If you enjoy perfectly tender corn, you might wonder how long to boil it for.

The answer depends on its freshness and sweetness, as well as whether it’s still on the cob, in its husk, or shucked into kernels.

Over-boiling can result in an unpleasant mushy texture and reduce its antioxidant activity (1).

This article explains how long you should boil corn to yield a toothsome yet tender bite.

Boil fresh corn for a shorter time

When boiling fresh corn, consider the season. The freshest corn is found at the height of summer, especially at farmer’s markets.

The sweeter and fresher the corn, the less time it takes to boil due to its higher moisture content (2).

Corn can be grown to favor genes that produce sweeter kernels. This type is usually sold as sugar-enhanced or super-sweet corn and about three times sweeter than its normal-sugar counterpart (2, 3).

Generally, sweet, fresh corn won’t need to boil any longer than 5–10 minutes.

summary

The fresher and sweeter the corn, the less time you need to boil it. The freshest corn is found midsummer.

Husked vs. unhusked

Another factor affecting the cooking time is whether the corn has been husked. Boiling it in its husk may take longer.

To boil husked corn, submerge it in boiling water and cook it for 10 minutes. Before removing the husk, wait for the ears to cool enough to handle them or use tongs. You will notice that the husk is easier to remove from a cooked cob than an uncooked cob.

If unhusked, place the ears of corn in boiling water and remove them after 2–5 minutes, depending on the freshness and sweetness. The freshest, sweetest kind will take no longer than 2 minutes to boil.

An alternative method involves bringing a pot of water to a boil, turning off the heat, adding the unhusked corn, and covering the pot. Remove after 10 minutes. This will produce a tender, yet toothsome bite.

summary

Fresh, sweet, and unhusked corn will cook the fastest at about 2–5 minutes. When husked, boil for 10 minutes.

Boil frozen corn longer

If you have a hankering for corn in the dead of winter, you might opt for the frozen version. Frozen varieties are also convenient to use in stews and soups, or when you simply don’t have access to fresh corn.

Unsurprisingly, frozen cobs take longer to boil than their fresh counterparts. Add them to boiling water, lower the heat, and cook them for about 5–8 minutes.

Frozen, shucked kernels cook quicker. Add these to boiling water and cook them for 2–3 minutes or until tender.

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Frozen corn on the cob will need about 5–8 minutes. Frozen, shucked kernels need just 2–3 minutes.

Consider the amount

Finally, consider how much corn you’ll be boiling. The more you add to a batch, the longer the boiling time.

Generally, 4 medium ears measuring 6.8–7.5 inches long (17–19 cm) each need about half a gallon (1.9 liters) of water in a large pot to boil through (4).

If you’re planning to make a lot of corn, consider boiling it in batches.

Lastly, use plain or slightly sweetened water instead of salted water when boiling to avoid hardening the kernels.

summary

The more corn you cook at once, the longer the boiling time. When you need to cook many cobs at once, consider doing so in batches.

The bottom line

When boiling corn, consider its freshness and sweetness, as well as whether it’s frozen or husked.

Fresh, sweet, unhusked corn will boil the fastest, while husked or frozen cobs will take the longest.

Depending on these factors, the corn should be ready to eat in 2–10 minutes.

Whichever type you use, resist the temptation to salt the boiling water, as this may harden the kernels.