If you enjoy perfectly tender corn, you might wonder how long to boil it. 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.
Here are some high-level boiling times for types of uncooked corn. Note that these times will vary based on freshness, size, type, and amount being cooked. The typical boil point of water is 212°F, or 100°C .
|Corn type||Boil time|
|Unhusked fresh corn||10 minutes|
|Husked fresh corn||2–5 minutes|
|Frozen corn cobs||5–8 minutes|
|Frozen corn kernels||2–3 minutes|
With fresh corn, you’ll want to boil it for a shorter time than other kinds of corn. Generally, sweet, fresh corn will not need to boil any longer than 5–10 minutes.
When boiling fresh corn, consider the season, too. The freshest corn is found at the height of summer, especially at farmers 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 can be up to eight times sweeter than its normal-sugar counterpart (
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 unhusked 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 already husked, 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.
Once boiled, enjoy your sweet corn on its own, with some butter and salt, or in one of these corn-centric recipes:
- Grilled Cajun shrimp
- Grilled zucchini salad with creamy sunflower dressing
- Tequila shrimp taco salad
- Elote (Mexican street corn)
The fresher and sweeter the corn, the less time you need to boil it. The freshest corn is found midsummer. Fresh, sweet, and unhusked corn will cook the fastest at about 2–5 minutes. When husked, boil for 10 minutes.
Generally, you’ll want to boil frozen corn longer than fresh corn. Frozen, shucked kernels also cook quicker than frozen corn on the cob. Add either to boiling water and cook the shucked kernels for 2–3 minutes or until tender and frozen cobs for 5–8 minutes or until tender.
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.
Enjoy the taste of summer year-round with these recipes that incorporate frozen corn:
- Corn muffins
- Summer corn chowder
- 9 corn recipes you can make from the cob or a can (so you can eat them all year)
Frozen corn on the cob will need about 5–8 minutes. Frozen, shucked kernels need just 2–3 minutes.
Keep in mind 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.
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.
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.
Prepping corn for boiling is easy, whether you choose to boil it unhusked, husked, or off the cob. Here are some tips:
- To boil corn with the husk on, simply give your corn a rinse in fresh water and place the intact ears into the pot of boiling water.
- If you plan to boil your corn husked, remove the husk and silk before placing the ears in boiling water.
- There are many methods for removing the silk from an ear of corn, including simply scrubbing it off, burning it off over a flame, or cutting off the bottom of the ear to help make removal easier.
- The best way to achieve a cooked ear of corn without any silk left on it is to cook it unhusked and remove both the husk and silk once it is cooked.
- If you plan to boil kernels off the cob, you’ll need to remove the husk and silk, stand the corn on its base, and use a sharp knife to cut the kernels from the cob.
- Both frozen corn kernels and frozen ears of corn should be placed directly into boiling water. Do not thaw them before cooking.
Fresh corn tastes best. But to enjoy a perfect ear of corn, you need to know how to pick the freshest from the bunch.
To increase your chances of choosing a fresh ear of corn, purchase corn in-season at your local farmers market or farm stand. The less time it takes to get from the field to your kitchen, the fresher your corn will be.
Corn starts to lose moisture within an hour of picking and continues to lose moisture the longer it is stored (5).
Weight and feel
The freshest corn feels heavy for its size due to its higher moisture content.
Feel along the length of the ear of corn. The corn should be firm, and kernels should feel plump. Note any spaces where kernels might be missing.
Look for light brown or gold, shiny silk at the top of the ear of corn, and avoid corn with black, mushy silk. The husk should be bright green, damp, and wrapped tightly against the cob.
A dried-out yellow or brown husk is a sign the corn has been stored for a while. The bottom stalk-end of the corn should be pale, not brown.
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.
Just one thing
Most of the corn planted in the United States is genetically modified, also known as GMO. To learn more about GMOs and identify which of the foods you eat have been modified using genetic techniques, check out our article on the evidence-based pros and cons of GMOs.