So you want to make excellent popcorn

I’m really not sure how people who microwave a bag of popcorn seeds mixed with some butter-resembling ooze can live with themselves. Of course, who am I to judge you for having such low standards?

There is a better way, and it’s more within reach than you think. You just need a few things.

The Equipment

  • A stirring popcorn pot, such as the Whirley Pop
  • Popcorn salt (unlike table salt, popcorn salt is ground much more finely)
  • Butter (clarified butter, or ghee, also works nicely if you are worried about butter’s low smoking point. Extra virgin coconut oil is also excellent. But if you want the real deal, use butter)
  • Popcorn seeds 

If you don’t have the money for a Whirley Pop, I personally am partial to using a light aluminum pot to pop corn in. If you only have a heavier pot available to you then no worries, just be aware it needs more time to heat up on the stove.

Now, to choose your variety of popcorn. You could just use any old bag of popcorn seeds you find at the store and by popping it with this method you will end up with popcorn that tastes far better than your typical microwave popcorn. But if you want to do this right, and I mean really do it right, you want to use an heirloom variety of popcorn.

The heirloom varieties of popcorn haven’t been selectively bred for size and puffiness like their industrial counterparts. Instead, the kernels and the resulting popped kernels are very small. Not only that, but they pack a ton of great flavor. You’ll find that a good heirloom variety has a bit of a “corny” taste to it. The Orville Redenbachers of the world were focused on making a popcorn that popped with fewer “old maids” (the stubborn kernels that don’t pop), popping faster, and having more volume to the popcorn, and that’s what they bred for, as opposed to taste. My current heirloom variety of choice is the venerable Tiny But Mighty variety, grown in Iowa. 

The Recipe

Now to make the popcorn!

  1. Begin to heat your pan. If you use a gas stove, a lower setting will suffice. Electric stoves choose a medium level. Add a half stick of butter and 1-2 teaspoons of popcorn salt depending on your taste.
  2. Once the butter is completely melted (it may be sizzling or smoking a bit; that’s fine) it’s time to add the popcorn. Add 1/4-3/8 cup of heirloom popcorn seeds (depending on how buttery you’d like it to be) or 1/4 cup of a standard variety  of popcorn. 
  3. Now you play the waiting game. Every 20-30 seconds, give the pan a good lateral shake to keep the heat distributed between the kernels. If you’re using a Whirley Pop or similar pan, start to turn the stirring pot as soon as you start to hear a pop. 
  4. Stir or shake like mad up until the point where the popping reaches a critical mass of pops. The sound of near constant popping will bring you incredible joy. After this point the popping will decelerate rather rapidly. As soon as you hear it slow down to the point where there is 1-2 seconds between pops, take it off the heat and immediately transfer into your serving bowl.
  5. Wait about 1-2 minutes for extra moisture and heat to evaporate away from the popcorn. This will leave you with a nice crunchy snack to enjoy and it won’t be too hot.

If you use an electric stove, it does take substantially longer for the popcorn to heat up, but you will nonetheless end up with delicious popcorn. 

Things you shouldn’t do

  • You should NOT use one of these cutesy “popcorn topping” seasonings that are butter or cheese flavored. 
  • You should NOT use that Orville Redenbacher brand “butter” flavored oil for cooking popcorn in. Use butter.
  • You should NOT top your popcorn with parmesan cheese. Your popcorn will be truly delicious with just salt and butter.
  • You should NOT use coconut oil that isn’t extra virgin. It’s just flavorless and has none of the health benefits of the real deal
  • You should NOT sit here thinking about how unhealthy this is. If you prefer the healthy approach try an air popper with an heirloom variety.

One response to “So you want to make excellent popcorn”

  1. Alex says:

    note: the whirly pop’s spinning mechanism doesn’t hold itself down, so you must still give a lateral shake every few seconds. if you don’t. it’ll eventually just spin on top of the kernels without actually moving them, especially with smaller kernels!

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