There’s nothing like homemade stock or broth, and it’s even better when using in-season vegetables. Fresh, local corn, wood-smoked on the grill, creates an incredibly deeply flavored smoked corn stock that’s perfect to use in corn chowder, vegetable soup, and even risotto. Use your Instant Pot to cook it in a fraction of the time (and keep your kitchen cool).
I first became smitten with smoked corn after watching an episode of “A Chef’s Life,” where one of the featured recipes was a smoked corn aioli that was every bit as lovely as it seemed it would be (and led to the creation of one of my most popular summer posts, the Heirloom Tomato Sandwich with Smoked Corn Mayo).
In the years since, wood smoked corn has remained a late summer staple in my kitchen (corn in Ohio is at its most spectacular in August). It’s delicious in everything, from salads and slaws to pasta salads … and of course, nibbled right from the bowl into which they were sliced off.
But this summer, my soup cravings arrived early. Crazy early. I’m writing this post on a day that topped out well into the 90’s, humid and sweltering, but still, I had corn chowder for lunch with no regrets. So, my obsession with smoked corn has had a different focus this year: soup. And soup stock.
The beauty of this smoked corn stock is that you get two recipe ingredients from just one effort. We only need the bare cobs for the stock, so you can use the smoked corn kernels for another recipe, such as corn chowder. Or freeze them in a zipper bag for later. Let’s get started!
How to Smoke Corn on the Grill
You don’t need a fancy smoker to create wood-smoked corn (but it’s an awesome use for it). You can wood-smoke ears of corn right on a gas grill or charcoal grill. Here’s how:
First, it’s a good idea to soak your wood chips for about an hour. This will help keep them from immediately igniting and burning away to ash before the smoke even gets going. Then, you’ll need a device for smoking the wood chips.
If you have a small box smoker, you can use that in either your gas or charcoal grill. Otherwise, create a foil packet containing your soaked wood chips. Cut slits into the top side of the foil. You can also use a small cast iron pot, like I have in the photo above.
On a gas grill: Preheat one side of your grill to high. Place the foil packet either on the heat shield, or on the grill grates, above the flame. Place the ears of corn on the unheated side of the grill. When tendrils of smoke begin streaming from the box or packet slits, close the lid. If your gas grill has no venting (which would be unusual), prop open the lid slightly with a flame-proof implement
On a charcoal grill: Prepare your coals as normal. Stack the coals on one side of the grill bed and open all the vents. Place the smoker box or foil packet directly on the coals and place thegrill grate on its rack. Position the ears of corn on the grate opposite from the flame. When the chips begin to smoke, place the lid on the grill. If the lid does not have a vent, set the lid askew. If it does have a vent, position the vent on the corn side of the grill, so that the smoke flows over the corn and out the vent.
Can you wood-smoke corn in the winter?
Yes! The challenge will be finding whole ears of corn in the dead of winter, but my Kroger usually carries them all year round. Check the produce section, and also frozen foods, with the other packaged frozen vegetables.
If you’re an intrepid grilling soul, you can absolutely use your smoker, your gas grill, or your charcoal grill outdoors in any temperature. (I’ve been known to grill with snow on the ground – there are even pictures somewhere on this blog, lol.)
But, if you’re not really the winter outdoorsy type, this indoor Stovetop Smoker works great! It’s the model I have and nicely accommodates corn cobs.
Once you get those smoky, lightly burnished ears of corn cooled, you’re ready to start on the stock! As mentioned, you should remove the kernels, as it’s the cobs that are loaded with intense corn flavor that will be released in cooking.
The combo of smoky and fresh corn cobs with select aromatics, herbs, and spices creates a beautifully flavored stock that you can use just like vegetable stock.
Why to use a pressure cooker for smoked corn stock
The pressure cooker is really your friend in making soup stocks. Now, truly, I’m an equal opportunity soup stock maker: I use all the things to make fabulous stock — pots on the stove, a slow cooker, and even the oven.
But the Instant Pot has a few distinct advantages. One, it’s so much faster than other methods, especially if you’re making a stock using bones of some sort. You can easily compress a two-hour stove top cook into 20 minutes in the pressure cooker.
Two, it keeps the temperature in your kitchen under control. In the winter, we don’t mind when our kitchen heats up, of course, but, the truth is, a lot of my soup stock making efforts happen in late summer and early fall, when I can use fresh vegetables from my backyard garden, and freeze the stock for winter soups.
Three, the pressure cooker keeps food aromas in check. A slow cooker stock is awesome, but my house smells like soup for days afterward. Lovely in theory, but not in practice, lol.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, no problem. You can make this corn stock without one.
Corn Stock on the Stove Top: Add the corn stock ingredients and 8 cups of water to a 5 quart stock pot or Dutch oven, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Set the lid slighlty askew on the pot, and cook for at least an hour. Proceed with the recipe below.
Corn Stock in the Slow Cooker: Add the corn stock ingredients and 8 cups of water to the bowl of your slow cooker. Cover, and cook on high for 6 hours, or on low for 4 hours. Proceed with the recipe below.
If you’re a fan of fresh summer corn like I am, I hope you’ll wood-smoke some corn and cook up homemade corn stock in the pressure cooker. It’s so flavorful, you’ll barely need salt in your final dish. Coming soon: a smoky corn chowder that’ll knock your socks off!
- 6 ears corn, husks and silks removed, trimmed
- 1/2 cup wood chips, soaked in water for one hour (mesquite or applewood are nice)
- 1 onion, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 sprigs fresh marjoram
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 star anise pods, whole
- 12 or so whole peppercorns
Gas grill: preheat one side of grill to high. Charcoal grill: pile hot coals on one of side grill.
Wrap drained wood chips in a flat foil packet, and use a knife to cut slits into the top side.
When grill is hot, place the foil packet over the flame side of the grill (gas grill) or directly on the coals (charcoal grill).
When you see tendrils of smoke streaming from the slits in the foil packet, place 4 of the ears of corn on the unheated side of the grill. On a gas grill, close the lid. On a charcoal grill, open all the vents, and position the lid so that the smoke will flow over the corn and out the vent in the lid.
Let the corn smoke 20 to 30 minutes. Check periodically to ensure that flames are not reaching the ears and singeing the kernels. The smoking process is finished when the kernels are lightly burnished.
Remove from the grill and let cool.
When the ears are cool enough to handle, remove kernels from the cobs, reserving the cobs. Remove the kernels from the two uncooked ears, as well. Use the kernels for another recipe, such as Smoky Hatch Chili Corn Chowder
Slice the 6 cobs into three pieces (so they'll fit in your pressure cooker pot).
Add the corn cobs, the remaining seasoning ingredients, plus 8 cups of water to the removable pot of your Instant Pot.
Close the lid and seal the vent.
Set manual high pressure for 20 minutes (if you have the Soup button, you can press that, and then reduce the time to 20 minutes). (A 6 qt pressure cooker will take about 20 minutes to come to pressure.)
When cooking has finished, allow to natural release for 15 minutes, and then quick release. Take care with the escaping steam; it will take a bit to finish venting.
Carefully remove the pot from the pressure cooker (use oven mitts!), and let cool. Remove and discard the cobs, then pour the corn broth through a fine sieve. Use immediately, freeze, or store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Instead using a foil packet for smoking, you can also use a small cast iron (or flame-proof) pot to dry-heat the wood chips.
Pin Instant Pot Smoked Corn Stock recipe for later:
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