Popcorn popped on a stovetop popcorn popper is, was, and always will be one of my favorite inexpensive treats. It can be flavored with hundreds of sweet and savory ingredients, and it can be stored for a long time without going bad. The process takes only a few minutes. In all honesty, what else could you possibly want from a snack? And if you’ve never tried popcorn prepared without a microwave, you better hold on tight. Popcorn made on a stovetop popcorn popper is an entirely different animal! The kernels are fluffier, have a better texture, and have a stronger corn flavor than before. When you switch to cooking on a cooktop, you won’t ever look back.
What Makes Popcorn Pop?
To better grasp how to create popcorn using a stovetop, it is helpful to first understand what causes popcorn to pop in the first place. There is always some residual moisture left in the middle of a kernel of corn, even after it has been dried. When the moisture is subjected to quick heating, it condenses into steam, causing an increase in pressure within the kernel, which causes it to eventually pop. Because I like my popcorn to have the best possible flavor, I wait to add the kernels to the oil until it reaches the desired temperature. This ensures that the temperature rises as quickly as possible.
What Oil Should You Use to Make Stovetop Popcorn?
When making popcorn on the stove, oil is of the utmost importance. It is imperative that you use an oil that can tolerate a very high temperature because the hot oil enables the kernels to explode into a large cloud that is fluffy and crunchy. When you use an oil with a lower smoke point, there is a greater chance that the oil may reach its flash point, which will result in the oil catching fire (which is a bad thing). To prevent this from happening, be sure to cook using an oil that is rated as “high heat” and has a smoke point of at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Vegetables, canola, corn, grapeseed, avocado, safflower, and sunflower oil are examples of oils with high smoke points. However, this list is not exhaustive.
Why Is My Popcorn Always Small and Hard?
A few factors can prevent popcorn from bursting into large, fluffy pieces when it is popped. The following is a list of the most typical explanations:
- Old kernels: If your popcorn kernels are really old, they won’t have as much moisture in the middle, and as a result, they won’t pop as big. This is especially true if you use microwave popcorn.
- If you don’t use enough oil, there won’t be enough to cook the kernels quickly and uniformly, so you’ll end up with a lot of half-pops and small pops instead of full ones.
- When kernels are added to cold oil, the pop will be less dramatic, and the pieces will be smaller since the kernels will have had more time to heat up with the oil.
How to Season Popcorn
The fact that you can put anything to popcorn is my favorite feature of this snack food. Tony Cachere’s is my favorite go-to seasoning, but I enjoy using plain salt and freshly cracked pepper. A sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, some sriracha, truffle oil, nutritional yeast, or garlic herb seasoning are all excellent additions to the dish. Oh, and butter, of course. OMG, butter.
And if you want your popcorn sweet, try it with butter, sugar, and cinnamon.
Please let me know in the comments below what your go-to topping is for popcorn, and feel free to share it with the rest of us as well!
How to Make Stovetop Popcorn for One
The following recipe yields approximately 8 cups, but you can easily reduce the amount to serve just one person by reducing the batch size to between 2 and 4 cups. My typical proportions are one tablespoon of oil and two tablespoons of corn kernels, and I make sure to use a saucepan that isn’t very large.
Learn more: Top 10 Baking Improvement Tips