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"For how long should I boil corn on the cob?"

Dear Anne and Sue,

When I was growing up, we always boiled corn on the cob for 10 minutes. Now, I've read that 2 to 3 minutes is sufficient. Which is correct?

Ted, Toronto


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Hi Ted,

Freshly picked local corn on the cob is one of the best parts of summer. And you're right about the trend being toward short cooking times. Here's the logic: Very fresh corn has a high sugar content. Once picked, sugar in the kernels begins to turn to starch and corn's remarkable sweet flavors diminish as the sugar disappears. The speed with which this happens varies from one variety to another and also according to the temperature at which the corn is held. Warm temperatures hasten the action of enzymes that convert sugar to starch.
So the best method of cooking corn is the quickest. Bring water to a rolling boil. Add the corn. Return the water to the boil as quickly as possible and time for 3 minutes. Some cooks go so far as to say, as soon as the water returns to the boil, the corn is cooked.

The point here is, keep the cooking time to a minimum, to retains corn's sweetness and flavor. Long boiling causes toughness, reduces flavor and corn's fleeting aromas disappear. Try it! Keep in mind too that it's well worth searching for very fresh corn, and cooking it as soon as possible. There's a lot of sense in those old instructions to get the corn pot boiling, then run from the garden to the pot!

Anne & Sue


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