How to grill corn perfectly every time

Want to grill corn?  A chef weighs in and out to get the perfect ear of grilled goodness.  (Photo: Getty Creative)

Want to grill corn? A chef weighs in and out to get the perfect ear of grilled goodness. (Photo: Getty Creative)

Bright yellow corn is often the highlight of summer barbecues. Served slathered in butter, salt, and pepper at family dinners and appearing on restaurant menus across the country during the hot summer months, fresh sweet corn is easy to find in local grocery stores or farmers markets from late May through September. in most parts of the country, making it a staple on warm-weather dinner tables.

While you can cook corn by boiling it on the stove or steaming it in the microwave, one way to get the full essence of the vegetable’s smoky flavor is to grill it. But what’s the best way to grill corn? Do you pick the corn first? Or is corn better left with its husk and silks?

How do you roast corn?

“All I do is just pop the corn right on the grill in the husk, and it gets so black and so charred that you think it’s burned,” says the former Top cook contestant Angelo Sosa, Tía Carmen’s founding chef and partner at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa; “And what really happened is yes, the crust darkens and you know, and all this beautiful complexity of flavor, but then it steams the inside of it.”

Sosa’s biggest tip is to keep it simple. “Respect nature,” he says. “That’s the way it was meant to be.”

If you prefer to remove the husks from the corn before grilling, Sosa suggests doing so, but then placing the corn directly on the grill instead of wrapping it in foil. “If you wrap it in foil, foil works 100%—although I don’t know if it imparts a more metallic taste,” he says. “The potential metallic taste could affect your final dish, so it’s best to mitigate that risk.”

Should you soak corn in water before cooking?

Should you soak corn in water before cooking? If you’re leaving the peels on, then yes, you should soak them in water first, Sosa says. “Sometimes the husks on the corn are a little green, so that’s where I’d soak it 100 percent in water before grilling to break down all those fibers,” she tells Yahoo Life.

Sosa, a longtime restaurateur who competed in three seasons of his Top cook, suggests soaking the corn for about 10 minutes before grilling so it doesn’t get too soggy. “I don’t want to oversaturate it where it’s flooding because then you don’t get that beautiful caramelization of the corn kernels,” he explains.

This method of soaking and grilling corn takes about eight minutes, according to Sosa: You just want to be sure to take care of the corn and turn it every few minutes so it cooks evenly.

How do you know when corn is grilled?

There are two ways Sosa says you’ll know the corn is ready. The first is to use your senses and smell it. “Well, smell the charcoal because those sugars are caramelizing,” he says. The second way is to peel back the skins a bit and see what happens. “You can tell by the beautiful caramelization or even the thickness of the corn. Those are signs that the corn is done.”

What does roasted corn taste like?

When the corn is done, Sosa suggests brushing it with butter and sprinkling it with sea salt for a perfect summer flavor. The corn itself should be sweet—thanks to the caramelized sugars—and have a slightly charred flavor from grilling.

Want to apply your knowledge of roasting corn? Sosa has a recipe for grilled corn he serves to hungry patrons at Tía Carmen that uses the kernel and the barks. She shared the recipe with us below, and while it has a few steps, your patience will be rewarded with the ultimate taste of summer in one bite.

Tomato salad with corn puree, burnt corn and basil

Courtesy of Chef Angelo Sosa at Aunt Carmen

(Photo: Angelo Sosa)

(Photo: Angelo Sosa)

Summer Mashed Corn Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup grapeseed oil

  • 1 tablespoon garlic, thinly sliced

  • 3 tablespoons onion, thinly sliced

  • 4 cups corn kernels

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, kosher

  • 1⁄2 piece arbol chile

  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric

  • 3 tablespoons of agave


  1. Heat a medium sized saucepan, add oil and sweat the onions and garlic (until they are colourless/translucent). Add salt to help draw moisture out of the onions and garlic. Add spices and sugar, allowing the spices to bloom and cook, then add the corn.

  2. It is essential that when the corn is added that a lid is used to preserve the natural juices extracted from the onions and corn. Continue cooking, do not remember any color.

  3. Place the mixture in a blender and blend until silky smooth. It is critical to the success of this ingredient that it is done when the corn mixture is very hot.

  4. If mixing in batches, be sure to reheat the corn mixture until very hot before pureeing the next batch. Store in a closed container and keep at room temperature.

Ingredients for Roasted Corn Powder:


  1. Place the corn husk on the grill and charcoal until blackened and place on a baking sheet to keep.

  2. Combine with the rest of the ingredients and mix until it becomes a uniform powder, keep it.

Assembly Components:

  • 1⁄4 cup corn puree

  • 1 whole tomato, quartered

  • 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

  • 1⁄2 tablespoon agave

  • 1 tablespoon onions, thinly sliced

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon thyme, fresh

  • 1⁄4 piece arbol chile

  • 4 thin slices of Serrano chile

  • Salt, kosher, to taste

  • Cracked pepper, to taste

  • Epazote, to taste

  • Thai basil, to taste

  • Evoo, to taste

  • Edible flowers, for garnish

  • Roasted corn powder, to taste

Assembly Instructions:

  1. Using a medium sized bowl, add tomatoes with vinegar, agave, onions, thyme, chili, salt and cracked pepper.

  2. Place the corn puree on a plate and spread it out. Place the tomatoes aside the corn puree with some liquid pooling around the tomatoes.

  3. Garnish the tomatoes with herbs and finish with extra virgin olive oil and flowers.

  4. Then lightly sprinkle the corn mash with the charred corn and serve.

Editor’s Note: Epazote is a traditional Mexican herb. If you can’t find it at your local Mexican food market, alternatives you can substitute include cilantro, Mexican oregano, or lemon zest.

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