How to Cook Baby Corn – Detailed Overview of Preparation, Cooking Methods & Serving

How to Cook Baby Corn

Baby corn is a young tender form of corn that is harvested before the cobs have fully developed. It has a delightfully sweet, delicate flavor and a satisfying crunch when eaten raw or cooked.

Cooking brings out the best qualities of baby corn and enhances its natural flavors. The petite cobs can be prepared using a variety of quick and simple cooking techniques like boiling, steaming, stir-frying, deep-frying, braising, roasting and microwaving to perfect, crisp-tender doneness.

This detailed guide covers everything you need to know about buying, cleaning, cutting and cooking baby corn properly using different methods. You’ll also learn complementary ingredients that pair well. Along with serving ideas and proper storage tips for leftovers.

An Introduction to Baby Corn

Baby corn is simply corn (maize) harvested in the immature stage, while the stalks are still small and the kernels undeveloped. More scientifically known as “candle corn”, the miniature corn cobs resemble candles.

Most commercial baby corn production focuses on hybrid varieties of standard sweet corn. Although you can also find multicolored ornamental baby corn. It is typically picked when just a couple inches in length, but before the silk emerges. If allowed to mature, the cobs would grow into full-sized corn.

This vegetable likely originated in Taiwan in the 1950s before becoming popular across East and Southeast Asian cuisines. Thailand is the world’s largest exporter currently.

Although we treat it as a vegetable. Baby corn is technically the immature fruit of corn plants. It has a higher fiber and water content than mature corn. Giving it more resemblance to a vegetable nutritionally.

Why Should You Cook Your Own Baby Corn?

Here are great reasons for cooking your own fresh baby corn at home:

Cost savings: Pre-cooked, frozen & canned baby corn costs more than preparing it yourself.

Control flavors & seasonings: Customize ingredients & spices to your taste.

Try different cooking techniques: Boil, steam, roast etc. for variety.

Make healthier: Avoid preservatives, sugars, salt from packaged versions.

Convenient ingredients for meals: Quick-cooking addition for stir fries etc.

Fun, easy vegetable to master: Great for cooks of all skill levels.

While pre-packed baby corn offers convenience, taking a little time to cook it yourself lets you control the flavors and quality. Once you get the basics down, it cooks lightning fast. The naturally mild, sweet flavor also makes it the perfect canvas for the seasonings of your choice.

An Overview of Baby Corn’s Nutrition & Benefits

Despite being picked prematurely, baby corn offers an impressive nutritional profile. Here are some of its top nutrients and subsequent health perks:

Rich source of vitamin C: With about 42% DV per cup, baby corn provides immune-boosting vitamin C.

High fiber: A 1-cup serving offers 10-14% DV. The fiber aids digestion and gut health.

Low calorie: Just 25-30 calories per cupful. Allows guilt-free snacking.

Packed with antioxidants: Like lutein and zeaxanthin for eye & skin health.

Great source of B-vitamins: Offers thiamin, folate, pyridoxine.

Mineral content: Supplies phosphorous, zinc, iron, magnesium & potassium.

So don’t let the petite size fool you. Those tiny cobs provide impressive nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber for barely any calories.

When enjoyed as part of an overall healthy diet. Baby corn offers protective antioxidants, energizing carbs and much more. Now let’s explore selecting and preparing it for cooking…

Choosing the Best Baby Corn – Tips & What to Look For

Thanks to rising popularity most large supermarkets now stock fresh baby corn in the produce section. It is available year-round but best in summer and fall. You can also readily find frozen and canned baby corn.

Follow these tips for picking the freshest baby corn ears:

Check husks for tightness & moisture: Fresh baby corn husks should feel snugly wrapped around the ear and be bright green. Avoid any with browning, sliminess or damp/loose surrounding husks.

Inspect cut ends: Both the stem and silk end should look freshly cut, not dark or dried out.

Select uniformly small sizes: For even cooking, choose baby corn with cobs of similar petite size.

Try local farmers markets too: For just-harvested crispness and natural sweetness.

For frozen baby corn, inspect packaging carefully and choose brands without added flavorings or preservatives. With canned versions, select low or reduced sodium options when possible.

