How to Steam Corn on the Cob Without Removing the Husk

Series: Chocolate Sunrise Corn
Steamed corn on a cutting board, perfect for a warm summer day. (Image: jrwasserman/iStock/Getty Images)

Steaming corn on the cob in the husk is faster than the traditional boiling method and also helps keeps more of that fresh corn flavor. The husks act as natural insulators as the corn cobs cook, keeping the steam trapped inside and resulting in tender, plump kernels. Microwaving is the simplest way to steam corn on the cob and makes easy work of removing the husk and silks, but you can also steam the corn in a steamer pot on the stove or cook it on the grill, which adds smoky flavor to the corn.

Microwave Steaming

Step 1

Place the ears of corn in your microwave, directly on the turntable or on floor of the microwave. Add only enough ears that can fit comfortably in a single layer, with the husks still on.

Step 2

Microwave the ears of corn on high for about 3 to 5 minutes for each ear of corn.

Step 3

Remove the ears of corn from the microwave wearing oven-safe gloves. Let the corn sit for a few minutes to cool slightly, then gently squeeze at the bottom of the husks to push the corn out. It should come out of the husks easily, free of any silks -- the pale green threads just under the husks -- and with tender kernels. Add butter and salt to taste.

Stovetop Steaming

Step 1

Fill a large pot partially with water, adding just enough to reach below the steamer basket insert you will be using.

Step 2

Fit the steamer basket into the pot and bring the water to a boil.

Step 3

Place the corn in the steamer basket in a single layer and cover the pot. Steam the corn for 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 4

Remove the hot corn from the steamer basket using metal tongs. Run the ears briefly under cold running water to cool the husks enough so you can remove them, as well as the silks, without burning your fingers. Or, use oven-proof gloves to remove the husks while they're still hot. Serve the corn hot with butter, salt and any other seasonings.

Steaming on the Grill

Step 1

Gently peel back the husks from the corn, but do not detach them from the corn. Remove the silks and then pull the husks back up over the corn.

Step 2

Soak the corn in a large container of water for about 30 minutes to add moisture for steaming and prevent the husks from burning on the grill.

Step 3

Light fresh coals in a charcoal grill and wait for the heat to come to a medium-high temperature -- you should be able to hold your hand about five inches from the grill grate for four to 5 seconds when the grill is ready. If you are using a gas grill, preheat by turning all the burners to a medium-high temperature, about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Close the lid and allow the grill to heat for about 15 minutes.

Step 4

Place the ears of corn on the hot grill, directly over the heat source, spacing them a few inches apart. Turn them every 2 minutes using tongs to get all sides evenly cooked. Let them cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, until the corn kernels feel plump and tender. Test corn cooked on the grill for doneness by taking one off the grill with tongs and peeling back the husks carefully with oven-proof gloves. The kernels should feel tender to the touch.

Step 5

Remove the corn husks from the grill with metal tongs and place them on a serving plate. Remove the husks carefully, using heat-proof gloves to protect your fingers from the hot steam. You can remove the husks completely or pull them back to use as a handle. Add butter and salt to taste.

Things You'll Need

  • Oven-safe gloves

  • Butter (optional)

  • Salt (optional)

Tip

You do not have to soak the corn for grilling if you prefer to let the husks get charred from the flames, which imparts more flavor to the corn. The corn will still steam without the additional moisture that soaking adds. If you want to soak the corn for maximum steaming during grilling, but still keep the husks dry to get the smoky, charred flavor, peel the husks back and submerge just the corn cob part in water. Use a narrow container that will allow you the corn to stand up in the water so you can keep the husks dry above the water. Make compound butters for steamed corn by mixing softened butter with flavorful spices, such as chili or cayenne pepper; herbs such as dill or oregano; and minced garlic. Refrigerate the mixture to firm it before using on the corn. Save leftover corn husks to use for steaming tamales.

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