If you’re in the mood to eat a few hundred pieces of something, there are few options better than popcorn. It’s light, it’s tasty, and unless you decide to drench it with a few sticks of melted butter (let’s be real: we’re all done this), it’s a relatively healthy one too. Since movie nights now take place in the comfort of our own homes (god bless whoever invented Netflix), it’s high time that you learn how to make yourself a big, buttery bowl of properly popped popcorn.
In your average supermarket, you’ll likely find two different types of popcorn kernels: white, and yellow. White popcorn pops into kernels that are small, tender, and slightly sweet — perfect if you’re a fan of plain or lightly salted popcorn. If what you desire is the fat, puffy movie theater-style popcorn, yellow is the way to go. With its ample surface area, yellow popcorn kernels are ideal for coating in spices, drizzling in caramel, or tossing in butter.
How to Make Popcorn With a Hot Air Popper
Hot air popcorn poppers are a single task appliance, making it a likely non-starter to those with limited storage space in their kitchen. It’s by no means essential for making popcorn, but, if you’re trying to follow a more popcorn-heavy diet, having an easy-to-use air popper on your counter may influence your eating habits. All you need to do is pour in some kernels, turn the popper on, and in a few minutes you’ll have hot, fresh popcorn with nothing to clean up.
How to Make Popcorn in the Microwave
If you’re not looking to lead a popcorn-heavy lifestyle but are enticed by the idea of having nothing to clean up, turn to the microwave. Homemade microwave popcorn is cheaper and healthier than the store bought packets, and all you need to make it is a standard sized brown paper lunch bag. Mix ½ cup of popcorn kernels with a drop of oil to fully coat, then sprinkle with salt and, perhaps, some spices. Fold the top over twice, secure with a small piece of tape, then place folded side-down on a microwave-safe plate. Give it a little shake until the kernels go flat, then microwave in one-minute increments until there is more than two second between pops.
How to Make Popcorn on the Stove
If you’d like to make a larger batch of popcorn, or if you want to cook your kernels in a flavored oil, then you’ll need a large, heavy-bottomed pan with a lid. It can be a high-walled saucepan or a wide sauté pan — as long as it has a tight-fitting lid, you’re good. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add two popcorn kernels, close the lid, and cook over medium-high heat, shaking the pan occasionally. When the kernels pop, add the remaining kernels cook, holding the lid slightly ajar, and gently shake the pan back and forth.
If, for some reason, the pot begins to overflow with popcorn (always check the directions on the bag first!), open the lid and start scooping popcorn into your comically oversized bowl.
Once the popping slows down, turn off the heat and pour about three cups of popcorn into the bowl; you want to work in stages, so you can ensure an even coating of toppings. Drizzle with melted butter or oil, add spices or grated cheese, lightly toss, and then repeat with another few cups until the pot is empty.
How to Make Popcorn Even Better
When it comes to toppings, the only limit is your imagination. If you’re not much for improvisation, start by drizzling your popcorn with butter or oil, then add a few tablespoons of a pre-made spice blend (like curry powder) or salad dressing mix (ranch dressing for life). Firm grated cheeses, like Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, go great with olive oil and fresh herbs. Try infusing your cooking oil with a little sautéed garlic or chilis. No one can stop you from fulfilling your deepest popcorn desires.