Foolproof method for stovetop popcorn

After trying every single method I could find, I declare this to be the easiest and most consistent method for me. Very few unpopped or half-popped kernels. Hope it helps someone who’s struggled with stove top popcorn like I have. You can reduce the oil, too.

That’s pretty much Michael Ruhlman’s method except for all the intense stirring and shaking, and the mess. It has worked well for me.

What other methods are there?

I have a wok-shaped nonstick skillet that is basically useless except for making popcorn. The sloped sides keep all the unpopped kernels down in the oil and the heat stays concentrated on the bottom, while the deep pan accommodates a good volume of popped corn. I cover it with a splatter screen to allow steam to escape while keeping the popcorn (and most of the oil mess) contained.

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Most people put three kernels in the cold oil, wait for them to pop, add the rest and let it pop without shaking the pan. This method is all kernels in hot oil, stir until they start to pop and move the pot around to get fewer duds. It makes a difference.


I do exactly what you described except that I do shake the pan. Is there a reason the method in the OP would work better than mine?

Theoretically, the kernels heat up more evenly because you are stirring them as they heat up. That makes them pop closer together in time and you get fewer duds. In my personal experience, it works.

I see, and thanks for the info. I’ll give it a try next time I make popcorn.

I’m with you, smallh. 3 kernels in cold oil till they pop, dump in the rest of the corn, shake on occasion, leave the lid slightly ajar to let steam escape. Been doing it that way forever.

Long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, 12-year-old small h astounded the kids she was babysitting for by making popcorn in a pot on the stove. They’d never seen such miracles, having been exposed only to Jiffy Pop & air poppers. There was no microwave popcorn then. That’s how long ago it was.

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Yes, two things in this method make the difference for me. The stirring, as you mentioned, but also the high heat. I do have to occasionally shake the pan like with the other methods. But this way I truly get all the kernels popped within a minute with very few unpopped. The violence with which the kernels pop is very reassuring – it’s the number one indicator of a “good pop” in my opinion. For me, it works better than the methods of throwing in three kernels and waiting. There’s also at least two schools of thought on the waiting method, cold oil start vs hot oil start, plus different sources recommend different heat settings. Tried every variation I came across.

I did the same thing before. Purchased two of these woks on sale. It worked very well for the reasons you described. We make popcorn so often, however, that the non-stick coating started peeling off within a couple months. I have tried in a regular carbon steel wok and in a cast iron wok but the popcorn that’s touching the wok gets burned.

Bummer! We don’t make popcorn all that frequently so my pan is still in good shape after many years of use. I can see how a carbon steel or cast iron wok would created burned spots.

Yes. Why anyone would buy a specialty popcorn popper is beyond me.

I’ll note that, once the kernels are coated with oil, there is really no need to stir. And if you want them all to go off like a string of firecrackers, use a thick copper pan (This is actually a great way to “season” a tin-lined copper saucepan).

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Depends on the pot, I think. I never use my best pots for popcorn, and I need to stir. If I just coat in oil and let them sit, it doesn’t come out right. I’ve even tried precoating in oil and then dumping in a preheated pot.

Sure, grossly uneven pan/hob marriages will require the kind of frenetic stirring and shaking shown in the YouTube vid. If you’re really into popcorn, get a thick, disk-based pan sized to your largest hob.

Lol! Definitely on the same page!

I think the biggest factor is to use reasonably fresh kernels.

As we know, the popping is produced by the moisture in the kernels being converted to steam and violently exploding he kernel as it seeks to escape its enclosure.

If your bag of kernels have been on the shelf a while, they will have dried out even further and you’ll wind up with lots of “duds”.

I love popcorn and rarely have that problem, but I have read that you can bring back older popcorn by giving it a good soaking and then allowing them to dry, (on the outside anyway).

I’ve never done it, but might be worth trying if that’s the problem.

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Back before I married you know who, I had a special pot for cooking/burning popcorn. I’d cook most of the popcorn, pour it off and proceed to burn the rest. I love burnt popcorn with melted butter.

When I was in Junior High I worked in a snack bar at a drive-in theatre. We ate only the freshest right out of the popper. The early arrivals often got last nights popcorn, ironic that these were the same people that would bitch at fifteen year old kids about prices as if we had anything to do with it.

Some sample prices, popcorn 25 cents a box, large drink 50 cents, and some really good hot peanut 15 cents a bag.

I would hate to have to clean up the stove after that display of wrong pot size for 1 cup of corn

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