Louisa Shafia

Pan-Seared Corn

Corn is a classic American summer food; along with potato salad, corn is an essential side dish at warm weather meals. Now, here’s a delicious and easy way to make your corn stand up and take center stage.

On one of the many days this summer when I was happily preparing corn for dinner, it occurred to me that the classic method of boiling could dilute corn’s sweet flavor. I wanted to find a way to concentrate the flavor, and seal it in. I decided to husk the corn and cook it whole in a sauté pan, with nothing but some olive oil and salt. The result was corn that tasted sweet, rich, and maybe just a little meaty. Cooking it on a grill produced the same results, but with a warm, smoky flavor.

Cooking corn without water is not a new idea; in Mexico, where corn originated, the most popular way to prepare this favorite vegetable is on the grill, cooked until slightly charred, seasoned with salt and garnished with any combination of lime juice, mayonnaise, mild Cotija cheese, and spicy chile pepper. This simple way of preparing corn is as good as it sounds; if you want to try it yourself, Rachael has a great recipe for Mexican-style grilled corn .

Cooking the corn with a little fat in a pan or on the grill seals in nutrients and enhances flavor. When you see those pan marks start to appear, that means the natural sugars in the corn are being released; this is the process of caramelization, the same thing that happens when we brown onions. Once that wonderful flavor is released and the corn is tender, you can eat it straight off the cob, or slice the kernels off and add them to salads, soups, and stir-fries. Take a break from boiling and give this method of preparing corn a try.

Simple Pan-Seared or Grilled Corn

When you husk the corn, make sure to keep the stem, so that you have something to hold the corn with. You may need to trim the stems a little so that they fit in the pan; they can be sliced with a chef’s knife. Don’t worry if the corn gets charred on the grill; simply keep turning it with tongs so that it cooks evenly all over instead of burning.


  • Corn
  • Olive oil
  • Salt


Husk the corn. Brush it lightly with olive oil and season with salt.

Heat a sauté pan or grill on medium-high heat. When hot, place the corn in the pan. Using tongs, rotate the corn every few minutes so that it browns all over. Baste the corn with a little olive oil as needed. If the corn is browning or charring too fast, lower the heat slightly. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until the corn is tender.

Eat the corn as is, or cool to room temperature and slice the kernels from the cob and eat with a fork.

Louisa Shafia is a cook with a passion for healthy eating. She recently penned Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, a collection of seasonal recipes and eco-friendly advice on food. To watch her cooking videos, see her recipes, and find out about her cooking classes, go to lucidfood.com.

3 Responses to “Pan-Seared Corn”

  1. Deborah Doe says:

    Great ideas both by Louisa and Rach. In our family we do grill it outside. We open the husks to pull the hairs out, wash it, dry it, season with a spritz diluted butter and olive oil mixture, salt and cheyenne pepper, a tab of butter. Then we re-wrap the corn cob, tie the husk around the tip with a piece of the husk and set on the grill mdium high heat. Cook on all sides for about 3-4 minutes till husks are lightly charred. We peel back the husks leaving them on and use them to hold the corn while we eat it. The corn comes out a bright golden yellow and popping and crackling and bursting with flavor in every bite with that kick that tells you this is truly a Mexican Grilled Corn on the Cob delite.

  2. Evelyn says:

    Great, cooked this way at the roadside in Kenya, wow what a great mid day snack!

  3. Peter says:

    Sounds great but I still prefer cooking corn with the husks intact. Place the intact cob onto whatever your choice of outdoor grill, once the outer layers start to brown move them to the warming rack if using gas, or the outside of a charcoal grill, and then cook your choice of meat. Serve the corn on a side dish right off the grill, peel back the husk, season as preferred and enjoy.

    My personal preference is fresh squeezed lime, with a light sprinkle of pepper.

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