Corn Tips

Here’s the first and most important thing you need to understand about corn: The moment an ear of maize is picked and/or harvested it starts converting internal sugars to starch. Fresh corn on the cob will lose up to 40% of its sugar content after 6 hours of room temperature storage. What this means is that the shorter the time from stalk to pot, the sweeter the corn will taste.

However, there are currently three types of sweet corn: normal sugary, sugary enhanced and supersweet. The ”normal sugary” converts kernel sugar to starch immediately after harvest, while supersweet types retain sweetness much longer, making them suitable for commercial shipping. The frozen and canned corn? Most likely they come from the “supersweet” varieties. These can be twice as sugary – but less crunchy and corny-tasting – than normal sugary. Some detractors characterize ”supersweet” as corn-flavored lollipops.

How to Purchase Corn: I won’t get into can or frozen corn here, as that’s a different process. But the trick to purchasing fresh corn?

  • 1. Corn is still on the cob and still in its husk.
  • 2. Husk is bright green, and snuggly fitting.
  • 3. The Silk is dry, not wet. Wet silk is a sign that the corn will be drier and less sweet.
  • The kernels should be smaller at the tip of each ear. Large kernels at the tip is a sign of overmaturity.

Use the corn within a day of purchase. Husk and de-silk immediately before cooking, preferably within minutes rather than hours.

Cooking: Add sugar to the boiling water, not salt (1 teaspoon for each qt of water). Sugar returns some of the lost sweetness. Salt simply toughens the corn.

Cover the pot of boiling water, so that the steam may cook any corn not submerged.

If you’re grilling, Pull back the husks of the corn, leaving them intact. Remove the silk, and then gently pull the husks back up, twisting the husks off at the top with twist ties. You can also boil them this way.

Storage: Leave the husks on and store corn, uncovered, in the refrigerator. For sweetest taste, use corn as soon as possible

(NOTE: Yeah, I’m calling it corn here, rather than maize. I had intially started to write this post referring to corn as ‘maize’ only, but it came across as self-serving and pompous. So remember in this post, when I mention corn, I’m referring to the maize variety.)


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