growing up, if i wasn’t eating movie theatre popcorn, i either used an old school popcorn maker, or the microwave. sure, there was also that jiffy pop package for the stove, and yet, it never occurred to me that we could make stove top popcorn at home. mainly this was because my parents either didn’t know about this or were never inclined to make popcorn this way (clearly they weren’t big popcorn fans). but also, how often would the methods of popcorn making at home come up in casual conversation? at least for me – apparently never.
fast forward to paris, in a tiny shoebox of an apartment, where one day, my American roommate and i got to talking about snacks we missed from home. the previous tenant left behind popcorn kernels but because we chose to spend our precious money on a small convection/toaster oven rather than a microwave, i was a bit stumped as to how we could pop these kernels. luckily for me, my roommate had made stove top popcorn at home in her youth. my popcorn eating ways have never been the same since.
sure, microwaving kernels in a paper bag (not the stuff with all the chemical flavourings in the prepackaged bags) is a lot healthier (or maybe the old popcorn machines are too) but if you’re after good taste and can restrain yourself to moderate amounts, stove top popcorn is the way to go. there’s also the whirley pop contraption which should be great, but I don’t have the space for a single-focused item. besides, a pot and a lid do just fine.
• heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large pot on medium heat (the larger the surface area, the more kernels you can pop at once).
• to test if the oil is hot enough, place 3 kernels in the oil and cover the pot. a glass cover works best to watch the action, but you can go on sound too.
• as soon as the kernels have popped, add the rest of the kernels to spread in one layer on the bottom of the pot and place cover back on.
• shake slightly so the kernels get more coated in oil
• when the kernels start popping, same as you should for microwave popcorn, listen for when the popping slows to about 4 seconds and take off the heat (if in doubt, take off the heat – nothing worse than burnt popcorn!)
• sometimes i briefly put the lid slightly ajar (directed away from me) to let some steam escape during the popping, but be careful as that popcorn likes to escape!
• sometimes i’ve needed to shake the pot slightly to keep the popping going (you can imagine all the popped popcorn makes things a bit crowded in the pot)
• put popcorn into a bowl
• add seasonings as desired and toss to coat (to go all out, you can do the melted butter and more salt). i like to drizzle some olive oil, toss through the popcorn and then add some salt, cayenne pepper, maybe some dried herbs, and grate a bit of parmesan cheese and toss again
enjoy while popcorn is hot :)