Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stovetop Popcorn Tutorial

Here is an excerpt from an old post I wrote back in the fall of '09 about popping popcorn. I never got around to publishing it, but, as part of the (never ending) twelve days of recipes, I wanted to finally get it up.

I feel sad for people who eat only microwave popcorn. I used to be such a person. Then, last year when we were borrowing everything for our house, we were given a microwave that won't pop microwave popcorn. Seriously, it won't. We tried everything. As you can imagine, it doesn't do anything very well. The person who gave it to us gave it to us on the condition that we wouldn't give it back to him when we were finished with it! Anyway, I may not have told y'all before, but I am a huge fan of popcorn. I could eat it daily. Our favorite fall lunch is apples, cheese, and popcorn. We had just been to Eckert's to pick apples last fall when we moved in. We had to figure something out! So over the past year, I have become a pro at buying the cheap-o bag of popcorn from the bottom shelf at the grocery store and popping it over the stove. I thought I'd share a couple of helpful hints in case you'd like to try making it yourself. Not only do you save money, it really does taste better.

First of all, the popcorn bag should tell you what to do. But there are a few pitfalls to avoid that the popcorn bag doesn't warn you about. When I make popcorn, I used my four quart stock pot. This is a good quantity of popcorn for the family to share (but you may need to make a second batch if people are hungry!). It also has two handles which makes for easy shaking. The depth and width are a nice proportion too. Whatever you choose, you will want to be sure it has a lid. Okay, so on to actually making the popcorn. I hope these instructions will be helpful regardless of your pan size. First of all, do not skimp on the oil. Homemade popcorn has a tendency to be very chewy, and the reason is oil skimping. Don't drown your kernels in oil, but be sure to cover the bottom of the pan with an actual depth of oil. We are not coating it to bake a cake (gross, who would use oil for that?!), we are actually cooking the popcorn in the oil. But we are also not deep frying tater tots today. So, more than a coating, but not so much oil that the kernels will be completely immersed. Heat the oil somewhere between medium and medium high. If you get the oil too hot, the kernels will pop too fast and you will get tiny, hard pieces. If you do not get it hot enough, they won't pop. Start with just a few kernels in the pan with the lid on to keep the heat in, and when those pop, add enough popcorn to just cover the bottom of the pan with maybe just a little bit of overlap. If you add too many, you will have an oil skimping situation. If you add too few, you'll be sorry because you'll want more popcorn. Trust me. Once the kernels are in the pan, you want to do the shaking the pan over the heat thing. This coats the kernels in oil and keeps the bottom popcorn from scorching once the popping begins. I usually leave the lid a little off so there is a small hole for steam to escape through. I am not sure how necessary this is, but it works for me. Once the pan is pretty full and the popping slows, I remove it from the heat completely to let if finish popping off heat. Then I add salt and melted butter if I wish. I usually pour the popcorn in the bowl and put the butter in the hot pan to melt- you know, just to avoid having something else to wash. The residual heat in the pan is enough to melt the butter pretty rapidly, so there is no need to use the stove anymore. It will even brown the butter if you don't pay attention.

So, there it is- a lot of details, and perhaps not a proper recipe, but definitely something you should try. If you become a fan, let me know and I'll pick you up a bag of yummy, locally grown, multicolored popping kernels at the Farmer's Market when it starts back this spring. It's really cool to see how the different colors have varying textures and flavors. George thinks it's funny that a person can get so excited about popcorn, but I have always thought it was funny how excited he gets over ice cream. To each his own, right? Fried corn- hot tortilla chips at a Mexican restaurant, cornmeal pancakes fresh off the griddle, or homemade popcorn with a sprinkling of salt and a drizzle of butter- Mmmmm, that's about as good as it gets. Although, I did have corn flavored ice cream at Entree once, and that was pretty delicious- maybe where George's and Abby's tastes collide into a perfect food? Nope, I'd still go with stovetop popped corn and an ice cold Coca Cola. Yum!


Rebecca Brown said...

We too love stovetop popcorn, but your tips address some of our issues in making it. And you've inspired my lunch today--popcorn and an ice cold REAL Coke! Thanks, Abby!

Sarah said...

That's our favorite afternoon snack! We don't ever do microwave popcorn anymore :). I don't use butter, just a generous sprinkling of salt, but oh so good! Now that we make it on the stove-top each time it's really not any more labor intensive to me than microwave popcorn. Sometimes I do it in the electric griddle that has a clear lid since big girl likes to watch it pop. Science and a snack!

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