Preparing Corn

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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While we usually prepare and consume the kernels whole, most of the flavor comes from the inner tissues, so some cooks grate, blend, or juice the raw kernels and separate the fluids from the seed coats, which get increasingly thick and tough with age. Because the fluids contain some starch, they will thicken like a sauce if heated above about 150°F/65°C. Heating also intensifies the characteristic aroma of corn, which is largely due to dimethyl and hydrogen sulfides and other sulfur volatiles (methane- and ethanethiols). Dimethyl sulfide is also prominent in the aroma of cooked milk and molluscs, which is one reason why corn works so well in chowders. Sweet corn is also dried, which gives it a toasted, light caramel note. The hard, inedible support structure called the cob can lend flavor to vegetable stocks; that flavor is nuttier if the cob is first browned in the oven.