How to Boil Corn on the Cob

Here, all your corn questions answered, down to precisely how long to boil corn on the cob.

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May 11, 2022

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Steamed sweetcorn on the cob with butter


Steamed sweetcorn on the cob with butter

Photo by: GMVozd/Getty Images

GMVozd/Getty Images

By Amanda Neal for Food Network Kitchen

Amanda is a recipe developer at Food Network.

Nothing beats sweet corn at its peak in the warm summer months. Whether it’s eaten right off the cob with a shmear of butter, or tossed into crunchy salads and creamy soups, it’s a delicious addition to your summer spread. But what is the best way to boil fresh corn that’s still on the cob? Here’s a simple how-to so you have perfectly cooked corn every time.

Table of brazilian festa junina - Brazil


Table of brazilian festa junina - Brazil

Photo by: Paulo Vilela / EyeEm/Getty Images

Paulo Vilela / EyeEm/Getty Images

How to Buy Perfect Corn on the Cob

Although it’s tempting to purchase pre-shucked, shrink-wrapped corn, it’s best to buy corn that remains in its husks, which protect the kernels and prevent them from drying out and losing flavor.

There’s no need to pry back the husks to check the kernels inside; this ruins the corn for other shoppers. Instead, look for a few tell-tale indicators that the corn is fresh and high quality. The husks should be bright green and wrapped tightly around the kernels — never papery or dry feeling. At the top of the cob, you’ll see small strings or silks; these should also be moist and pliable.

Woman shucking the corn before cooking in the kitchen


Woman shucking the corn before cooking in the kitchen

Photo by: evrim ertik/Getty Images

evrim ertik/Getty Images

How to Shuck Corn

Before you boil your corn, you’ll need to clean it first. Peel off the husks by grasping firmly onto the feathered ends and pulling down toward the stem-end. Rub your fingers along the cob to remove any remaining silks and snap off any long stems. There, that was easy. Now you’re ready to boil!

Tools for Boiling Corn on the Cob

  • A large pot
  • Tongs for lowering the corn into the hot water
  • A plate or baking sheet for placing the corn on once it’s cooked


Photo by: Zuzana Gajdosikova / EyeEm/Getty Images

Zuzana Gajdosikova / EyeEm/Getty Images

How to Boil Corn On the Cob

1. Boil a large pot of salted water.

Fill a large pot with water until it’s about halfway full, then bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, seasoning generously with salt (it should taste like the ocean). This is very important, as it will season the corn and bring out its natural sweetness.

2. If you’d like, add extra flavor to the water.

If you want an extra boost of flavor, you can season the water with a variety of aromatics. In addition to salt, try adding a couple halved lemons and a couple shakes of Old Bay seafood seasoning. Another option is a splash of white wine, bay leaves and smashed garlic cloves.

3. Add the corn to the boiling water.

Gently lower the corn in the salted boiling water with tongs, making sure to not to overcrowd the pot. It’s best to only boil about 4 cobs at a time so there’s plenty of room for them to submerge in the water and cook evenly.

4. How long to boil corn on the cob?

Boil the corn until the kernels turn bright yellow and are crisp tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully remove from the water with tongs to a serving platter and serve warm. For more info on how long to boil all sorts of corn, check out our story A Precise Guide to How Long You Should Boil Corn.

5. Butter the corn and season it with salt.

Brush the boiled corn with butter and season with a pinch of salt and pepper for a simple side dish where the corn really shines. You can also brush the corn with a homemade, seasoned butter. Check out this Corn on the Cob with Basil Butter or this Corn with Scallion-Lime Butter for inspiration.

How Many Kernels In an Ear of Corn?

In addition to eating corn straight off the cob, there are many things you can make with the kernels. Cut them off the cob and use them in salads, soups, pasta dishes and more. It’s useful to remember this rule: 1 ear of corn equals about 1/2 cup corn kernels.


Photo by: Charles Masters

Charles Masters

What Can I Do with Lots of Corn?

A fun way to use up all that fresh corn? Pickled Corn and Peppers! Simply cut the boiled corn through the core into 1-inch-thick pieces, then submerge in a pickle-brine along with chiles and bell peppers for a summery condiment that pairs with practically everything (especially meats from the barbecue).

How to Grow Corn at Home

The experts at HGTV will show you how to fill your summer table with fresh sweet corn, straight from your own garden.

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