Grilled corn on the cob in the husk is a revelation to those who’ve never tried it. And in this version, the smoky, sweet kernels also get a boost from the cilantro, garlic, lime, and salt drizzled on at the end.
To protect those delicate, sugar-sweet kernels, I grill each cob in its husk. Then toward the end of cooking, I peel the husk back and let the corn develop just a bit of tasty char. As if this weren’t lovely enough, I bring it all up a notch with cilantro pesto (use basil or parsley if you prefer) and plenty of butter.–Adam Perry Lang
Grilled Corn on the Cob FAQs
Should I leave the husk on my corn?
Often, when you grill corn, it’s one or the other—husk on or off. Both ways have their advantages and Adam Perry Lang uses them both in this recipe.
Soaking corn on the cob with the husk on adds more moisture than just soaking a naked cob because both husk and silk absorb moisture. In the first 10 minutes of grilling, your cobs are getting steamed, helping to keep them a little juicier in the end. A husked cob of corn will cook faster and you get the benefit of more smoky flavor, one of the reasons we love to grill in the first place, right?
What type of sweet corn is considered the sweetest?
Many of us grew up eating Golden Bantam and Silver Queen and those are still delicious, but if you’re looking for the sweetest sweet corn in all the land, look for the “Super Sweet” varieties, such as bi-colored Honey and Pearl, Sweetness, or American Dream corn.
When is peak sweet corn season?
Summertime. While you may see corn on the cob at your local grocer at other times of the year, the best time for fresh sweet corn is late July and into September. The taste of perfectly ripe sweet corn is unmatched, so absolutely try to seek it out when it’s in season.
Grilled Corn on the Cob
For the grilled corn
- 8 ears of unhusked corn
For the cilantro pesto
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves plus more for serving
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 garlic clove peeled, and grated on a Microplane grater
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon finely ground fresh black pepper
- 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 limes each cut into 4 to 6 wedges
- Fleur de sel
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter cut into pats
Grill the corn
- Keeping the husks attached, peel them back in sections on each ear of corn, and remove the silk. Cover the exposed corn with the husk. Soak the corn in cold water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Preheat one grate of a well-oiled charcoal or gas grill to medium-high and another to high.
Make the cilantro pesto
- Place the cilantro, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small food processor or in a blender and pulse to combine. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oils. Alternately the pesto can be combined by hand. Set aside.
- Place the corn, still covered by the husk, on the medium-high grate. Cook for 3 minutes, turn to the other side, and cook for 3 minutes.
- Remove from the grill, peel back the husk, return to the high grate to mark and lightly char the corn on all sides, turning and jockeying between medium and high as needed for 5 to 7 minutes total.
- Remove the corn from the grill and brush generously with the pesto. Squeeze lime over the ears and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Serve with any remaining limes, additional cilantro, and pats of butter on the side.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
The light char on the corn combined with the almost creamy tang of the pesto makes this recipe a keeper. I can see these fresh summer-style cobs becoming a regular addition to our bbq dinners. The only adjustment I made was to not even bother with the butter. The pesto is smooth and emulsified which gives it a creamy texture so you don’t even need to add the butter, and that’s saying a lot from an avid butter fan!
I loved this bbq corn on the cob recipe. It was simple and the char and creamy pesto combo was spot on. In the past, I’ve cooked corn in a similar way, but instead boiled it a little first to plump up the kernels and then grill it in the husks. In the future, I might incorporate that method into this recipe, because it removes the need for pulling out the silks, which—let’s be honest—is the only downside to fresh corn.
Either way, how you get some char on the corn isn’t really the point—you could do it on a stovetop in a cast iron pan—the real winner here is the creamy, emulsified pesto.
At first, I thought, hmmm…this is quite an oily, runny pesto and I wasn’t sure how it would go, but it was perfect for soaking in between the kernels and adding a delightful and fresh flavour to the cooked corn. Even though I’m genetically predisposed to put butter on everything in generous quantities, I didn’t want to add it to the corn. The creaminess of the pesto was more than enough and I found the addition of butter removed the fresh flavour of the pesto.
Corn, grilling, and cilantro pesto is an amazing combination. Everyone loved this corn, with requests to make it again as soon as possible. It’s easy to make, and I really like that one of the flavors that makes this dish special—the cilantro pesto—can be prepared ahead of time. This is a great family meal or general bbq addition that everyone will love.
I removed the corn silks early in the day and soaked them for 10 minutes right before grilling.
The cilantro pesto was quick and easy to make, but I would add less oil next time (probably 1/8 cup less oil).
We put the corn on the grill with husks on, as directed. Once initial cooking was done, we peeled back the husks and placed them on the grill with the husks out of the grill as suggested. Because the grill was a little open with the husks hanging out, the temperature of the grill went down, and it didn’t create the grill marks we were looking for. So, we changed the position of the corn and put them entirely inside the grill, and that worked much better.
We had to leave on for an extra 6 minutes in this new configuration to produce the grill marks. Next time, we’ll just put them completely inside the grill from the beginning, as there was no problem with putting the entire husk inside.
If you make a large batch and have leftover corn, cut the corn from the cobs and use it in corn salad, over summer garden salad, sprinkled on grilled vegetables, or in soup. I used our one leftover corn the next day. I cut the corn from the cob and served it with grilled zucchini, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella.
This grilled corn on the cob recipe has a little more work involved than I’d normally like for a side dish, but it produced some really good results. The corn was well cooked through without being burned and the cilantro sauce brought good flavor. Everyone at the table loved it and thought it was a great spin on classic corn on the cob.
Depending on the size of your grill you may need to work in batches (4 at a time). I recommend using thick BBQ gloves (I used rawhide leather) to make pulling the husks back at the start of Step 5, in fact, I think it’s probably a requirement to do it easily without uttering a lot of expletives.
The husks look really cool when charred, but are very impractical to bring to the table, so I trimmed them outside with shears right after they came off the BBQ. Having the very base of the husk/stalk still attached was great to hold onto while eating and keeps your hands clean.
Finally, I’ll probably add more cilantro to the sauce next time and skip the butter, nobody felt it added anything.
Originally published June 19, 2009