While some people may consider it a cliché, making popcorn at home is truly a fun way to refresh your relationship with butter and salt. If you have ever seen someone make popcorn in a movie theater or restaurant, they typically use a microwave-based popper that uses olive oil as the cooking medium.
There are many recipes for this method, but the basics remain the same. You start by melting sugar and either plain white vinegar or prepared baking soda and water in a pan, then add coconut oil (canola oil will also work). When the mixture comes into contact with hot air, the two of them combine and foam up!
That foam can be poured onto the popped corn and spread across the surface, which some eat directly off the spoon while others let kids enjoy it via a slotted spoon. It all really depends on what style of eating you want to emphasize. Either way, whisking the melted fat together with the other ingredients leaves a delicious flavor behind.
Another tip is to put parchment paper between the pot containing the liquid and the stove so the steam does not burn yourself when boiling the liquids.
The type of oil you use in your popcorn makes a big difference! Coconut, olive, peanut, canola oils are all great options as they are edible and do not contain any additives or ingredients that may be harmful for you.
Many people add butter to their movie-popcorn recipe but while melted fat is nice to taste, coconut, olive, or peanut oil will work just as well if you do not have access to enough milkfat to make it tl;dr (the process of adding air and popping the corn)
Remember, even though there is no real sugar in plain old white popcorn, those other oils still contribute some calories to help you enjoy this snack healthfully.
Find a good location for your popper
Having the right setting is important as you will be using hot air to create the popcorn. A kitchen or dining room area is ideal, but if there’s not one available, then an otherwise cool area of your house can work!
If possible, have a pot holder ready so that none gets burned from getting wet. If needed, use a paper towel to soak up any excess liquid before putting in the oven.
Never put freshly popped corn in the fridge as this de-oxygenates it and makes it taste funny. Try to let it sit for at least half an hour after popping before refrigerating it.
Remember, even though we said don’t butter the kernels while they are cooking, once they are cooled down, you can add some flavorings like salt, chili powder, or cinnamon.
Buy a popper
The first step in making your own popcorn is to buy some equipment! You will need a pot or pan to toast the kernels, a stove top burner that can reach very high temperatures, a source of air (an oven bag or a fork to stir it in the container), and butter or oil to coat the popped corn.
Most people use melted butter as the fat for the popcorn because it does not burn easily, but plain olive oil or coconut oil are also good alternatives. If you have no access to these things, then using salted butter is the next best option. Just make sure there is enough salt to taste while eating the popcorn.
The type of pan you use makes a big difference in how much popcorn you get per batch. A heavier pan uses more energy to heat up, which may prevent over-toasting of the kernels and wasting too many calories.
Mix the oil and kernels
When popcorn comes down to that little bag or pot of popping corn you have two main components-the oil and the popped kernel. The oil can be melted butter, coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and so on.
The best oils for baking and cooking are ones with an acid test. You can take a small amount of the oil and mix it into some water and see if it separates. If it does not then use this oil in your recipe! These include cocoa powder, cinnamon, and lemon juice, among others.
To make sweet popcorn, there is one more step needed. You will need to melt sugar onto the poppped kernels. This process is called roasting.
Roasted marshmallows are a classic example of this. Once all the moisture has been absorbed, the sugar can be mixed in with the other ingredients.
Test the oil before adding kernels
The first step in making popcorn is choosing an oil to use. There are many oils that can be used for this! Coconut, olive, grapeseed, vegetable, soy, corn, hemp — you get the idea; there are lots of different oils that can be melted down and then heated until popped.
The most important thing to know about popcorn oils is whether or not they contain high amounts of butter-flavor (or “vanilla”) sugar. This includes things like white sugar, turbinado sugar, and/or glucose. These types of sugars do not burn off when poppped, instead leaving your mouth feeling funny and gross.
Many people believe these fake sugars are healthier than just using plain old sugar, but that isn’t always the case. As we will see, some oils may actually increase your blood cholesterol levels. So, make sure to do your research and evaluate how well each type of oil does work for you.
There are also special popcorn oils that claim to help improve skin health or reduce inflammation. While it is true that some oils aid in improving dry skin, doing so could potentially cause more problems by increasing skin cell death. It is best to look into each individual oil yourself to see if it is worth it.
Stir until all the kernels are coated
The second step in making popcorn is stirring it- this process removes any leftover bits of kernel that may be stuck together. Once everything is separated, you can add additional flavorings or use it directly in a recipe!
To do this, simply pour the popped corn into a large bowl. Then using a fork, quickly stir through the pan so that it mixes completely with the other ingredients. You want to do this as soon as possible after popping because the butter will continue to melt as it meets the hot air.
After mixing, let the poppped corn sit for about one minute before serving so that it has time to cool down slightly and retain its shape.
Pour into the popper
When popping popcorn in the microwave, make sure you don’t stick your hand in there! This could hurt yourself or get burned.
The kernels of popcorn develop quite some heat as they cook, reaching temperatures up to 300°F (150°C)! As such, it is very important to ensure that when you take out the popper, there are no leftover popped bits stuck to it.
If this happens, then the butter will melt and ooze all over the place, making the next person have to deal with sticky hands. You would also risk burning someone else if they try to use the popper!
So how do we prevent this from happening? The solution is simple! Use a towel. Hold onto the side of the popper like a handle and pull it away quickly! This way, your hands are protected and you won’t need to spend money buying new clothes.
Let it cook
One of the most fundamental steps in making popcorn is letting the kernels get cooked through. Some poppers have very specific settings that must be met before popping can begin, but many do not.
Most clearly visible poppers will only indicate when popping has begun when one large ear of corn is pulled away and there are sparks coming out. This does not always work, however!
Some brands make false promises about how long it takes for all the kernels to pop, so you have to experiment with those. What works for one batch may or may not work for another depending on the size of the bowl and amount of popped popcorn.
As with any cooking process, keeping an eye on your movie and snack entertainment will help you determine when the right time is to stop. If you start hearing crinkling sounds and/or smelling burnt sugar, then turn off the popper!
After this article, my favorite way to enjoy crispy, salted popcorn is using the microwave method. It’s easy, cost-effective, and doesn’t require too much equipment.