How Long To Boil Corn (And Why?)

Exact Answer: 2-10 Minutes

Nothing screams summer like a delicious boiled ear of corn. Cooked perfectly and slathered in butter, boiled corn is a part of everyone’s childhood vacation memories.

Despite this, most people do not know how long it takes to boil corn. The answer depends on the freshness and sweetness of the corn. Other factors to consider are whether the corn is still on the cob, in its husk, or shucked into kernels.

Depending on these different elements, boiled corn should be ready to eat in 2-10 minutes.

How Long To Boil Corn?

When boiling corn, one should consider its freshness, sweetness, and if it is frozen or husked. These factors primarily govern the boiling time of corn.

The freshest corn found at the peak of summer is the sweetest one available. This type of corn takes less time to boil due to its high moisture content. Generally, one needs to cook sweet, fresh corn only for 2–5 minutes.

The presence of a husk around the corn is another factor that affects boiling time. Boiling corn in its husk takes around 10 minutes.  One can remove the husk after cooling the ear of corn.

Unhusked corn, on the other hand, cooks thoroughly in boiling water in 2-5 minutes.

Frozen varieties of corn are convenient to consume in winter. Frozen cobs take almost as long to boil as their fresh counterparts. They cook for 5 minutes in boiling water.

Frozen shucked kernels cook much quicker than cobs. These kernels become tender in 2-3 minutes. One can also skip the boiling step and only defrost the corn kernels to retain more flavor and crunch.

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Finally, the amount of corn cooked also determines the time taken. This means, more the amount of corn cooked in a batch, the longer the boiling time.

Something to note is that overcooking corn results in chewy and firm kernels. Therefore, one must try to avoid doing so.

In summary:

Type Of CornTime Taken
Fresh cob of corn2-5 minutes
Corn, with husk10 minutes
Corn, without husk2-5 minutes
Frozen cob of corn5 minutes
Frozen kernels of corn2-3 minutes

Why Does It Take So Long To Boil Corn?

Boiling is the quickest way to cook an ear of corn. Two changes take place during this process. Firstly, pectin in corn begins to dissolve, making the cob soft. Secondly, starch absorbs water as it heats up, making the corn kernels tender, plump, and juicy. Overall, corn can take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes to cook, depending on if it is frozen, fresh, or husked.

Fresh corn takes 2-5 minutes to cook because it has a high moisture concentration. Therefore, the starch present needs to absorb significantly less water for the cob to become tender.

On the other hand,  a frozen cob has a similar boiling time as a fresh one because freezing and thawing corn causes small tears in the cell wall, making the kernels softer. Due to this, smaller frozen corn kernels take lesser time, around 2-3 minutes, to become tender. However, cooking them for longer makes them mushy.

Cooking frozen corn kernels for longer than the recommended time leads to the complete breakdown of the cells wall resulting in a change in texture. In addition, overcooking speeds up the conversion of sugar present in the kernels to starch, causing a loss of flavor and sweetness.

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Thus, to retain the sweetness and flavor of corn, it needs to be cooked for less time.

Conclusion

The boiling time of corn is crucial. Cooking corn for longer than the recommended time can cause problems. Overcooking not only makes the kernels mushy but also results in a loss of flavor and sweetness.

Therefore, one must take precautions to cook the corn only for the recommended time duration. Depending on whether the corn is fresh, frozen, or husked, the boiling time may vary. Unhusked corn takes only 2-5 minutes to cook, while cooking corn with the husk takes longer, around 10 minutes.

References

  1. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/ie50270a027
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0268005X20329179
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