How To: Make Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

Make Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

There are three huge benefits to microwave popcorn: it's quick, it's delicious, and it's cheap. But there's a way to make popcorn that's better, more delicious, and cheaper than the microwave variety. And oh yeah, quite a bit healthier.

Like anyone who enjoys movies and salty food, popcorn has long been one of my favorite snacks. In fact, my first job was as a popcorn maker at my local theater.

All of that explains why this is one of my most used cooking go-tos (confession: I eat popcorn as a meal at least once a week). And with a million variations available (more on that in a moment), it's got a little something for everyone.

Step 1: Get the Pot to the Right Temperature

Find a pot with a large surface area, add a small glug of olive oil and three popcorn kernels, and heat on medium-high. As soon as one of the kernels has popped, the oil is up to the right temperature.

Step 2: Pop the Corn

Once the oil is up to temperature, remove the popped kernel and add another 1/4 cup of oil and 1/3 cup of popcorn. Make sure the kernels are spread out in a shallow, even layer. Add a large pinch of salt, and put a lid on the pot.

Just as with microwave popcorn, you'll hear the kernels popping after a minute or so; as soon as they start to slow down and you have one to three seconds in between pops, your popcorn is done.

Pro Tip: Use This Alternate Stovetop Method

Southern at Heart (via Baked Bree) uses a variation on this method to create perfect stovetop popcorn:

After the oil is brought to the correct temperature and you add all your popcorn kernels, cover the pan and remove from heat for 30 seconds. Next, put the pan back on the heat and within 1 minute, you should hear popcorn popping. Shake the pan gently as the kernels continue to cook. After 2 minutes or so, the popping noises should slow down or stop. At that point, lift the lid up to let the steam escape. Wait 5 seconds, then pour the popcorn into a container.

A lot of people swear by this method. If you try it, let us know how it goes!

Step 3: Season & Consume

As soon as the corn is done popping, empty it into a bowl; if you let it go too long, it will burn. Once in the bowl, add another medium pinch of salt, and any other dry seasonings that you love.

Lightly seasoned stovetop popcorn...
And microwave popcorn. Notice the color difference. Image by Jimmy McDonald/Flickr

Try These Add-Ons for More Flavor

For a taste that more closely replicates the richness of the flavorings in microwave popcorn, I like to add one or two tablespoons of butter to the pot at the same time as the full amount of oil and popcorn. And if you haven't already tried it, nutritional yeast may be the most delicious popcorn topping ever (though Parmesan cheese ain't too shabby).

Or, if you really want to have some fun, ditch the oil and butter, and use some bacon or duck fat. And if you have clarified butter around, it's probably the best option: all of the delicious buttery flavor, but with an extra high smoke point to help your popcorn from burning.

Mmmmm, popcorn... I think I'll go make some now!

More Fun with Popcorn

If you don't have access to a stove, you can still make great popcorn in a microwave (just don't ever use the "popcorn" setting). And if you want a fun project, make super easy and delicious edible caramel popcorn bowls.

Photos by Brady Klopfer/Food Hacks (unless otherwise specified)

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