Are you ready to overindulge on sweet, juicy corn on the cob for the next few months?  

My eyes were drawn to the July/September issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, which featured a test kitchen’s innovative approaches to making the most of the sweet corn experience.  

This magazine comes from America’s Test Kitchen, which uses food science to guide its mission “to empower and inspire confidence, community and creativity in the kitchen”. In other words, they conduct “kitchen-oriented research”.

Picking the sweetest ears

Fresh local corn, always the sweetest, is worth a stop at the farm stand or farmers’ market. In the supermarket, look for local corn.

Select heavier ears with moist, bright green husks hugging the cob and glossy (not dry) silks. It’s an etiquette no-no (!) to peek at kernels by peeling back a few husks. Instead, feel for kernel “plumpness” near the silk end. Corn past its prime will be less sweet and have tougher, chewy kernels due to loss of moisture.

Ensuring the corn’s sweetness

Ideally, eat the day bought. Corn begins to slowly lose sweetness after picking. Otherwise, keep the husks on and refrigerate in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for no more that 5 days. The corn’s sugar more slowly converts to starch when refrigerated.

Cooking ears of corn 

Their pot-of-water research: Rather than boiling, bring 4 quarts water (only) to boil (for 6 ears).  Drop in husked ears, shut off the heat, and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes, but no more than 30 minutes to avoid overcooking.

Their grilling research: Lightly char husked ears over the fire before cooking.  Since corn requires moist heat, finish cooking in a disposable aluminum pan with some butter. Cover with foil to steam. Shake frequently for about 3 minutes. A large pouch of aluminum foil would probably accomplish the same.

There are certainly other ways to cook fresh corn. Grilling in the husks, pre-soaked or not, to allow moist heat to cook.  Microwaving for about 3 minutes in the husk is another.  For other ideas: 

Stripping the kernels

For kernels in a recipe or to freeze extra ears, stand the ear of raw corn on the stalk end in a wide skillet, pan or bowl.  With a sharp knife, slice down the cob.  Turn and repeat.  One medium ear of corn yields about ¾ c. of kernels.  Corn is delicious raw in a summer veggie salad.

Kernels freeze well because they’re low in water.  The test kitchen advised spreading kernels on a towel-lined sheet pan in a single layer and patting dry.  Remove the towel and put the pan in the freezer for about an hour.  Transfer kernels to a freezer bag and squeeze out the air.

Personal note about Cook’s Illustrated: This a visually beautiful food magazine full of useful information on foods, plus research on preparation techniques and cooking tools. The recipes are well tested. 

Its audience is true foodies, those passionate about food and its preparation.  The focus is not health-centered, as my simple cooking style is. However, I find useful info and ideas.  My subscription was a gift.

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:

Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.