How to Make Popcorn

Sometimes one just has to have popcorn for supper — or breakfast or lunch, but for me it’s always supper.

Last night was the night, so here’s how I make popcorn.

My method does not involve prepackaged popcorn or the microwave. I’ve got nothing against that method, not least because popcorn thus produced is a staple of my Sunday night writers’ group and I eat more than my share of it.

A housemate from my D.C. days, Beverly by name, taught me how to make popcorn the old-fashioned way. Beverly could do anything, like fix things and play the mandolin. I’m still kneading bread at a little table she rescued from the alley behind our group house and stabilized with dowels between each pair of legs. She was also responsible for the A LESBIAN WAS HERE sticker still stuck on the table’s little drawer, and the I’D RATHER BE READING ADRIENNE RICH sticker on one of my old file cabinets.

But I digress.

First, assemble equipment and ingredients. Once the popcorn starts popping, you don’t want to be hunting for them.

  • pot with tight-fitting lid
  • popcorn
  • vegetable oil
  • butter
  • toppings of your choice (my perennial faves are nutritional yeast and fresh-ground pepper, but grated Parmesan is also excellent)
  • big bowl
  • knife

I use an old 2-quart Revereware saucepan. It makes just enough for one person with a dog who loves popcorn.

Pour into pot just enough oil to not quite cover the bottom. Into oil drop 3 popcorn kernels. (This is not a magic number. You can drop 2, 4, or 5 kernels into the oil, but whatever you do remember how many you put in.)

Cover pot and turn up heat. You want hot but not scorching hot. Do not for any reason leave the pot unattended. Pretty soon you will hear pop, pop, pop. One pop for each kernel you dropped into the pot. See why remembering the number is important?

Remove the lid — see the nice fluffy popped kernels? — and pour in just enough popcorn to not quite cover the bottom of the pot one kernel deep. Replace the lid.

Don’t go anywhere. I keep one hand on the handle and give the pot an occasional jiggle to keep the kernels from getting burned. Once the corn starts popping in earnest, keep jiggling the pot. Steady is good. Frantic isn’t necessary.

Pop pop pop pop pop pop . . .

Once the popping slows way down, give the pot a few jiggles to make sure all the unpopped kernels get their chance at the bottom.

Pour about 2/3 of the popped corn into the bowl and sprinkle with toppings of your choice. Pour in the rest of the popped corn, sprinkle with a little more topping, and stir gently with knife to distribute toppings.

Into the hot pot put about a tablespoon of butter and put pot back on stove. You can turn the heat way down or even off if the burner is electric: the pot alone may be hot enough to melt the butter.

Drizzle melted butter over the popcorn and mix gently with knife.

By the time I get the bowl to my chair, Trav has taken up sphinx position close to my feet. I munch some popcorn, toss him a handful, munch some more popcorn, toss him another handful, and repeat till popcorn is gone. Then he gets to lick the bowl clean.

Tools of the popcorn popper’s trade. Not in picture: knife and 2-quart pot.

 

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About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has two blogs going on WordPress. "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories" is about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard. "Write Through It" is about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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13 Responses to How to Make Popcorn

  1. Ned Schrems says:

    I am the popcorn king. My family used to have an old gas stove down the basement just because it was better for making popcorn in a long-handled popper. It wasn’t screen, though. The bowl part was solid; the sliding top had some holes in it to let the steam out. In my old age, I have discovered that a Stir Crazy is much more efficient than a plain pot. Unfortunately they quit making an 8 qt version several years ago (Only the top is different, but plastic doesn’t last forever) so we have to make do by making two six quart batches. Anyway, the tool is not nearly as important as the ingredients. Not just any “vegetable oil” will do. Canola oil sucks in comparison to peanut oil. Peanut is much lighter, less greasy, and gives no full feeling so you can eat much more popcorn. Corn oil is good now and then if you like a really intense corn taste. It is more filling, though, but still far superior to canola. Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess, so 3/8 lb — a stick and a half — of butter is about right for our 12qt Saturday night. No, we don’t eat quite all of it in one sitting. There is a bit left for small snacks on a couple of evenings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m impressed by y’all who make popcorn in 8-qt pots. Maybe the secret is using peanut oil so you can eat more popcorn? I’ve got to try it. For sure Travvy will like it if I make more than I can eat because he’ll get the excess.

      Like

  2. Popcorn remains a special treat for me, mostly linked to movies. So I buy it and don’t plan to make some anytime soon. If I’m home and crave some popcorn I buy the kind you can pop in the microwave. I bet my kids would love your recipe, though. Any hands on experience is still fun for them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Charles Quimby says:

    I use this method except for one difference. My pan is a well-seasoned, 8-quart stockpot; I put more than enough kernels to cover the bottom, and then pour off the excess when the popped corn reaches the top!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When my mother, Dionis Coffin (later Riggs) was a little girl, she attended school at the Dukes County Academy, now Town Hall. She would walk home at noon for dinner, the main meal of the day, then back to school. Supper was often popcorn and milk. Here’s her recipe: A fire in the fireplace, a screened container at the end of a stick, a handful of kernels in the container. Shake gently and steadily over the hot coals, not the flames, until fully popped. Pour in a glass, fill the glass with milk, and there’s supper, eaten in front of the fire, her dog Spark next to her.

    Liked by 1 person

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