Oh popcorn, the healthy midnight snack we never have to force ourselves to eat. This whole grain is low in calories but high in fiber and protein, while being crunchy, warm and downright delicious. But if you only snack on pre-popped or microwave popcorn (or worse, only eat popcorn at the movies because you don’t own a microwave), you’re doing it all wrong. Hear us out: Pre-popped corn tastes stale in about two seconds and the microwavable stuff is not only expensive, but is often loaded with artificial or weird ingredients. If you start with kernels, your popcorn will be crisp and fluffy every time minus the bad-for-you flavorings, and you’ll save a few bucks to boot. Here’s how to make popcorn on the stove in five easy steps.
How to Make Popcorn on the Stove
You could splurge on a stovetop popper (our food editor Katherine Gillen is obsessed with the Whirley Pop), but all you really need to create this crunchy snack is a sturdy stockpot with a lid. It’s important to use a good quality stockpot or Dutch oven (cheap pots don’t always heat evenly) that’s big enough so the kernels have room to bounce around and grow in size.
- Cooking oil: We’re partial to extra-virgin olive oil, but vegetable, canola, avocado or grapeseed oils are all great options. Melted butter works too. Use 2 tablespoons for a single-serve amount of popcorn and 3 to 4 tablespoons for a ½ cup of kernels or more.
- Popcorn kernels: If you're snacking solo, a ¼ cup of standard yellow kernels should be more than enough to hold you over (it’ll make about 7 to 8 cups of popcorn). For four or more people, start with a ½ cup of kernels. Once you get the hang of it, experiment with different kinds. Traditional yellow kernels are inexpensive, but we’re crushing on red kernels for their signature crunchiness, mushroom kernels for their large size (which makes them ideal for drizzling in chocolate or caramel, BTW) and white kernels due to their tenderness.
Step 1: Place the pot on the stove. Add your cooking oil and set the heat to medium. Add the kernels to the pot and stir to coat them evenly in oil.
Step 2: Once you hear the kernels sizzle, cover the pot. Raise the heat to medium-high.
Step 3: Wait by the stove while the popcorn pops, about two minutes. Pick up the pot with the lid closed and shake to move the kernels around every so often in order to keep them from burning. Be sure to lower the heat if you see any wisps of smoke escaping.
Step 4: When the popping slows down (about one pop every few seconds), turn off the heat. Slightly lift the pot lid away from you to let some steam out—no one likes soggy popcorn.
Step 5: Season and enjoy. Pro tip: Toss the popcorn in melted butter or oil while it’s still hot before adding salt or dry spices. This will help the seasoning stick.
Ready to get popping? Here are a few ideas for seasoning popcorn that we love:
- Buttery Homemade Movie Popcorn
- Pizza Popcorn
- Umami Soy Sauce Popcorn
- Spicy Kettle Corn
- Taco Popcorn
- Grandma’s Caramel Corn