No matter what form you buy. Ensure baby corn feels heavy for its compact size and smells mildly grassy and sweet. Avoid any odors implying spoilage. With proper storage and handling, fresh baby corn keeps for about 5-7 days sometimes more. We’ll cover storage suggestions in more detail shortly.

Equipment You’ll Need for Preparing & Cooking Baby Corn

One of the appeals of baby corn is that you likely already have most of the basic kitchen equipment needed:

Sharp knife & cutting board: For trimming both ends of raw baby corn.

Mixing bowls: For tossing with oil, batter or marinade ingredients.

Baking sheet: Lining with foil or parchment for roasting or broiling.

Large pot with lid: For boiling & blanching water or cooking broth.

Steamer basket: Inserts neatly in pot to steam over boiling water.

Tongs or large spoon: Lifting baby corn in and out of cooking liquid.

Sheet pans or plates: Draining fried or boiled baby corn before saucing.

Wok/large skillet: Provides even heat for quick pan-frying/stir-frying.

Parchment paper: Lines pans to minimize sticking if pan/oven roasting.

While hardly an exhaustive list, these basic kitchen tools allow you to prepare baby corn using a variety of methods right at home with ease.

Proper Handling & Storage of Baby Corn

To fully enjoy the prime flavor and texture of fresh baby corn proper storage is key:

  • For short term storage up to 3-4 days stand bundled baby corn upright in a tall container with an inch of water. Cover loosely with a perforated plastic bag. Keep the container in the fridge.
  • For longer fridge storage up to 7 days husk baby corn ears and place in a sealed airtight container or bag. Don’t wash until ready to use.
  • Avoid placing in sealed bags too early. It releases moisture that speeds spoilage.
  • Wash just before cooking. Rinse well under cool water while rubbing the ears gently to remove any debris. Dry thoroughly with a paper towel or clean kitchen cloth. Take care not to tear the thin husks.
  • Once cooked, baby corn can be tightly sealed and refrigerated for 2-4 days.
  • For longer term freezer storage, blanch whole cleaned ears for 2 minutes until bright green. Then plunge into ice bath for 2 minutes before drying and freezing in airtight bags for 8-12 months.

Pro Tip: For deliciously sweet baby corn, choose young tender ears and cook as soon as possible after harvesting or purchasing. The sugars start converting to starches quickly, leaving older baby corn with diminished sweetness.

Prepping Raw Baby Corn for Cooking

Before cooking baby corn, a quick trim and rinse is all that’s usually required:

Rinse well – Run under cool water while gently rubbing ears to remove any dirt or debris. Dry thoroughly.

Snip ends – Using a sharp knife, trim both the stem end and silk end, removing any raggedness.

Check for silks – Pull out any stray corn silk threads still protruding from ears.

Leave mostly whole – Unless making a recipe specifying baby corn pieces, leave intact with just ends snipped. Halved or cut baby corn cooks faster.

And that’s it! With just a quick trim and rinse. Your fresh baby corn ears are ready for cooking using your method of choice.

Tip: Don’t husk baby corn before cooking. The husks protect the delicate ears and keep them from drying out. Simply leave as-is and the thin green husks disappear as they cook.

Blanching Baby Corn

If you’ll be adding raw baby corn to hot cooked dishes during the final minutes. Blanching first helps them retain that signature crunch:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Salt helps enhance flavor.
  2. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with water and ice cubes.
  3. Once boiling, use a spider strainer or slotted spoon to gently add baby corn ears and blanch for 45-90 seconds only until bright green.
  4. Drain blanched baby corn and immediately plunge into the ice bath for 1 minute to stop cooking.
  5. Finally, drain again and pat thoroughly dry.

Blanched baby corn holds up beautifully when mixed into pasta, grains, sautés etc. At the tail end with minimal added cook time. It retains its crunchiness while absorbing surrounding flavors.

Tip: Adding baking soda to the blanching water helps retain vivid green color better than using only salt. Use 1 teaspoon per 4 quarts of water.

