If you love the flavor of grilled corn, but not eating it off the cob, Sautéed Skillet Corn is the summer side for you. Saute fresh or frozen corn kernels with a bit of butter in a hot skillet for maximum char on every kernel. These little bits of big flavor are super versatile – enjoy as-is, or toss in pastas, snacks, and salads.
I’m sure you’ve heard of mother sauces – tomato, bechamel, veloute, etc. – but today, I want us to consider “mother dishes.”
(Don’t try googling that. You’ll get a thousand middling recipe ideas for what to cook for your mom on Mother’s Day. As a mother, I can tell you I found it downright offensive that “a box of wine, a bowl of raw brownie batter, and two straws” appeared on precisely none of those lists.)
Now, back to my made-up concept of “mother dishes.”
I’ve spent a fair amount of time testing various cooking methods for various vegetables. Mostly, it’s so I have an excuse to eat. A lot. But it’s also to make sure you know what you’re getting into when you ask yourself how to cook corn. (Or zucchini, or green beans, etc.)
I’ve built up a nice little cache of “How to Cook” guides. For each method, you get a standalone recipe that works as a super simple side, like grilled corn on the cob. But the possibilities for that grilled corn are just beginning when you take them off the grate. Because from that baseline dish, other corn recipes like grilled corn salad are just a few extra steps away.
I’m not going to beat you over the head with the birthing mother analogy. My point is simply that sometimes, it’s worth asking yourself “Why stop there?”
The answer, of course, is that because when you take a bite of skillet corn, and realize that science and nature are truly wondrous things if they can create such a tasty bite of food with relatively little interference, you may feel like you shouldn’t question the universe. But lucky for you I still do, so keep scrolling for some delicious corny offspring.
What Kind of Skillet Should I Use?
Both cast iron and non-stick skillets are great for cooking sautéed corn. I’ve used both with lots of success. Non-stick is a bit easier to work with, but you’ll get a little more char with cast iron.
How to Cut Corn off the Cob
While you can use either fresh or frozen corn for this recipe, I highly recommend fresh sweet corn when it’s available. The flavor is unbeatable, and generally the price is too, especially during peak season!
Slicing corn kernels from the cob may seem daunting, but you only need 2 simple tools – a bundt pan and a chef’s knife.
Position the thinner end of the corn upright in the center of the bundt pan – this will provide stability while you slice. Hold the other end of the cob with your non-dominant hand, then slice kernels from the cob using a sharp chef’s knife (dull knives will slip!) with your dominant hand. The bundt pan will neatly catch the kernels once they’re sliced off.
How to Make Sautéed Skillet Corn
Enjoy skillet corn on its own, as a super simple side, or use in other dishes to add tons of sweet, buttery flavor. Shuck and strip fresh corn cobs before sautéing the kernels – this allows them to cook evenly so they’re golden and tender all over!
- Slice the corn kernels from the cobs.
- Melt butter and olive oil in a large 12″ skillet over medium high heat until the butter melts and foams.
- Add the corn plus a pinch of salt, then toss to coat the corn in the fat. Saute 4 minutes, undisturbed.
- Toss the corn – the kernels should be browning in spots – then saute another 4 minutes undisturbed.
- Taste for texture – if the kernels are still undercooked, saute undisturbed for another 2-3 minutes, until charred and tender.
- Season with salt, pepper, and fresh basil, and serve right away. Enjoy!
- Fresh corn on the cob doesn’t stay fresh for long! Ideally, you’ll want to purchase corn within a day or two of using it.
- You can saute frozen corn, but don’t use canned corn for this recipe – there’s far too much water for it to cook properly. See below for instructions on using frozen corn.
- Hold the seasoning – for now! Do not fully season skillet corn until it has finished cooking. You only need a pinch of salt for cooking.
Can I Use Frozen Corn?
Yes! There’s no need to defrost, simply add frozen corn kernels to the skillet. Frozen corn will take longer to cook. The kernels should be completely defrosted after 8 minutes, and then will need a further 8-12 minutes to develop char. Just keep stirring every 3-4 minutes and you’ll get there!
Serving Skillet Corn
Sautéed corn is plenty tasty on its own, but it also serves as a base, or a topper, in so many other corn recipes.
- Turn skillet corn into Mexican street corn salad.
- Pair it with zucchini for a simple sautéed zucchini and corn side, or go one step further with this pasta recipe for cacio e pepe with zucchini and corn.
- Make your own roasted corn salsa for snacking.
- Garnish chicken street tacos, grilled chicken tacos, or steak tacos with skillet corn.
- Add to dinner salads, like chicken taco salad or BBQ chicken salad.
- Top ricotta toast with seasoned sautéed corn and fresh homemade ricotta cheese.
Storing and Reheating Skillet Corn
Skillet corn holds up very well in the fridge for 3-4 days in a sealed container. For best results, reheat in a skillet over medium high heat. It’s also delicious worked into salads when it’s already chilled.
Did you make this buttery skillet corn? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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- 4 ears fresh corn, see Note 1
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp kosher salt, divided
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- 2 tbsp chopped basil
- Slice the corn from the cobs. You’ll have about 4 heaping cups.
- Heat a 12” skillet over medium high heat. Add the butter and heat until it melts then foams. Add the olive oil and heat for 30 seconds.
- Add the corn and a pinch of salt, toss to coat in the fat, then saute undisturbed for 4 minutes, or until lightly charred. Toss, then sautee 4 minutes more. Taste the corn for texture – if it’s not quite cooked through, saute undisturbed for 2-3 minutes more, or until charred to preference and tender.
- Season with the remaining salt, pepper, and fresh basil. Serve right away, and enjoy!