According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn is the No. 1 crop grown in the country.
However, most of that corn, which is also known as field corn, is not eaten by people — it's turned into feed for cattle, pigs and other farm animals, as well as transformed into ethanol and used in manufactured goods.
The corn that humans eat off the cob is known to farmers as sweet corn and, unlike its heartier counterpart, it actually tastes, well, sweet.
Sweet corn is harvested at its peak when the tassels turn brown, the husks are healthy and green and the kernels are plump and sweet.
In most parts of the country, cooking sweet corn is synonymous with summertime. And whichever sweet corn recipe folks prefer — from a sweet creamed corn to accompany barbecued meats or a hearty, sweet corn soup — there are plenty of ways to prep this popular veggie for the plate.
How to microwave sweet corn
Microwaving sweet corn is a quick, easy and mess-free method. First, remove any dry outer leaves from the husk. Place up to four ears of corn in the microwave in a single layer. Cook them on high for four minutes. Remove the corn from the microwave with a kitchen mitt or thick towel, then let the ears cool slightly before peeling back their husks and removing the silks.
How to boil sweet corn
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Meanwhile, shuck the corn, removing both the husks and silks. Gently lower the sweet corn into boiling water and cook for four minutes. When the corn is done, remove the ears and drain on a paper towel before serving. To add flavor as the corn cooks, add butter, herbs, garlic or even milk directly into the pot of water.
How to sauté sweet corn
If you’re making salsa or a summery corn salad, it’s a good idea to sauté just the kernels instead of cooking the entire cob.
First, shuck the corn, removing all of the husks and silks. Cut the kernels off of the cob (we love Ina Garten's corn-cutting trick!). In a medium-sized skillet, melt butter (about one teaspoon of butter per cob) over medium heat. Add the corn kernels, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté for eight to 10 minutes. Add fresh or dried herbs for additional flavor as the kernels cook.
How to roast sweet corn in the oven
As with grilling corn, you can roast sweet corn in the oven three different ways. For all variations, first preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In the husks: Remove any dry, outer leaves and cut off any tassels sticking out of the husk (they will quickly burn in the oven). Place the cobs in a single layer, directly on an oven rack. Roast for 30 minutes and carefully remove them with tongs.
- Without the husks: Shuck the corn, removing both the husks and the silks. Place them in a single layer directly on an oven rack. Roast the corn for 20 minutes and carefully remove them with tongs.
- Wrapped in foil without the husks: If you are wrapping shucked ears of corn in foil, take this opportunity to create flavor packets by adding butter, spices and herbs to each. First, shuck and clean the corn. Then wrap each cob in foil and place the foil-wrapped cobs directly on an oven rack. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes and then carefully remove each packet with tongs.
How to blanch sweet corn and freeze it
Want to enjoy that wonderfully sweet summer corn throughout the winter? Freezing it is the answer! You can freeze entire cobs of sweet corn or you can freeze only the kernels, which makes it easier to whip up recipes like homemade sweet corn queso all year long. Either way, you’ll need to blanch the corn first.
Blanching is a process in which vegetables are submerged in boiling water and then plunged into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Blanching cleans the corn of dirt, helps it to retain its vibrant color and stops enzymes from causing spoilage, so it's better than just freezing the raw stuff.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with water and ice. Shuck the corn, removing both the husks and silks. Gently lower the corn cobs into the boiling water and cook for three or four minutes. Remove the cobs with tongs and place them into the bowl of ice water immediately. Let them cool completely before cutting the kernels off and storing them in a freezer-safe container. Don't forget to date and label that container so you remember exactly what it is.