How I Grill Corn (taking inspiration from elotes)

I got introduced to the idea of elotes—Mexican street corn—last year. I grill a lot of corn in the summer as part of meals, so people kept telling me to try elotes. When I looked over the ingredients, I stopped at “mayonnaise.” I loathe the look and smell of mayo, and tolerate a light coating of well-produced mayo on sandwich bread. I certainly don’t want to work with the stuff when I’m cooking. I don’t want to be put off food in the process of making it.[1]

So I didn’t bother trying to make elotes last year.

Also, last year I didn’t have the spice game I have this year, thanks to frequent trips to Market Spice in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. I have a drawer full of fantastic spice mixes, and love to find new ways to use them.

This year, I’m firing up the grill and getting corn ready, and it hits me: I can take inspiration from elotes without being a prescriptivist.[2]

First, make a butter-spice mash

corn-butterI throw a bunch of soft butter in a small bowl—a little more than I need to cover the entirety of the cobs I’m gonna grill. Then I throw in spices. Last night, I used:

And I smashed them all together until I get a fantastic-looking paste. As far as for how much I use, I don’t really measure beyond “do the spices seriously change the color of the paste yet?”, then I add a bit more.

Also the obvious: garlic is a theme in cooking in our house. Use whatever spices and seasonings are your jam. You do you.

Second, coat the corn

Get that paste all over that corn. If you’re grilling in husks, awesome. If you’re like me, and your local store doesn’t have corn-in-husk yet but has packed stuff—I use foil in those cases.


I wrap each corn individually.

Third, cook that corn up good

Whatever “good” means to you. Good means this to me:


If you used foil, you might have some butter runoff when you unwrap your golden gift. Pour that on top of your corn!


Point is, when you read a recipe and see that it doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean you should through out the good ideas it has. Take some time to see what the recipe is doing and experiment for yourself.


[1] If someone made elotes for me, I’d try it. But I don’t deal with mayo on its own.

[2] Which is, funnily enough, also how I approach language.


3 Responses to How I Grill Corn (taking inspiration from elotes)

  1. blackcoat says:

    So, the thing that the mayonnaise will get you[1] is adhesion as it cooks (because of the eggs). Also the oil cuts the fat in the eggs, raising the smoke point (so you can get a darker char without that bitter burned taste). It’s the secret to every perfect grilled cheese you’ve had in a restaurant.

    I’d add a little fresh lemon or lime (or even some vinegar) after cooking to have the acid break up the fat a little on the tongue.

    But yeah, fuck yeah grilled corn however you make it!

    [1] I totally get the turned off by it, my wife hates it

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Totally. I get the chemistry behind it, which is why I’ll try it if someone else makes it. But yeah, I just can’t work in on my own.

      It’s probably the eggs. I also can’t handle the smell of boiled eggs—I had to leave the house when my old roommate made deviled eggs for parties. (I can do pan-cooked eggs no problem, though.)

  2. Wayne Zombie says:

    I’m not a fan of mayo due to some serious illnesses that I had that I suspect were due to bad mayo. I have heard that if you make your own mayo fresh, that it’s a totally different experience. I have not yet done that.