How to Cook Baby Corn by Boiling

Plain boiling allows baby corn’s natural mild sweetness to shine:

  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
  2. Prepare an ice bath as with blanching. Once water is boiling rapidly, add baby corn ears.
  3. Allow it to return to a gentle boil and cook baby corn uncovered for 4-5 minutes. Begin testing a piece at 4 minutes by biting into it.
  4. When tender but still with a bit of crunch. drain immediately and either shock in an ice bath or simply run under a cold tap to stop further cooking.

If cooling in ice bath, leave for just 1 minute before removing. Drain thoroughly before using boiled baby corn or it may waterlog.

Boiling retains maximum sweetness compared to other hot water methods. It also cooks fairly quickly. Avoid boiling longer than 5 minutes max or baby corn ears turn from sweet and crisp to mushy fast.

Serving ideas for boiled baby corn: Toss ears in melted butter with salt, pepper and chopped parsley Or if mincing baby corn for another recipe, consider mixing with mayo, lemon zest, diced red onion and sweet pickle relish for an easy side salad.

Steaming Baby Corn Perfectly

Another healthful cooking method relying on hot water is steaming:

Benefits: Retains more nutrients compared to boiling. Cooks very quickly without dilution from surrounding liquid. Preserves signature crunch well.

Follow this easy steaming method for baby corn:

  1. Fill a large pot with 2 inches water and bring to a steady simmer. Place a steamer basket or colander insert inside so it rests above water.
  2. Add baby corn to the steamer making sure not to overload. corn should ideally lay flat in a single layer.
  3. Cover pot tightly and steam for 4-6 minutes. Begin checking at 4 minutes by removing one piece and biting in. It should pierce cleanly but with a slight bit of resistance left.
  4. Use tongs to immediately transfer steaming hot baby corn to serving plates or dishes. Toss with desired seasonings while hot.

Flavor boosters: To make the baby corn extra tasty, consider adding garlic cloves, smashed ginger, lemongrass, whole star anise pods or lime wedges to the steamer too. Their scent and flavors gently permeate without overpowering the corn.

Let your taste preferences guide you in the final seasoning after steaming. Melted butter never fails, but a drizzle of quality olive oil and sprinkle of salt also enhances nicely.

Everything You Need to Know About Stir-Frying Baby Corn

With its quick cooking time and addictive lightly charred flavor stir-frying suits baby corn beautifully. The key lies in using high enough heat to sear while avoiding burning or undercooking.

Here are some tips for stir-frying baby corn in a wok or large skillet flawlessly:

Use Very High Heat

Preheating your wok or skillet properly ensures baby corn stir-fries instead of steams. This reaction helps caramelize natural sugars while retaining that slight crunch.

Cut Baby Corn to Bite-Size

Unless making a whole cob salad or side, trim baby corn into thin diagonal slices or bite-size niblets. Their delicate size already cooks fast. So this enables even quicker more uniform stir-frying.

Stir Fast & Continuously

Thanks to the small pieces and high heat. Baby corn goes from perfectly done to mushy fast.  Keep ingredients moving almost non-stop to prevent burning or sticking.

Mix in Other Quick-Cooking Veggies & Proteins

Sauté baby corn solo or pair with complementary vegetables & seafood etc. Needing only brief cooking too. Good stir-fry partners include shrimp, tofu, mushrooms, mung bean sprouts, bell peppers, shredded cabbage & carrots etc.

Boost Flavors with Sauces & Seasonings

While baby corn stars, the right sauces make the dish. Have them measured out and ready to blend in once corn firms up. Soy sauce, hoisin sauce, toasted sesame oil, garlic and ginger amp things up.

Here’s a play-by-play for executing a fantastic baby corn stir-fry:

  1. Trim corn ears into thin half circles.
  2. Heat wok or skillet over very high heat until water flicked on the surface sizzles and evaporates instantly.
  3. Swirl 2 T olive or vegetable oil around the hot pan and add corn pieces in a single layer.
  4. Let sear about 30 seconds undisturbed. Corn should firm and blacken in spots.
  5. Stir-fry continuously another 1-2 minutes until all pieces blistered but still crunchy.
  6. Add minced garlic and sauce ingredients. Toss carefully until fully incorporated.
  7. Serve sizzling stir-fry immediately sprinkled over rice, quinoa etc or enjoy as-it is!

