The unique, succulent odors and flavors that come from grilling food in corn husks can’t be duplicated. It’s the element that adds the special atmosphere to grilling at county fairs and farmer’s markets, and turns virtually any food into a full-flavor gourmet treat. How do they do it? Corn husks trap moisture and infuse a distinctive nutty flavor. Ears of corn hit the grill still in their husks all over the country, but many still don’t know that you can use corn husks on virtually any food. As the wife of a chef who hates to cook inside during the summer, I’ve gotten to test out the effect of corn husks on an amazing variety of food.
Prepare your husks for grilling
Both fresh and dried corn husks will work well for grilling, but each tastes a little different. Soak husks in water for 1-2 hours before putting them on the grill. Dried husks catch fire easily, so make sure they’re flexible and completely saturated with water. Fresh husks already have quite a bit of moisture in them, so you’re just adding a little bit more moisture to the surface to make sure they’ll last until your food is done. For corn grilled in the husk, put the entire ear in water without removing the silk.
Covering food with corn husks
Small food items can be wrapped in a single piece of husk with the ends tucked in, or pin it in place with a soaked kabob stick. For larger items, it may take a bit more time to weave several pieces of husk together into a package that won’t come loose while the food cooks. When you’re done, tear strips of corn husk and securely tie the package if needed. Remember that there’s nothing wrong with multiple layers of husk; the more you wrap, the moister your food will stay.
A single-item wrap works great for most food items, but not all. What about stir fry? Potato skillets? Mixed veggies? They can all benefit from corn husk grilling too. For these, just lay corn husks out on a sheet of aluminum that’s large enough to wrap a sizable portion of food. You still get the flavor of corn husk, but none of the hassle of chasing down tiny escaped pieces of food.
Finally, corn husks can also create attractive kabobs that are ready-made for a company barbecue or tiki party. Soak your skewers according to the manufacturer’s directions – usually an hour or two. Poke the skewer through 4-5 strips of corn husk. Put a piece of food on the end, then fold the longest husk over the top and thread the skewer through. Do this after every piece of food, creating an attractive wave pattern. When you’re done, bring the other strips of husk up over the food and pin them on the end of the skewer, encasing the entire kabob. Remove the outer pieces after grilling, but leave the wavy one in place for extra decoration. Just make sure that your family or guests know not to eat the husk itself.
The flavor that corn husks add to food is mild enough that it goes with virtually anything. Use it for seafood, red meat, vegetables and more. If you eat a lot of corn-on-the-cob throughout the year, make sure to freeze or dry the husks to use during grilling season. Don’t be afraid to experiment – you’ll be amazed at the difference a few pieces of husk can make to your food.