Soaking corn before grilling is not strictly necessary, but it can help enhance the flavor and texture of the grilled corn. The quick answer is that soaking is optional but recommended. Keep reading to learn why soaking can improve your grilled corn, how long to soak corn, and how to soak corn for optimal results.
Why Soak Corn Before Grilling?
Here are some of the top reasons why soaking corn prior to grilling can be beneficial:
- Allows seasonings to penetrate deeper into the kernels – Soaking enables seasonings like herbs, spices, and salty marinades to absorb better into the corn.
- Makes grilled corn juicier and more tender – Soaking rehydrates and softens the kernels so they don’t dry out as much on the grill.
- Enhances the natural sweetness – Soaking draws out some of the corn’s sugars to the surface and intensifies the sweet flavor.
- Brightens the color – The corn husks tend to tan and char, but soaking keeps the kernels looking vibrantly golden yellow.
- Cuts down on grill time – Since the corn is already rehydrated, it requires less time over direct heat.
- Allows more even cooking – Soaked corn cooks more uniformly since the moisture has had time to distribute throughout the ear.
Of course, you can also grill corn without soaking if you prefer. The corn may take a little longer to reach tender doneness and have a firmer, crunchier bite. But plenty of people enjoy the flavor of unsoaked grilled corn too.
How Long Should You Soak Corn Before Grilling?
Most sources recommend soaking shucked corn for 30 minutes up to 2 hours before grilling. Here are some more details on soak times:
- 30 minutes – This quick soak adds just enough moisture to slightly soften the kernels and allow seasonings to start penetrating.
- 1 hour – This mid-range timing gives seasonings enough time to absorb flavor while keeping the ears nicely crisp-tender.
- 2 hours – For maximum effect, a couple hours gives seasonings time to deeply infuse and the corn time to become very tender.
- Overnight – There’s no harm in soaking corn overnight in the fridge, but the benefits max out around the 2 hour mark.
Keep in mind that fresh, tender sweet corn needs less time to soak than starchy field corn varieties. Adjust the timing based on the corn’s age and texture.
How to Soak Corn on the Cob for Grilling
It’s easy to soak corn to enhance its grilled flavor. Here is a simple process:
- Shuck the corn – Remove all the green husks and silk strands from the ears of corn.
- Trim the ends – Cut off a small slice from the stem and tip ends to allow for even cooking.
- Mix your marinade – Whisk together any wet marinade ingredients, like oil, vinegar, broth, or citrus juice, and stir in any dry seasonings.
- Submerge in the marinade – Place shucked corn in a bowl, baking dish, or zip-top bag and cover with the marinade.
- Soak – Let the corn soak in the flavored liquid, refrigerated, for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Grill – Remove corn from marinade, letting excess liquid drip off, and grill as desired until tender and charred.
You can soak corn with any combination of marinade ingredients to add flavor. Try soaking in melted butter, olive oil, lime juice, chili sauce, or Italian dressing. Or make a seasoning blend with herbs, garlic, spices, honey, or mustard.
Tips for Soaking Corn Before Grilling
Follow these tips for the most effectively soaked grilled corn:
- Always shuck corn first – Leave the husks on during soaking to prevent flavor absorption.
- Use a large container – Choose a bowl or dish big enough to submerge the ears.
- Cool in the fridge – Chilled marinade helps corn soak up more moisture.
- Flip halfway – Turn ears over during soaking for even coverage.
- Pat dry before grilling – Lightly dry corn with paper towels before grilling to prevent steaming.
- Discard used marinade – Don’t reuse marinade that has touched raw corn due to food safety.
- Season additionally before grilling – Brush with oil or rub with spices for extra flavor just before grilling.
What Are Some Good Marinades for Soaking Corn?
You have lots of options when it comes to flavorful liquids for soaking corn before grilling. Consider these tasty marinade ideas:
|Melted butter, dried parsley, garlic powder, lemon juice, salt, and pepper
|Olive oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic, salt, and pepper
|Prepared pesto, olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes (optional)
|Italian dressing, dried oregano, dried basil, garlic powder, red wine vinegar
|Sriracha sauce, honey, lime juice, cilantro, soy sauce, ginger, garlic
Mix and match herbs, acids, oils, and spices to create your own signature marinade. Tailor the flavor profile to complement whatever you’re serving with the grilled corn.
What’s the Best Way to Grill Corn That’s Been Soaked?
Grilling corn after soaking requires just a few simple steps:
- Pat dry – Use paper towels to dry off ears after removing from the marinade.
- Brush with oil – Lightly coat corn with a thin layer of vegetable, canola, or olive oil.
- Season – Sprinkle or rub ears with any extra spices, if desired.
- Grill over direct heat – Place corn directly over hot coals, flipping occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until browned in spots.
- Rest – Let corn rest 5 minutes before serving for juices to redistribute.
- Slice kernels from the cob or serve whole – Cut kernels off the cob or serve corn on the cob with any toppings.
Soaked corn doesn’t need to spend as much time directly over the fire as unsoaked corn. Check frequently for desired tenderness and charring.
Here are some useful corn grilling tips:
- Pick corn at peak ripeness and freshness for best flavor.
- Leave husks on if NOT soaking to help retain moisture when grilling.
- Grill soaked corn over direct high heat to add smoky char while preventing drying out.
- Grill unsoaked corn over indirect medium heat turning frequently to gradually cook through.
- brush With oil just before grilling to keep the corn from sticking to the grill.
Recipes for Grilled Corn on the Cob
For inspiration, here are a few tasty recipes to try out for grilling soaked corn on the cob:
Mexican Street Corn
Marinade: Lime juice, chili powder, cilantro, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt
Toppings: Cotija cheese, cilantro, lime wedges
Grilled Corn with Herb Butter
Marinade: Melted butter, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt, pepper
Topping: Herb butter made with fresh parsley, basil, thyme, lemon zest, garlic
Spicy Sriracha Corn
Marinade: Sriracha, honey, lime juice, low-sodium soy sauce, garlic, ginger
Topping: Lime zest, sesame seeds, sliced green onions
BBQ Corn on the Cob
Marinade: BBQ sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika
Topping: Melted butter, grated Parmesan, chopped fresh chives
Common Questions about Grilling Corn
Should you soak corn before grilling?
It’s recommended but optional. Soaking makes the corn more moist, tender and flavorful. But you can absolutely grill corn without soaking too.
Do you have to husk corn before grilling?
Yes, always remove the outer green husks before grilling or soaking corn to allow for direct heat exposure and seasoning absorption. Leave inner layers of husk on for grilling if not soaking.
How long do you boil corn before grilling?
You can partially boil ears of corn for 6-8 minutes before grilling. This pre-cooks the corn slightly while still allowing charring on the grill. Just be sure to pat the ears completely dry first.
Should you wrap corn in foil on the grill?
Wrapping corn in foil while grilling can help retain moisture. However, it prevents browning and charring of the kernels. An alternative is grilling unwrapped, then wrapping in foil just to rest before serving.
What is the best way to grill corn?
The best way is to grill soaked or partially boiled corn over direct high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over. Or grill unsoaked corn over indirect medium heat, rotating frequently, until tender. Oil the corn first for best results.