The beauty lies in how quickly a healthy, well-balanced veggie-packed meal comes together with baby corn as your speedy star ingredient!

How to Deep Fry Baby Corn for Maximum Crunch

Frying offers unmatched crispy crunchy texture and concentrated corn sweetness balanced by salt. While not the healthiest method, enjoying deep-fried baby corn in moderation makes an addictively moreish snack or starter.

Here’s how to deep fry baby corn properly for optimal flavor and texture:

Oil Type Matters

Choose peanut, vegetable or canola oil for frying with high smoke points. This let’s oil reach optimum frying temperature without burning.

Ideal Oil Depth & Amount

For even frying, oil depth should equal 1 1/2 to 2 times the height of ingredients. For baby corn, aim for at least 2 inches depth. Use enough oil to maintain this level after adding corn.

Batter Up!

For added crunch and taste, dip trimmed baby corn pieces in a simple batter before frying. Mix 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1 egg + enough water or beer to make a thick batter.

Fry in Manageable Batches

Too many pieces at once drop oil temp excessively. Fry just enough baby corn at a time to form a single loose layer with a little space between each.

Maintain Optimal Oil Temperature

Use an instant-read deep fry thermometer to monitor temperature. Ideal is between 350-375°F. Adjust heat to maintain as close to this temp as possible for even cooking.

Don’t Overfill the Fry Basket

If using a fry basket, lightly fill it just halfway at most and carefully lower into hot oil slowly. Overloaded baskets cause ingredients to stick together and cook unevenly.

Monitor Progress Closely

The batter coating darkens fast once submerged. To prevent burning yet ensure pieces cook through, fry just 1 1/2 to 2 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.

Work Swiftly in Batches

Let oil reheat for 60 seconds before adding another batch. If the temperature drops too far between frying corn won’t crisp up properly.

Season Immediately

Sprinkle with salt and any other desired spices, herbs or sauce drizzles the instant golden fried baby corn comes out. Enjoy piping hot!

The hassle is worth the effort for crispy popped-in-your mouth corn morsels in under 5 minutes!

Braising Baby Corn in Flavorful Liquid

While not utilized as often as boiling or stir-frying baby corn. Braising ranks as another quick, simple and seriously delicious technique giving incredible depth of flavor.

Braising employs a minimal amount of aromatic liquid to gently cook ingredients partially covered. This moist-heat method tenderizes while infusing components with lots of taste.

Why Braise Baby Corn?

The miniature ears soak up surrounding sauce notes beautifully. Braising also thoroughly cooks baby corn while retaining signature nutty sweetness and a touch of crunch nicer than boiling.

Best Braising Liquids for Baby Corn

Chicken or veggie broth enhanced with fermented bean pastes, vinegar and spices like chili flakes or whole peppercorns make ideal braising mediums for baby corn.

Here is a reliable blueprint for braising baby corn to absolute perfection:

  1. Trim & clean baby corn ears. Slice diagonally into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Sauté aromatics. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook minced garlic, ginger and scallions for 1 minute.
  3. Build braising liquid. Add chicken or vegetable broth, rice vinegar, soy sauce and oyster sauce to the pan. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer.
  4. Add baby corn. Gently mix corn pieces into simmering braising liquid. Partially cover the skillet with a lid.
  5. Gently braise. Allow mixture to simmer gently, turning corn twice for 4 to 6 minutes until almost fork tender.
  6. Uncover to reduce. Remove the lid during the last 2 minutes to allow excess liquid to reduce while concentrating flavors.
  7. Final seasoning & plating. Transfer braised corn to a serving platter. Stir cornstarch and water together separately then mix in to finish sauce consistency before drizzling over baby corn. Top with black or white sesame seeds and sliced scallions for garnish.

The visual appeal of glistening sweet and salty glazed baby corn along with the complex flavors make braising well worth a try! It takes a basic ingredient to new heights. Serve this elevated yet easy vegetable side along with rice and protein.

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