I Don’t Grill or Boil Corn on the Cob All Summer — I Do This Brilliant Trick Instead

published Jun 25, 2024
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overhead shot of four ears of grilled corn on a blue platter, with two of them partially shucked and two fully covered
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: James Park

One of late summer’s greatest pleasures is best-of-the-season sweet corn. Don’t get me wrong — corn is good all the time and always welcome in my kitchen, regardless of the time of year. In the colder months corn can be stirred into everything from a classic cornbread, to a simple soup to a creamy risotto. Summertime, however, is when fresh corn truly shines. You barely have to do anything to it and it’s still the highlight of summery salads and the star side dish at every cookout.

All of that said, one of the best ways to enjoy corn on the cob in the summer is the simplest: Just throw it on the grill. The heat of the grill is an ideal way to get smoky, charred corn that’s bursting with sweet flavor. However, what if, like me for most of my life, you don’t have a grill? Don’t despair — you can get corn that’s almost as good right in your kitchen by roasting corn on the stovetop.

Why You Should Roast Corn on the Stovetop

I roast corn directly on the metal grates of my gas stove. If you think about it, it’s kind of the perfect heat source for cooking corn. It’s almost perfectly corn-sized. If you leave the stalk on after husking the corn, you can use it as a handle to rotate the corn as it cooks (alternatively, you can just use a pair of metal tongs). A medium-low flame is enough to both lightly cook and char the corn in a matter of minutes, so instead of having to go outside and deal with your grill, you can roast a few ears of corn in just a few minutes without any setup or break down of special equipment. (Unfortunately, this technique only works on gas stoves. You need an open flame to cook and char the corn. If you have an electric or induction stove and want to char corn inside, I recommend a trip under the broiler.)

Let’s get this out of the way right now: This will not be as delicious and tasty as grilling your corn outside. Your stove can’t impart smoky flavor. However, it can deliver juiciness and char, which is half the battle. Don’t worry about putting food directly on the stove grates, either (as long as you clean your grates regularly, there’s nothing lurking on there; it’s constantly doused in flames). If any corn detritus happens to stick to a grate, it burns right off. No muss, no fuss.

How to Roast Corn on the Stovetop

  1. Remove the husks from the corn. Corn is often grilled inside the husk, but for the stovetop, it’s best to remove the husks. The corn will char better if it’s in direct contact with the flame, and for safety reasons, it’s best to remove anything that’s likely to burn, including the husk and any errant corn hairs stuck to the cob itself.
  2. Put the corn directly on the stove grate. Depending on the shape of your particular stove grate, this might take some finagling. On my stove I usually wind up laying the corn across it diagonally for both maximum flame exposure and balance.
  3. Turn the flame to medium-low.  The flame should be high enough to touch the corn, but not so high that you can’t comfortably maneuver it. 
  4. Watch closely and turn the corn when necessary. The corn will cook pretty quickly. I can roast a whole ear in 4 to 5 minutes, but that’s active time. Use the corn stalk or a pair of metal tongs to turn the corn as it starts to char, so it cooks evenly. Because most ears of corn will be slightly longer than a square stove grate, you may have to move the ends of the corn into the flame and hold them in place to get them well-cooked.

How to Use Roasted Corn