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Cooking with Fire

Cooking With Fire: Mexican Street Corn

Justin Cary

Corn — one of the great grains, and the basis for the diet of the native people of modern day North America — is purely an invention of man.

Corn does not exist in the wild, but instead was bred from a wild grass known as teosinte more 7,000 years ago in what is now Mexico. Without man planting, harvesting, and protecting the crop, corn would simply disappear.

The natural grasses that humans derived corn from had loose kernels that were small and scattered instead of being densely packed into a single area. Through selective breeding and hard work, the new plant, known as maize, produced large ears packed with golden, blue, white and red kernels.

This grain was versatile as it could be eaten fresh, dried and ground into powder, or dried for storage and then rehydrated. Many dishes, from classic corn on the cob to corn tortillas to pozole to grits, are made from the grain, and it provided a culinary tradition for the people of what Europeans would call the "New World,” even if it had been around for thousands of years.

Corn was also a basis for a new trade economy. From the first visit of Columbus on to modern times, corn has flowed from the Americas to the rest of the world, providing them with a flavor that simply can’t be replicated.

Mexican Street Corn


  • 2 ears corn, shucked
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp chipotles in adobo sauce
  • Chipotle chile powder
  • 1/2 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
  • lime wedges, for serving


  1. Grill the corn over direct high heat (500ºF) until browned, rotating to brown evenly. Remove from heat. 
  2. Combine the mayo and adobo sauce, and mix well. Brush the corn with the chipotle mayo. Sprinkle with chipotle chile powder and cotija cheese. 
  3. Serve with a wedge of lime.