of smoke and
caramelization. One of the advantages of grilling is it’s simplicity, and this
method is easy and provides the opportunity to add interesting flavors to the
corn.

We remove the tough outer husks, leaving a couple of the innermost thin
layers. These are then rolled back, the silk is removed and the corn is then
lightly brushed with olive oil or soft butter. Salt and ground pepper can be
added then or left to your guests’ tastes. The cob is then re-wrapped in the
husks, covering most of the corn kernels, and placed over the grill. The corn
cooks in minutes over a hot fire, picking up the smoke from the hardwood
charcoal, and the exposed kernels will caramelize, adding flavor and color.

Because fresh sweet corn needs little added flavor, most of what we grill has
only salt and pepper, but we have found that adding harmonious flavors can
bring it to the next level. I especially like brushing the cobs with a butter/olive
oil mixture with finely chopped garlic and fresh herbs, usually thyme,
marjoram or basil. We use these sparingly, so that the dominant taste is of the
corn, but the mild herb-garlic flavor nicely complements the smoky caramelized
flavor. The charred flecks remaining from the husks also add to the mix.

For 1 dozen ears:

½ cup softened butter or olive oil or a mixture of the two
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, optional
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, marjoram or basil, optional

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire (preferably using hardwood charcoal) or
preheat a gas grill on high for 20 minutes with the cover closed.

Remove the outer husks from corn, leaving the innermost two layers. Peel back
these remaining layers and remove the silks. Mix the garlic and herbs into the
butter or oil, if using, and lightly brush it over the cobs. Wrap the husks over
the corn, and place the cobs directly over the fire, turning them frequently as the
exposed areas color. The corn is usually done when all sides are colored,
approximately 5 minutes. Peel off the husks and serve with additional salt and
pepper and butter or oil.

Usually, I add the herbs and garlic to the oil after brushing half the cobs, so
guests can sample them plain and flavored. This mixture is my preference, but
experiment with your own favorites, perhaps adding red pepper flakes or
chopped fresh chili peppers and cilantro for a Southwestern twist.

Take advantage of fresh sweet corn when it’s at its peak, and grilling intensifies
its fresh flavor. So when you have the fires going, give it a try, and then
experiment with your own favorite additions.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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