Steamed Corn on the Cob

By Ann Fulton

For the best combination of ease and flavor when cooking corn on the cob, steam it! And if you're tired of waiting for a stick of butter to travel around the table, I have a trick for that. 
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For the best combination of ease and flavor when cooking corn on the cob, steam it! And if you’re tired of waiting for a stick of butter to travel around the table, I have a trick for that. 

 

The seasonal return of corn on the cob is a big deal where I live. Farmers markets dotted all over Lancaster County offer fresh picked corn. So fresh, in fact, that I grew up thinking corn of the cob had to be eaten the day it was picked!

In 2012, the first summer of this blog, I wrote a Go-To Guide for Corn on the Cob. If you, too, savor this seasonal delicacy, I highly recommend you take a peek. It’s rife with nuggets of corn wisdom, shared by various readers and me. 

When I recently read an article on “The Eight Most Popular Ways to Cook Corn on the Cob–and Which is Best,” I scanned to see how my preferred method ranked. To my surprise, it wasn’t there.

How has this method, which is really easy and preserves the natural sweetness and texture of the corn, flown under the radar? 

Clearly, it was time to highlight what had been a glancing mention

 

 

For the best combination of ease and flavor when cooking corn on the cob, steam it! And if you're tired of waiting for a stick of butter to travel around the table, I have a trick for that. 

Steaming means there’s no need to wait for a humungous pot of water to boil–and heat up the kitchen in the process.

And conveniently, you can cook a few ears or two dozen with this method. 

When the corn is done, remove it from the burner and tip the lid. Be careful, the steam is hot. This will keep the corn warm without continuing to cook it.

If ready to eat, simply remove to a plate. Tongs are helpful. 

I recommend always cooking a few more ears than will be eaten that night. Leftovers make delicious salads and side dishes over the ensuing days.

Favorite Corn Recipes: 

How to steam corn on the cob:

Add an inch of water to a stock pot with a tight-fitting lid that is tall enough to allow the ears of corn to stand upright. Place the husked ears in the pot with the stem end down. They can rest against the side of the pot, but keep them vertical. 

Put the lid on and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Medium size ears will cook in about 15 minutes; large, “meaty” ears will take 20. I tip the lid a few minutes early to check (carefully, as the steam is HOT) and smell. When done, you will smell a distinct sweet corn aroma.

At this point, you may serve the corn or, if the rest of the meal isn’t quite ready, remove the pot from the hot burner. Then set the lid slightly ajar so that the corn stays warm but doesn’t continue to cook.  When making some ears specifically for leftovers, I set them aside to cool at this point. After dinner, I cover and refrigerate. The leftover corn will keep for about 5 days and the kernels will maintain more flavor when kept on the cob, slicing when ready to use. 

No mess, no wait, and young kids can butter their own corn. This clever method is fun for weeknight family meals and super convenient at backyard barbecues. Makes buttering corn a breeze!

My family’s favorite method for buttering corn on the cob is fun and so very practical. If I don’t do it, everyone asks, “Where’s the butter bread?” 

What’s the best way to butter corn on the cob?

Butter bread!

Benefits of butter bread:

  • Instant gratification! Nobody has to wait for the lone stick of butter to travel around the table
  • Kid-friendly–young kids can suddenly butter their own corn!
  • And adults love it too. 
  • No messy leftover stick of butter.
  • No waste. The leftover bread squares taste great.  
  • Great for buffets. 
  • No bread? A sturdy cracker will work. Delicate crackers like Saltines are more likely to break. 
  • Advance prep convenience. The buttered squares may be prepared several hours before mealtime, placed on a plate, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated. 
  • Gluten-free bread may be used as needed. 

How to make buttered bread squares:

Cut bread into squares that are slightly bigger than a pat of butter. Basic sandwich bread works well, but work with what you have. I usually use Pepperidge Farm 100% whole wheat bread, and get six squares per slice. Gluten-free bread works well too. 

For the best combination of ease and flavor when cooking corn on the cob, steam it! And if you're tired of waiting for a stick of butter to travel around the table, I have a trick for that. 

It has been years since I have waited for a big pot of water to boil in order to cook corn on the cob. Instead, I put about an inch or two of water in my big stockpot and stand the husked ears upright (fat end down), cover, and bring to a boil. The recipe, below, provides times, although my mom always said you can smell corn when it’s done, and I totally agree.

Steamed Corn on the Cob
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 12 ears of corn (more or less as desired)
For the best combination of ease and flavor when cooking corn on the cob, steam it! And if you're tired of waiting for a stick of butter to travel around the table, I have a trick for that too. 
Ingredients
  • 12 husked ears of corn (or less if making for a smaller crowd).
Instructions
  1. Add an inch of water to a stock pot with a tight-fitting lid that is tall enough to allow the ears of corn to stand upright. Place the husked ears in the pot with the stem end down. They can rest against the side of the pot, but keep them vertical.
  2. Put the lid on and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Medium size ears will cook in about 15 minutes; large, “meaty” ears will take 20. I tip the lid a few minutes early to check (carefully, as the steam is HOT) and smell. When done, you will smell a distinct sweet corn aroma.
  3. At this point, you may serve the corn or, if the rest of the meal isn’t quite ready, remove the pot from the hot burner. Then set the lid slightly ajar so that the corn stays warm but doesn’t continue to cook. Serve with buttered bread squares*
  4. When making some ears specifically for leftovers, I set them aside to cool at this point. After dinner, I cover and refrigerate. The leftover corn will keep for about 5 days and the kernels will maintain more flavor when kept on the cob, slicing when ready to use.
Notes

• I usually plan on 1 or 2 ears of corn per person and aim for leftovers, which can be enjoyed simply reheated or in a variety of salads and other recipes.

Serve with Buttered Bread Squares: Cut a piece of bread into squares that are slightly bigger than a pat of butter. Basic sandwich bread works well, but work with what you have. I usually use Pepperidge Farm 100% whole wheat bread, and get six squares per slice. Gluten-free bread works well too. Top each bread square with a pat of butter, and put all the squares on a plate. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat. The squares can be used to butter the corn–no mess and no need to wait for the lone stick of butter to be passed around the table. Makes it easy for kids to butter their own corn, and great for buffets too. (And the remaining bite of bread tastes good!)

 

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Comments

  1. Elaine Leech
    (5/5)

    Oh my word – this is my new favorite way to do corn on the cob. Tried this method this morning and it is a winner. Thanks so much.

    Reply
      1. Elaine
        (5/5)

        Ann- Do you think this would be an acceptable method to blanch corn for the freezer? Typically I blanch in boiling water for 4 minutes, ice bath for 4 minutes then cut off the cob before freezing.

        Reply