Oh man, you totally stole our joke! Now how are we going to seem effortlessly witty?
Really the question you’re asking – or at least the first part – is, does an electric grill generate enough heat to cook corn? And the answer is, if it doesn’t, throw it out and get one that does. We certainly have seen some anemic electric grills in our time.
The second part is more complicated. Grilled corn means different things to different people. For some people, grilling is not just another way to transfer heat from a source to the food – it is a way to impart different or additional flavors than you’d get using other cooking processes. It is also not just an effort to imprint the food with cool little grill lines to impress your guests.
To be honest, the method most people use to grill corn – in water-soaked husks – really results in steamed corn with little or no grilled flavor. The husks do an excellent job of shielding the corn from the grill. You might as well boil the corn, for all the grilled flavor you get. The alternative – putting naked corn on the grill – often results in corn that it dried out before it is cooked. (Supersweet varieties are the exception here, and will turn out beautifully au natural on the grill.)
The ideal grilled corn, in our humble opinion, is as moist as boiled or steamed corn, but with a little smoky flavor and a little caramelization. Our favorite method for getting there involves removing all the husk but the layer closest to the corn and cutting off the silks that that stick out the end. Place the corn on the grill over medium-high heat and turn it every minute-and-a-half to two minutes, until it is done. It should take 8 to 10 minutes total, and you’ll know it’s done because you see the kernels more darkly outlined through the husk and the husk is starting to char and pull away from the corn at the tip. Remove the corn from the grill, remove the husk and silks, dress the corn as you like it, and eat immediately.
Getting back to your question, let’s not forget that grilling is not just a reference to electricity or gas; it used to be the domain of wood and charcoal, and many of us still think in those terms when we grill. Indeed, a wood or charcoal fire is going to impart the smoky flavor you want in grilled corn. A gas grill that has seen some use will, too, as the drippings and spatters on the lava rocks or smoker bars of bygone grillings will surround your corn with the sought-after smoke.
Even a never-cleaned electric grill that lives outside may impart some smoke flavor. But your petite, countertop grill, with the removable plates that you routinely plink in the dishwasher will not. And the corn, for all its natural delights, will not generate a smoky aroma all on its own!
So in a sense, Mr. Funny Man, you’re right – the corn doesn’t know the source of the grill heat. But, either because it doesn’t generate enough heat or enough smoke, you – and your guests – may know that your electric grill failed to produce real grilled corn.