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in: Featured, Food & Drink, Manly Skills, Travel & Leisure

December 19, 2019 Last updated: January 8, 2020

How to Make Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

Oh, it doesn’t show signs of stopping,
And I’ve brought some corn for popping.
The lights are turned way down low,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Whether or not you’ve got snowflakes gliding down outside your window, it’s a great time of year to pop some corn on the stovetop inside your kitchen.

While it might seem laborious and needlessly old-fashioned to make popcorn on the stove, it’s a process that anyone can do in under 5 minutes. And the result has its distinct advantages. 

Stovetop popcorn is not only healthier than anything you’d get at the movie theater or from the microwave bags that are loaded with fake flavorings and decidedly non-food ingredients, but it truly tastes better than either of those options. It’s way fresher (yes, popcorn can taste fresh!) and you can jazz it up exactly how you like.

While silicone air poppers that you put in the microwave have become all the rage, it’s just not the same; the tactile nature of stirring the popper and feeling the heat of the stove surely adds to the experience for both the preparer and consumers alike. 

With just a little bit of instruction, you can enjoy quality popped corn in the comfort of your own home, with sweatpants on and A Christmas Story playing on the TV. 

How to Make Popcorn on the Stovetop

While you can use any old pot to make popcorn, it’s far easier with a proper popcorn popper. The built-in stir handle makes it a breeze, as does the easy-to-handle lid. For just about $30, you can get a popper that’ll last years and years. If you want homemade popcorn to become a household habit and tradition, there’s just no reason not to get one. 

Whether you use a regular pan or dedicated popper, the steps are the same, and I’ll walk through a couple of them in detail, so be sure to read through the whole thing before getting started. It’s a very quick process once you begin — again, under 5 minutes — so you won’t have time to try to be reading this and making your popcorn at the same time. Got it? Great, let’s get started. 

Ingredients 

Easily serves 4

  • ½ cup popcorn kernels (any will do; no need to get fancy here)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil (though most cooking oils will do: olive, coconut, canola, etc.) 
  • Toppings (salt, butter, cinnamon sugar, etc.) 

Directions

1. Add oil to your popper and 3 kernels of corn.

Adding a few preliminary kernels to your oil lets you know exactly when the oil is hot enough for popping the corn. (Adding the oil and full amount of corn together right away is recommended by some folks, but makes for a soggier and less-than-ideal end product, in my opinion.) 

2. Heat over medium heat.

Err on the side of too little heat versus too much, with the lid closed. The oil may fizzle a little right away (especially if you have an aluminum popper rather than stainless steel), which you may mistake as those kernels popping. Give it 30-90 seconds and then the prelim kernels will pop — it’s really more of a “POP!” sound versus a crackle/fizzle. Open the lid to verify. 

3. Add the rest of the popcorn.

Toss in the ½ cup of popcorn kernels, close the lid, and stir away. In just a minute or two (slightly longer if using a stainless steel popper), there’ll be a veritable explosion of popping; it’ll be a little harder to stir and very quickly after that the popping will die down.

As soon as the popping slows, remove the popper from heat and pour the popcorn out into a large bowl. Don’t wait until you hear the popping totally stop; by then it’s too late and the popcorn will be burned. You only have to wait until it becomes a few seconds between pops; far better to pull it off too early than too late. 

There will inevitably be a few that have burned (and a few that have failed to pop), but if you removed the popper from heat at the right time, it’ll indeed be just a few. 

4. Add salt, butter, and/or whatever other toppings you can dream up. Always start with small amounts; you can of course always add more, but you can’t take it back if you douse the popcorn with too much salt. Start with a couple teaspoons salt and a couple tablespoons of melted butter; thoroughly mix with a large spoon and give it a taste. 

There are endless delicious seasoning combinations to be found on the interwebs. 

Possibly the best popcorn variant, however, is the supremely tasty kettle corn: 

How to Make Kettle Corn on the Stovetop 

Kettle corn is that delightfully crunchy and sweet popcorn that you buy at fairs and farmers markets for $10 a bag. But making it at home is far cheaper, just as tasty, and way easier than you could have guessed. Here’s how to do it: 

Ingredients

  • ½ cup popcorn kernels 
  • ¼ cup sugar 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil  

Directions 

1. Start just as you do for regular popcorn: put 3 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the popper, along with 3 kernels of corn, and heat with the lid covered. 

2. When you hear a kernel pop, add the rest of the popcorn along with the sugar and salt and give it all some aggressive stirring to evenly coat the kernels. 

3. Give it a minute until your hear some vigorous popping. Again, as soon as the popping slows, remove the popper from heat and pour the popcorn out into a large bowl. 

4. Let it cool a couple minutes and enjoy! The kettle corn tends to clump some; break it up with a large spoon or just your hands as you eat. As the corn popped, the heat caramelized the sugar, resulting in that wonderful crunchy sweetness that you thought only existed at the fair.  

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