Popcorn on the Stove

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Stovetop_PopcornPopcorn.  A food that serves many memories for me.  I think back to college, when my friends and I hit up the movies, we were too broke to buy the theater popcorn.  Instead, we quickly popped up a bag of microwave popcorn in our dorm room and then snuck it in one of our (way-too-big) purses along with a can of coke.  Yep, we were rebels.

Then, there were the nights when one of us got dumped, found out we failed an important test, missed our family, or were just straight up PMS-ing.  Nothing made us feel better than cozying up on our big blue (stinky dorm room) sofa with a buttery bag of popcorn and a movie.  Ten Things I Hate About You was typically the evening feature, in which you would find us belting out at the top of our lungs with Heath Ledger “I LOVE YOUU BAABBBYYY, AND IF IT’S QUITE ALRIGHT, I NEED YOU BAAABBBYY…!”  Ahhh, man, I love that movie and the memories that come along with it.

Fast forward to 2010, when Ben and I moved to California.  We were lucky to find a foreclosed house that was big enough to allow us a self-built theater room.  Needless to say, popcorn is still a big part of my life as we host friends in our home for movie nights.  And, although microwave popcorn seems like the easiest and most logical choice for serving, I have now grown to love popping my own on the stove top.

When I first decided to start making popcorn on the stove, I really wasn’t sure how to go about it.  Our local store sells the kernels in bulk, so I bought a bunch and they sat in my pantry forever.  I also had a chance of snatching a brand new Whirley Pop for $5 at a garage sale this spring, but couldn’t convince myself I needed to take up space in my kitchen with a unitasker. Shortly thereafter, I found the best recipe that uses a regular sauce pan. In the last year, it has become my go-to popcorn popping recipe.

The biggest challenge when popping popcorn on the stove top is ensuring all kernels are popped evenly.  No one likes to bite into a burned piece of popcorn, nor do they want to break their tooth on an unexpected kernel!  The best way to avoid this is heating only a few kernels to begin with, then once they pop, add the remaining kernels, cover, then remove from the stovetop for 30 seconds.  In this 30 seconds, the pan will distribute the heat evenly and after a few seconds of returning to the flame, the kernels will pop all at once!  Perfect-o!

Popcorn on the Stove

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 6 cups popped popcorn

Serving Size: 2 cups

  • 3 tablespoons oil (canola, peanut or grapeseed preferred)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/3 cup high quality popcorn kernels
  • Optional Toppings:
  • 2+ tablespoons of butter
  • Seasoning salts, spices, grated cheese, etc.

Place the oil, salt (to taste) and 3 to 4 popcorn kernels in at least a 3-quart sized sauce pan. Cover and heat over medium-high heat.

Once the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels to the pan. Shake to allow the kernels to spread to an even layer. Cover and remove from the heat for 30 seconds. The heat will distribute evenly through the kernels, so once returned, they will pop about the same time.

After counting 30 seconds, return the covered pan to the heat. The kernels should start popping within seconds. Once the popping starts in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner. Also allow the steam to vent by keeping the lid slightly ajar. Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, turn off the heat and immediately pour the popcorn into a bowl. Salt, season and butter to taste.

Source: Adapted from Simply Recipes


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  1. I can’t wait to try the 30 second heat distribution method. I love stove-top popcorn better than any other.

  2. OMG…I love Heath Ledger in that movie, too. I’m a sucker for all teeny bopper movies. Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Mean Girls, Never Been Kissed, Walk to Remember…the list goes on and on. How awesome is that you have a self-built theater room! Too cool for school. Although, I’m going to shamefully admit that for the past couple of days, I have had popcorn in my diet! LOL. Popcorn is food for the champions – that’s for sure!

  3. Good recipe. We are Whirley Pop people, but I have been looking to de-clutter my kitchen. Will try this one!

  4. I love it when foods are a floodgate for memories! IBC root beer and cookie dough remind me of movie watching with my best friend in highschool. Fun memories!

    And I have a bag of popcorn kernels just begging to be made!

  5. Have you ever tried making this with coconut oil? I had it once at a friends house and it was wonderful!

  6. this is exactly how i make our popcorn at home! It’s one of my favorite snacks…sometimes I add sugar to the kernels at the beginning and salt afterward for our own take on kettle corn!

  7. When I was a kid my parents found a stove-top popper and we haven’t looked back. It is my ultimate favorite snack food and I’m afraid my kids are addicted as well. Talk about friendly on the budget!

  8. The best way to have popcorn. You save a bundle! Great flick too. I love it when he makes her wear the belly. lol.

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