Why You Should Never Use Salt When Boiling Corn

To salt or not to salt — that's the question when it comes to a whole lot of things. Salt is a modern-day mainstay in kitchens across the globe, but its past harbors salty stories of significance in trade, food preservation, and survival during expeditions such as the famous Louis and Clark journeys, according to the National Park Service. Salt bars even once served as a primary source of currency in countries such as Ethiopia, explains The British Museum.

Though most of salt's impact now lies on dinner plates, it's nonetheless important, as indicated by the vast choices available today: Himalayan sea salt, kosher, flaked, artisanal, Celtic gray, red Hawaiian, and others noted by Country Living. But regardless of which type fits your fancy, the crucial thing is how you use it when flavoring food and what effect it has on the end product. That's where the debate on salting corn enters culinary vernacular, especially when it comes to boiling fresh sweet corn.

Why to salt corn after it's boiled

Butter, salt, and fresh corn-on-the-cob are hallmarks of summer for many people. And for good reason. Putting the butter aside, fresh corn itself harbors a host of health benefits. WebMD notes that corn, also known as maize in early North and South American native cultures, carries healthy amounts of vitamins C, B, E, and the minerals potassium and magnesium. It can help ward off gut and colon issues, cancer, heart disease, eye problems, and type 2 diabetes. But, to get those beneficial earth-offerings into your system, they've got to taste good.

Boiling sweet corn cobs provides one of the quickest ways to get goodness on a plate, with a covered pot of boiling water producing tender ears of corn in approximately 3 to 5 minutes, per Taste of Home. Timing is crucial, as overcooking results in a tough texture and loss of sweet flavor. But salt also injects itself into the conversation here. Adding salt to the boiling process can make the kernels harden even more, which has been traced to the calcium in salt. Cook's Illustrated further notes that the calcium typically comes from anti-caking agents – but further experimentation by the source revealed tough corn skins even when using calcium-free kosher salt.

Nobody wants to mess with Mother Nature, especially when it comes to steaming stalks of healthy summer sweetness. So, get shucking that corn and leave the salt for after-boiled seasoning.