CAUTION – This is like cooking anything else on the stove with hot oil; once the stove is turned on, you
should not leave the stove or get distracted, especially by your cell phone. If the popper is too hot, the oil could burn in a most spectacular way. If you turn up the flame too high (if
you cook with flame), you can get burned. So turn off the phone, ignore all distractions, and dedicate about 5 minutes of your time to the perfect pop.
The safe approach to popping:
- Add oil – about 2 tablespoons will do.
- Add popcorn – about ½ cup will make a full popper.
- Add heat - about medium-high for most stoves.
- Stir continuously - until popping stops. You can stir less at the beginning until things warm up.
- Remove from heat immediately to avoid burning.
- Pour into bowl and add melted butter and salt to taste.
That’s it! But for those of you who are serious
popcorn enthusiasts, read on...
After some discussion, revisions, and editing, and years of open debate, the following documentation was created. OK, documentation on how to pop
popcorn might seem a little (or a lot) overboard, but it is this well-developed interest in popcorn that motivated the design and construction of the latest stove-top popper. So the
instructions below not only give the basics but also provide some tips and tricks for popping more (or less – now why would you pop less?) and maybe even better popcorn.
- The secret of popping corn optimally is to rapidly bring the natural moisture
in the kernel to a boil, producing the pressure that will cause the kernel to pop open (explode). Speed is important, or the kernel will soak up oil and become soft, making the explosion less
powerful, resulting in an un-popped or partially-popped kernel.
- Place the popper on a burner that matches its base and turn the heat on medium to high. You want to keep the heat
localized to the bottom of the pan - flames coming up the sides only serve to heat up your hand! All of this depends on the type of stove and heat – gas, electric, radiant, etc.
(not inductive). If the heat is too high, the corn can burn after popping. Too low and the number of partially-popped kernels will increase, and the impatient
children will start to ask "Is it done yet?" Each stove will be a bit different so you may have to experiment on your first couple of pops.
- Collect all the ingredients and start melting the butter in a small pan or in the microwave (I’ve heard that some people
have these). Keep the large serving bowl close (you will see why in a minute or two).
- If the oil is heated too slowly, it will start to oxidize (technical term), turn brown, and taste bad, and that’s why
you don’t add it at the beginning. When the pan is hot, add the oil to the popper. (The real gourmets will have an optical temperature sensor to measure 350°. Really!) Our popper is
thicker and heavier than the less expensive poppers, so the pre-heat stage will take a couple of minutes. Not too hot, though, or you could end up with an oil fire. As a cautionary note,
you might start adding the oil sooner rather than later for the first several pops until you get the hang of it. Fire = bad. When the temperature is correct, a water drop placed in the
pan will bounce around, not just sit there and boil. Continue to heat the oil and when it just starts to smoke, add all the corn and close the lid. Better to add the corn a little early
than to have the oil start to decompose, or worse yet, catch fire. Again, fire = bad.5. Turn the stirrer several times to coat the kernels with the oil. The oil should
coat all of the kernels uniformly with not a lot of oil left on the bottom. The purpose of the oil is to transfer heat from the pan to the kernels, and if you have insufficient oil, not all the
kernels will be coated and you will end up with some un-popped or partially-popped kernels. If you use too much oil, the popped corn will absorb some oil, making it softer than it should be –
after all, you’re not trying to deep-fry the popcorn
- Turn the stirrer at a steady pace – faster doesn’t improve the process. The correct pace is open for debate but,
in general, slow and easy works fine. With practice, you will be able to pause to check on the butter or something. You need to continue the stirring process until it is finished popping,
but it will only take a couple of minutes. Keeping the un-popped kernels evenly heated is essential to popping all of the kernels. With reasonable attentiveness, you will be able to pop
most types of corn with no (zero) un-popped kernels.
- As the popping stops, immediately remove the popper from the heat and pour out the popped corn - to avoid burning the
corn, no delay is allowed.
- Want more? You can pop more than one popper-full at a time simply by adding more corn in step 4. As the
popper fills, turn the popper to the side to allow the lid to open and pour out the popped corn into the serving bowl. Don’t turn it too far or the un-popped kernels will come out, too.
Hold the stirrer down during this process or it might get caught up in the popped corn - this might take some practice. Continue to cook until all the corn is popped. We have found that
you can pop at least three poppers-full in one batch.
- If you would like butter, now is the time to pour it evenly over the popcorn. (You did melt it while you were popping,
didn’t you?) Anxious kids will appreciate that, as once the smell of popcorn permeates the house… well, you get the idea. Salt to taste.
Cleaning Up. The best approach we have found is to wipe the bowl
with a paper towel before it cools, or just get over it – there are other things in life more important – like eating popcorn!
Leftovers and other uses. Believe it or not, popcorn makes a good leftover. The trick is to minimize the absorption of water vapor from the air. A serving bowl with
a snap-on lid works great for a day or so. Even if you live in a humid climate, it will likely be good for a few days. Otherwise, stick it in a 200° oven for 10 minutes or so – that will
dry it back out and make it good as new. Also, popcorn makes great packing material as a more natural replacement of, uh, popcorn of the Styrofoam type.