Cooler Corn:
How to Cook Corn in a Beer Cooler ♥

Cooler Corn: How to Cook Corn in a Beer Cooler (or use same great technique on the stove!) ♥
How to cook fresh summer sweet corn in a cooler – and more importantly, why you want to cook those gorgeous ears of corn in a cooler, whether you're camping or cooking corn for crowd or not. Updated with info on how to use the same technique to cook corn in a big pot on the stove, it'll "hold" the hot corn for about two hours after cooking. Great for parties and cookouts!

Real Food, Fresh & Seasonal. A Summer Classic, Especially for a Crowd or Outdoor Parties. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Weight Watchers Friendly. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free. Whole30 Friendly. Rave Reviews.

The Short Version

Shuck the corn, then cover the ears with boiling water in a clean cooler. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. Check for doneness. With the lid closed, the corn stays hot for 2 hours without getting waterlogged. (More detail below, including a stovetop method.)

A Good Idea Is a Good Idea

Now let me confess right off, I got considerable grief for cooking corn in a beer cooler. "You might as well cook that corn in the dishwasher," was the less-than-excited response. But a real veggie evangelist will press on even under pressure, ever on the hunt for new and interesting and useful – always useful – ways to cook vegetables.

Besides, I was pretty sure my dear Auntie Karen was onto something when she sent me the "recipe" awhile back. (Ha! Is something this easy a recipe? Yes, if it's life-changing, you bet.) But my take on the corn-cooking technique was this. It seemed like:

A good way to cook corn outside, while camping, say, or for a shore lunch when fishing, or at an outdoor spot with fire but no electricity.
A good way to cook a whole mess of corn for a crowd with practically zero fuss and muss.

But here's the thing. Here's why this is my new way to cook corn:

No need to deal with a huge pot of boiling water, especially emptying said heavy pot of boiling water, with hungry corn eaters hanging around.
A hot stove and a big pot of water are h-o-t hot. A cooler is, well, y'know ... cool.
After just 30 minutes, the corn is perfectly cooked. That's a longer time than usual to cook corn, I understand, but the whole 30 minutes is without attention, letting the corn just cook merrily away, doing its own thing, in a corner of the kitchen or out on the patio or wherever, leaving plenty of time to pour myself a Beer & Ginger Ale.
But more than that, after the cooking time of 30 minutes, the corn holds beautifully without getting soggy or overcooked. Two days in a row we made Cooler Corn, both times serving it more than 2 hours after the 30 minutes of cooking. It was as good as fresh-cooked, no questions asked, maybe even better!

The Corn Tastes So Good, Just Pure Corn Flavor, Even Unsalted

In fact, three generations gobbled up two coolersful of corn this last weekend. The second day, the kids had been romping in the pool for a couple of hours and emerged, hungry, before dinner (this great Carne Asada published in the Sunday NYTimes Magazine, for the curious) was ready. Fending off hunger pangs, I quickly melted some butter on a plate in the microwave and then delivered the butter, a platter of sweet corn and a roll of paper towels to the patio.

Whoosh, a Giant Corn Crunching Sound ensued. Even the six-year old who's more keen on hot dogs and candy than anything resembling a vegetable ate five ears!

So I'm not getting grief anymore, I'm getting, "Hey, Alanna. When can we make some more Cooler Corn?"

Same Technique, Except on the Stove

When I first published this recipe, some readers expressed concern about using a cooler other than its intended purpose, wondering whether the combination of boiling water and plastic would be a bad idea for food. Rather than debate that question – there's no winning for losing there – I decided to try the same technique in a big pot on the stove. And – drumroll, please – it worked great!

Now here are the things to know to cook corn like this on the stove. First, use a heavy pot that will hold heat, enameled cast iron like Le Creuset would be great. Second, make sure the lid fits tight, you don't want heat escaping from the pot. Third, even a heavy pot won't "hold" heat like a cooler will but still, you've got a good couple of hours for the corn to stay hot right in the pot.

"Yay! Worked perfectly!" ~ Rene

Cooler Corn Made the List!
Best Vegetable Recipes of 2012

Cooler Corn: How to Cook Corn in a Beer Cooler (or use same great technique on the stove!) ♥


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 45 minutes
Serves as many as needed

Ears of corn, shucked and cut into 2 or 3 chunks if desired
Boiling water

Wash the cooler inside and out. Depending on how the cooler's been treated by its humans, you might want to sterilize it with boiling water!

Shuck the corn, removing the husks and the silks. Rinse the ears under running water, rinsing off any grime that's gotten inside, any-anything that's transferred from the husks to your hands to the ears. If you like, snap the ears in half, then drop into the cooler. This can be done in advance, as early as the morning of an evening dinner, I'd think.

Thirty minutes before serving, pour boiling water over the corn, enough to cover and then some. Close the cooler and leave it alone – no peeking, people! – for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, check the corn for doneness and eat up!

Otherwise, if you want to serve the corn later, leave the corn in the still very-hot water with the cooler cover closed. Serve up to 2 hours later. (Two hours worked for us twice, any longer I haven't done.)

Bring a big pot of water to a boil, you want to have room for the corn to swim around in. Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat, drop in the shucked corn, secure the lid tightly and leave it alone – no peeking! – for 30 minutes. The corn will be sweet and tender after 30 minutes, ready for eating. To hold the corn, just leave the pot on the stove with the water still in the pot and with the lid on, the corn will stay hot for a couple of hours.

