Steam your corn in the microwave to enjoy summer all year ’round

The stovetop cooking method comes with a fair amount of fuss, while using the microwave simplifies the entire process.

Extreme close-up of an ear of corn
Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group (Getty Images), Graphic: Libby McGuire (Getty Images)

When I was growing up in Michigan, cooking sweet corn was always a production. My mother would haul out a tall aluminum pot, fill it with water, and place it on the stove. While it was boiling, we’d cover the kitchen table with newspapers and shuck ears of corn, which we bought by the bagful from our favorite local farmer.

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Hot beads of water would fly, and steam would rise as the corn cooked. After about 10 minutes, we’d remove the ears with metal tongs, holding them away from us so we wouldn’t get scalded, and place them in a colander to drain.

Perhaps a decade ago, I went to visit my mother and found that she’d discovered a new corn-cooking method: She used her microwave.

Microwaving eliminated all the fuss and danger. I believe that microwave corn is actually better than the vintage method. And it offers the opportunity for sweet corn out of season. Here are the steps to cooking corn in the microwave.

  • Shuck the corn.
  • Dampen two sheets of paper towel and wrap them around the ear, leaving a little opening at the end for steam to escape.
  • Microwave two or three ears at a time on high for three minutes.
  • Flip the ears.
  • Microwave two to three more minutes, depending on the size of the ears, then remove them. You can leave the ears wrapped up until they make it to the plate. Use the damp paper towel like a Japanese wet napkin to wipe your fingers or face after eating buttery corn.

This method also can be used for frozen corn on the cob. Yes, you heard me. You can freeze corn on the cob.

I have done it two ways. The first way is to shuck the corn, microwave the paper-towel-wrapped ears for three minutes, then freeze them unwrapped in large zip-top bags. This speeds up your eventual cooking time. But I’ve also discovered you can freeze corn without cooking it first, and I like that method just fine.

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When you take the ears out of the freezer, wrap them in wet paper towels and microwave them for four minutes. If they feel warm, then flip the ears and microwave another four minutes. Sometimes the corn is frozen so solidly that you need another minute in the microwave before you flip it. Corn that was pre-cooked only needs another one to two minutes; uncooked corn will need three to four minutes.

Microwaved frozen sweet corn isn’t as perfect as the microwaved fresh kind, since freezing and re-heating can make it a little soggy, but it brings back memories of summer. And when it’s doused with butter, it always tastes delicious.

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DISCUSSION

eddie-brannan
Eddie-Brannan

This is my method:

  • Unshucked (why would you waste paper when corn has its own water-impregnated steam wrapper built in?).
  • 90 seconds. Flip. 90 seconds. Twice that will give you mush. Corn should be al dente.
  • Shuck (retain husk leaves to use as eating-handle)
  • Butter, season, eat.

Also, danger? I get that this blog is aimed at people who perhaps wouldn’t be described as wise in the culinary arts, but describing boiling sweet corn as dangerous is the black and white part of an infomercial in text form.