BBQ Showdown: 3 Ways to Grill Sweet Corn

Grilling Sweet CornWhen summer rolls around, there’s nothing that sings out delicious home-sweet-home more beautifully than a perfect ear of sweet corn.  It’s those those Midwestern roots of mine that invoke powerful cravings for fresh corn on the cob.  (Though I’m sure pregnancy likely plays a contributing roll as well.)  There’s quite truly no better place in the world that grows sweet corn as deliciously tender and sweet than right in the heart of the Midwest.

So, when these Midwestern cravings are sandwiched amidst the culinary haven of the Pacific Northwest, perfection is sure to be just around the corner… that is, with a little help from a bit of home-spun scientific taste testing.


Nearly everybody has their tried-and-true “perfect” way to grill sweet corn.  Oh, you’ve gotta try it this way, one person says.  The next person you talk to about grilling sweet golden deliciousness tells you, oh no… this way is much, much better. Trust me.

Well, last night, my husband Paul and I began a quest to set aside our biases and put a few methods to the empirical taste test.  Here are our methods…

  • Husks On. Plain and simple. Just grab your ear of corn and place it right on a hot BBQ. Grill for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally.
  • Husks On + Pre-Soaking. Soak ears of corn in salted water for about 20 – 30 minutes. Then grill for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally.
  • Shucked and in Foil. Shuck sweet corn, cover in foil and grill for about 20 minutes.


Grilled Sweet Corn
Husks On. This method resulted in sweet corn with a delicate smoky flavor throughout the ear.  Kernels were cooked well and retained their juiciness.  Multiple spots of kernels along the cob also had a toasted flavor that emerged above the smokiness.  (These spots are the lighter brownish kernels in the photo above.)

Shucked and in Foil. This method produced the least desirable effects.  Kernels cooked unevenly compared to the two husks-on methods.  Uneven cooking is likely due to inconsistent layers of foil between the corn and grill grates.  When I wrapped the corn in foil, one side had a little more foil than the other due to slight overlap.  This slight overlap was enough to cause a noticeable difference in doneness.  However, the most disappointing result of this method was that kernels turned out more chewy than juicy.

Husks On + Pre-Soaking. This method produced corn that was, overall, pretty similar to the straight husks on method.  However, the delicate smoky flavor tended to be limited to the very tips of the cob and did not permeate throughout the length of the ear.  Also, the base-half of the ear (closest to the stock) completely lacked both toasted overtones and smokiness which were characteristic of the straight husks on method.


Husks On was definitely the winner. Just place that beautiful ear of sweet corn straight on the grill.  No soaking and no pre-husking necessary.

7 Responses to “BBQ Showdown: 3 Ways to Grill Sweet Corn”

  1. It was a fun experiment to be a part of! The rest of the meal was great as well!

  2. Donna Arriaga Says:

    Oh yes, the rest of the yummy meal… We had juicy, grilled spinach & feta chicken sausages. Our side dish was grilled veggies that had been marinating in a mix of olive oil, fresh basil, crushed garlic, balsamic vinegar, and fennel. Mmmm. A perfect meal for a hot summer evening.

    Thanks, Paul, for taking charge of the grill!

  3. Thanks for doing the leg work on this. That sounds like an awesome taste test, I might just have to try it out. But from now on: husks on!

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