COOLER CHOICE So one year for a big party, this technique did not work. I was mortified. Luckily there was lots of other food but STILL. What I realized later is that I'd used an older cooler that was no longer airtight and maybe wasn't even a "cooler" anymore, just a big ol' worn-out plastic tub. So if you've got a collection of coolers out there in the garage or down in the basement, pick one that's newer and tighter. Just sayin'.
SMALLER PORTIONS I've taken to breaking ears of corn in half, more people will take a half ear of corn than a whole ear. Maybe it's just more manageable? Also! A half ear is great for kids.
SALT I don't salt the water, it's just not needed, the corn itself has so much flavor. Regular readers know that because we don't eat processed food, I'm much less concerned about salt consumption than others and use it regularly and liberally. So coming from me? To say that the corn doesn't need salt says something!
BUTTER I was kind of surprised how little butter was used, just rolling the hot ears of corn in a plate of melted butter. For 8 ears, I melted 4 tablespoons of butter, at least one and maybe two were left over.
WORD TO THE WISE Don't forget to wash the cooler afterward, it gets mighty stinky mighty fast.

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Looking for healthy new ways to cook vegetables? A Veggie Venture is home to hundreds of super-organized quick, easy and healthful vegetable recipes and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables. Join "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg to explore the exciting world of common and not-so-common vegetables, seasonal to staples, savory to sweet, salads to sides, soups to supper, simple to special.

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2012, 2015 (repub) & 2020 (repub)

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. That is just plain cool for the summertime! Thanks for sharing!

  2. question: I am no scientist but I wonder about putting boiling water in the plastic... do you know anything about what this might release from the plastic? This sounds like a super technique and I just want to be sure it is not doing funky things to the food.

    Thanks for all your work gathering recipes for our tables!

  3. AnonymousJuly 17, 2012

    We're talking SWEET corn, aren't we? To keep the most possible sugar in the kernels (including the yellow ones, not just the white ones), husk and parboil as soon as possible after it was picked. Ideally, pick your own, bring it home, then husk and immerse in boiling water one minute. At the very least, keep it COLD, as in ice, in the husk, until just before cooking. This halts the action of the turn-sugar-to-starch enzymes.

  4. Did the boiling water do anything to the plastic interior of the cooler?

  5. Michelle ~ Isn't it just plain summer? I wish I could show you the pictures of three kids gobbling up corn, that was pure victory for me!

    TobyBo ~ Uh .... um ... I must admit, I didn't consider this and have no idea.

    Anonymous ~ For most of us, the corn's been picked one or more or even more days ahead of time. You're right about the timing but for most of us, it just isn't practical.

    Kathy ~ Not that I noticed, it's hard plastic.

  6. If you don't eat the corn after 30 minutes, but let it sit, do you leave it sitting in the water?

  7. Susan ~ Yes, leave the corn in the water. It stays nice and warm, frankly easier to eat than piping hot corn.

    BTW I asked the same question. The first time we made this, our swimmer/supper people ran late and so I had the chance to experiment a little. After 30 minutes, I pulled out half the corn and put it on a platter, expecting that after awhile I'd warm it up again in the microwave or maybe in a skillet. Two hours later, the corn that had been left in the cooler was still so good, I put the corn that had been out on the counter back into the warm water and let the ears warm up for a few minutes before serving!

  8. a little confused, after the corn sits for 30 min or more, do you drain the water or let it sit in the water/cooler? thx

  9. This is way cool. Kinda down home sous-vide. ;-) Really, really clever. Thanks for a terrific idea.

  10. AnonymousJuly 18, 2012

    I would not think that it is healthy to pour boiling water into a plastic cooler that is not meant to withstand such high temperatures. My concern is what kinds of chemicals leach into the water which your food is now sitting in. An interesting idea in concept, but you won't find me trying this recipe!

  11. AnonymousJuly 19, 2012

    As the cooler didn't deform when the hot water was put in it, I imagine it's polypropylene (PP), which is thermostable and used to make microwaveable containers. I would have very little concern over any leaching of chemicals into the water.

  12. I'm also concerned about the boiling water in plastic. If you boiled the water already, why can't you just throw in the corn into the pot and let it sit for half an hour away from additional heat?

  13. Anonymous #1, Please see Anonymous #3's comment.

    Anonymous #2, Thanks for that input.

    Anonymous #3, I thought of that the other day but haven't tried it yet, but great idea. If the pot holds the heat, it'll work great. You'd have to have a big pot to match the size of even a small cooler but it would alleviate the plastic concern.

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  23. If you are worried about the plastic, put the large kettle full of water and corn into the cooler. Stuff towels or newspaper around it to help hold the heat.

  24. A trick to keep the stove top pot hotter longer. If you can find some of that aluminum foil faced bubble wrap you can make a "cozy" for your corn pot to help it hold the heat. We get frozen produce from our CSA that is wrapped in large "envelopes" of that insulating bubble wrap. I turned one envelope into a high tech tea pot cozy for the office that works wonders. If you are in a semi-rural area the bubble foil insulation is found in hard ware and farm supply stores for all sorts of uses. Its worth a try. MAKE SURE TO ONLY USE IT OFF THE STOVE!!!!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna