Friday, March 16, 2012

Technique of the Week: Sensational Stove-Top Popcorn

One of my very first jobs as a teenager was working in a concession stand at a movie theatre. We sold candy, hot dogs, nachos, soda, and of course that staple of the cinema: popcorn. One of my favorite tasks on a shift was to man the massive popper, adding the kernels and salt to the oil, and flipping the popped kernels into the basket at just the right moment. To this day, I can still open a paper bag with just a slight flick of my wrist!

I love popcorn. I love the way it smells, and I love the way it tastes when tossed in a little butter and salt. Sure, there are countless microwave varieties out there. In my pantry alone we have kettle popcorn, “homestyle” popcorn, and movie-theatre butter popcorn. I even have a few bags of the 100-calorie varieties but to be honest I have to eat two or three bags to be satisfied. Microwave popcorn is good for a snack in a bind but to me it tastes artificially and often times has the texture and aftertaste of cardboard.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a recipe on Simply Recipes for stove-top popcorn. This is something I’ve always considered to be “too much work” or “too complicated” but really, it isn’t! All you need is a saucepan with a lid and some patience. After playing around with popcorn on the stove for a week or two, I’ve come up with this ratio below for popcorn for one. Feel free to double or triple as needed, making sure you use a larger saucepan/stockpot to account for the extra kernels. The trick is to swirl the pan so the kernels are constantly moving. Having your seasoning ready ahead of time will make the end result even tastier since the hot popcorn will stick better!

Swirl the kernels in your saucepan to coat aid in even popping

When you hear the popping begin to slow, remove from the heat.
My FAVORITE popcorn topping. This stuff is seriously addictive!
Make sure you let me know how you fare in the comments below!

Stove-Top Popcorn for One
(Makes about 4 cups)
You will need:
  • 1 quart saucepan with a lid
  • 2 teaspoons good quality oil such as canola, vegetable or olive oil*
  • 2 tablespoons dried corn kernels
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1-gallon ziplock bag
  • 1-2 tablespoon melted butter or popcorn seasoning to taste (I like to use Kernel Season’s White Cheddar variety!)
(*olive oil works fine here, but the popcorn will have a slightly fruitier taste than you are probably used to. I normally use canola oil)
  1. Add butter and/or seasoning to the Ziploc bag. Set aside for later.
  2. On a stove-top over medium-high heat, add oil and salt to the saucepan. Add 1-2 kernels to the oil and swirl the pan with lid on until they pop.
  3. Add the remaining kernels and continue swirling the pan until the popping slows to 1-2 seconds per pop, making sure the lid is on but slightly vented. This will help distribute the steam better and will result in denser, moister popcorn!
  4. Add hot popcorn to the prepared Ziploc bag and shake until seasoning is distributed.
  5. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Questions? Comment below!
Shauna E!

Quick and Dirty Q & A
1) What are some other flavor combinations I can try instead of salt and butter?
  • I personally love my Kernel Season's White Cheddar flavoring. It's super salty which I love, and has a slightly tangy cheese taste.
  • You could make spicy popcorn by combining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and a tiny dash of cayenne. Simply add it to the butter in the bag, or skip the butter all together for a healthier treat.Another delicious combination would be a mixture of 1/2 tablespoon white sugar with a 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Play around! You could try chopped fresh herbs, Parmesan cheese... really anything would work!
2) Why should I stove-top pop? The microwave is so easy!
  • Aside from the flavor being far fresher than the commercial microwave varieties, stove popping is a good deal more affordable. A 16 ounce bag of corn kernels costs around $2.50 and will make countless servings where as a box of 6 bags of the microwave junk will cost you anywhere from $4.00-$6.00.


  1. Ok friend, this is awesome. I've always wanted to make real popcorn at home, but I figured you needed one of those doohickeys for it (my mom has one). Next movie night is going to be approx. 1000xtastier!

    1. Let me know how it turns out for you!

  2. "Feel free to double or triple as needed..." *

    * Size dependent on number of bowls smoked.

    So trying this! And making your blog swag bc I forgot until just now! <3

  3. You know when we were little, mom made it on the stove too. I have fond memories of it that way!