How to Cook Jersey Corn

Jersey CornIt all started at the farmers market on Sunday when I overheard an elderly man offer his personal advice to a woman who was buying corn, “You’re going to put some sugar in that water, right?” Her reply, “Oh, I always do.”

What? Sugar in the water with sweet Jersey corn? I had never heard of such a thing.  Actually, on the advice of my mother-in-law, I stopped boiling my corn ages ago. I know this will shock you, but I cook my beautiful Jersey corn in the microwave. (I heard those gasps.)  Hey, don’t knock it until you try it.

But, the ol’ guy’s remark got me thinking, was I missing out on something here? I consulted with some of my Twitter followers, who were full of advice. Not only do some folks put sugar in the water, some even put milk. Heck, this recipe I found calls for milk, whipping cream, sugar and butter in the water. Sounds like creamed corn to me.

Then there were the purists, like Chef Mark Smith from the Tortilla Press in Collingswood, who said, “You’d be crazy to add it to Jersey sweet corn, I think my mom did it with field corn in Ohio when we were poor.” Others insisted that grilling corn was THE ONLY way to eat Jersey corn. I decided to put several of these cooking methods to the test. (Doesn’t everyone do this kind of thing on a typical Monday night?)

cooked corn The cooking methods we decided to test were straight boiling, boiling with a tablespoon of sugar, microwaving and grilling over hard wood charcoal.

Corn was boiled for 8 minutes. Microwaved corn for 2 minutes per ear. The grilled corn was soaked in the husks (after removing the silk) and grilled for half an hour.

I took one of the precooked, microwaved pieces and threw that on the grill for a few minutes to test weather there was a shortcut to the grilling technique.

Each family member received a plate with numbered pieces. They did not know how each piece was cooked. We added no butter or salt.  The Corn Contestants

There was no difference in taste between the corn cooked with sugar (#2) and the corn cooked without (#1). So the man at the farmer’s market can save his sugar for his coffee. One of our more mature taste testers remarked that #3 was sweeter than #1 and #2.  And… #3 was the microwaved corn. He went on to say that #4 was his favorite: the grilled corn. The microwaved-then-grilled corn, #5, only resulted in overcooked corn.

The lesson learned from our little cook-off last night: Good corn is good corn. And fresh Jersey corn needs no help in the cooking process. If you enjoy a smokey flavor to your corn, grill it, but be careful not to overcook it or it will lose that juicy pop and will just become mealy. This is what happened to our grilled corn, it didn’t have the pop the boiled and microwaved versions had. We should have taken it off the grill sooner. But that’s is the tricky thing about grilling corn: knowing when it’s done and not overdone.

For me personally, microwaving is the most convenient and reliable way to cook corn, especially if you are entertaining a lot of people. It takes two minutes per ear vs. half an hour on the grill. For weeknight corn on the cob, the former is a no brainer. One of my Twitter followers says she microwaves her corn in the husks. I’ve never tried that, but it makes perfect sense. She says the corn steams in the husks and the silk pulls away very easily after cooking. I will have to try this method in the very near future. (Another shortcut to getting that smokey flavor is to use smoked salt on your corn.)

So, what is your preferred method for cooking corn? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!

asbury shot cropDeborah Smith, Executive Editor Launched in 2007, began as a home for Deborah’s growing collection of recipes, but soon grew into a hub for food news in the Garden State. In addition to her duties on JerseyBites, Deborah is the owner of Foxtrot Media, a full service digital marketing company that specializes in content development, social media marketing and search engine optimization.  She is also a highly sought after speaker on the topic of restaurant marketing, social media and blogging. You can learn more about her services and marketing through social media on her blog