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People are cooking corn for a crowd in their coolers — but is it safe?

A viral social media post touts cooking corn for a crowd in a plastic cooler, but experts warn this hack is hazardous.
Corn cobs grouped on fair stall
We find out a kernel of truth.Matheus Silva / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Warmer temperatures mean more summer cookouts and opportunities to cook for a crowd — and with that comes cooking hacks for making life easier.

A viral social media post from 2020 by Kristy Schwabe has recently resurfaced in a few Facebook groups, explaining how to cook corn on the cob for a crowd using a plastic cooler.

"A Coleman cooler appears from the garage, is wiped clean, then filled with the shucked ears," she writes. "Next, two kettles-full of bounding water are poured over the corn and the top closed."

Schwabe shares that, 30 minutes later, the corn was "perfectly cooked."

"My mind was blown," she continues, adding that the cooking hack is well-known among frequent outdoor cooks. "And I'm told that the corn will remain at the perfect level of doneness for a couple hours."

Schwabe did not respond to requests for comment about the viral technique.

But Herve Malivert, Director of Culinary Affairs at the Institute of Culinary Education, warns against this hazardous hack.

"Plastic coolers are not designed for such high temperatures — like boiling water — and will start to degrade over time," he told TODAY Food. "The plastic from the cooler is soft and can scratch easily, allowing foodborne pathogens to grow and boiling water may not kill all bacteria."

Malivert also said that leaving corn in a cooler for a couple of hours is unsafe.

"The water temperature will drop into the dangerous zone (between 41-135 F) and bacteria will start to multiply rapidly," he explained. "I understand the idea of using the cooler to control the temperature of the water, but I would not recommend this technique."

If corn is on the cookout menu this summer, here's the method Malivert recommends instead:

  1. Shuck the corn.
  2. Fill a large pot with water and season with salt and bring it up to a low simmer.
  3. Cook the corn in the water for about five minutes, or until you can easily poke out a kernel.

"If you’re not serving the corn immediately, you can place the corn on the upper rack of your grill — if you’re cooking something else simultaneously — to keep it warm and crisp slightly," explained Malivert. You can also grill your corn — in husk, in foil or directly on the grates — to get more of a smoky flavor.

While there's only a small kernel of truth in the internet's latest cooking craze (the corn does, indeed, appear cooked), experts recommend keeping the coolers for beverages only this summer.