Stove Top Popcorn has become a new staple in my kitchen this fall. After years of buying microwave popcorn, it took a bag of gifted popcorn kernels and a broken microwave to get me to turn to the stove. Though it was a last resort at the time, it is now my first choice when it comes to popping corn. Honestly, I don't know why it took me so long to discover the pleasure of stove top popcorn.
Popping popcorn on the stove is simple, takes about the same length of time as the microwave, and the taste is incomparable.
When I was younger, visiting my grandparents on an overnight trip, my grandmother pulled out her largest soup pot to cook up a batch of popcorn. It was the first time I had watched someone make popcorn on the stove and I found the process utterly fascinating. The sputtering oil, the explosions of kernels, the unmistakably scent filling the air—there was something magical about it.
Perhaps that childhood "magic" is what carries over as we grow older. Though the science teacher in me could describe the scientific principles involved at length, theory never quite matches experiment. I still find wonder in cooking up a batch of stove top popcorn, delighting in each experience as if it were my first.
In the winter months, when the world is cold and the glow of television feels warm, popcorn is a regular on the menu, often composing late night snacks and the occasional meal. While microwave popcorn can leave a waxy, unpleasant taste in my mouth when I near the end of the bag, stove top popcorn is never too greasy and is easy to customize.
The recipe I've shared with you is as basic as it comes. You can dress it up with melted butter and spices or, if you are a popcorn purist like me, leave it plain and enjoy it just the same.
Stove Top Popcorn can be made in 3-4 minutes with only three ingredients. Popcorn kernels, a neutral oil, and a little salt are all you need for perfect popcorn. The oil is heated on the stove, the popcorn is added, and the heat is removed to allow all kernels to reach the same temperature. Once the pot is put back on the stove, the kernels pop quickly. In the dozen of batches I have made, I have never encountered more than 3-4 un-popped kernels. This recipe is easy and produces easily customizable results.
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Stove Top Popcorn
Yields about 2-3 servings
3 tablespoons coconut oil */**
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1/2 teaspoon popcorn salt, more or less to taste
In a large 8-quart pot, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add 3-4 popcorn kernels, cover, and continue heating until they have popped. This is how you know the oil is hot enough to begin the popping process. Add the rest of the popcorn kernels, cover, and remove from heat. Swirl the pot around to evenly distribute the oil around the kernels. During this wait period, all of the popcorn kernels reach the same temperature, which allows them to pop at more or less the same time.
In approximately 30 seconds, return the pot to the heat. Cover to avoid spattering oil, but keep the lid slightly askew to allow the steam to escape; this will result in crisper popcorn. Soon after, the kernels should begin popping. Every so often, completely cover the pot and shake it lightly to prevent the kernels from burning. In 2-3 minutes, the popcorn should be completely popped.
Immediately transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle on the salt, toss, and serve hot.
*Any oil with a high smoking point will do, such as peanut, grapeseed, or vegetable oil. Use whatever you have in the cupboard.
**Three tablespoons of oil will coat the popcorn deliciously, but I have reduced the oil to as little as one tablespoon to save on calories with perfect popping results. The only difference I've found is that the salt has more difficulty sticking to the popcorn with the lower oil content, giving it less of a flavor.