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HELP: how to make popcorn on the stovetop

I don't have a microwave and hate microwave popcorn anyways, it's too salty and fake buttery. And I don't want to buy an air popper either since I live in an apartment the size of a shoebox and can't give up space to an appliance that only has one function. So I've been making my popcorn on the stovetop in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. My method is the following: Heat up a tbl. or so of oil in the pan, add a kernel to the pan, when it pops, add a 1/4 cup of kernels, cover and wait for the popping to commence. However, I end up shaking the pan around a lot since I don't want it burn, which seems to lower the heat of the pan, making it take longer to pop the kernels. Additionally, my popcorn ends up being really small, like the kernels didn't pop to their full potential. What am I doing wrong, or is it the cheap Kroger popcorn kernels that I'm using?

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  1. It is the cheap Kroger kernels. They are probably old(er) not much moisture in them to help them really puff when they pop. Search out some good quality popping corn, Black Jewel is a good one and use it. There will be a big difference. The only way I knew to pop corn for many years was in a sauce pan. Air poppers have only been around since the early 80's. You are doing it right, just get yourself some better corn.

    3 Replies
      1. re: Candy

        Old popcorn will most likely be drier, cheap or not. One trick is putting the kernels in a jar with a tight fitting lid and adding a little water...about 1 T per quart jar of kernels...shake well, add lid and let sit 3-4 days, minimum. Store jar in refer.

        1. re: OldDog

          The method I read of and use is to pour water into the jar of old kernels, then pour it right back out and screw on the lid. Never had to keep it in the fridge that way. It restores most of the kernels, so very little "poopcorn".

          If you are using seasonings but no butter or oil to top the popped corn, try spritzing hot popcorn with VERY little HOT water from a spray bottle, then immediately shaking it up and adding the dry seasonings, which will stick better to the corn.

      2. I pop corn on the stovetop too and I learned to coat the bottom of the pan with oil, drop in 3 kernels (don't know why, but it was always 3) and cover with the lid. You want high heat here. When they pop, then toss in about 1/2 cup popcorn and shake pan vigorously until the popping dies down. You don't want to leave it on until you hear nothing, because then it's sure to be burnt. Usually a few kernels pop as I'm pouring it into a paper bag, to remove the excess oil and to nicely distribute the salt and pepper (and sometimes wacky things like taco seasoning or garlic powder and cayenne pepper.) Just fold over the top and shake away your seasonings, pour into a bowl, get on the couch and press PLAY.

        1. My problem was not putting enough oil. Now I don't just coat the bottom with oil, I put more. Wish I could tell you how much but it's just by sight now.

          I put all the popcorn in at the beginning. Then AS SOON AS I hear one kernel pop, I remove it from heat and wait 30 seconds or so. Then put it back on the heat, swirl it around a bit until it starts popping, and by then it usually RAPIDLY pops, it's finished too quickly for anything to burn.

          And if you can get your hands on a West Bend Stir Crazy Popper, they work very nicely...not sure if they make/sell them anymore...it's not an air popper, you add oil.

          I've used cheap popcorn and it works okay, the problem for me was too little oil. If the popcorn comes in a plastic bag, you need to store it in a tight dry glass jar after the bag has been opened.

          10 Replies
          1. re: jackattack

            http://cgi.ebay.com/WESTBEND-STIR-CRA...

            There's a couple for sale on ebay. search for westbend and west bend

            1. re: jackattack

              They do still make the Stir Crazy, you can find them at Target or Wal-Mart. I think they cost around $35. My vote goes to the Whirley-Pop stovetop popper. They go for around $20, but can often be found at thrift stores (if you go this route, the Theater II stovetop popper is identical) for a fraction of the price.

              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                Yes. At outlet-type places, you can get them for $10 or less.

                1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                  I have a Whirley-Pop and the popcorn always comes out chewy instead of crunchy and fluffy. Can you help? Do you know what I'm doing wrong? I originally thought it was the popcorn I was using (that maybe it got too old), but I bought new kernels and it still came out chewy! HELP!

                  1. re: Torrancetiger

                    adjust temperature. probably too hot.

                      1. re: Torrancetiger

                        I'll bet the heat is a factor too, because the kernels are popping too fast. But more than that, you're generating a lot of steam in the pot, and faster if it's too hot. Steam is an enemy of popcorn. As soon as you can while popping, without popping kernels flying out everywhere, lift the lid a bit and let steam out, even as the corn finishes popping. Some steam escapes through spaces in the lid already, but not enough. So, between heat and steam, your popcorn should do fine if both are controlled. I have a posting here somewhere of how I change the temperature during popping, to help control heat -- and get great popcorn.

                        1. re: finessed

                          We have always stuck a toothpick under the side of the lid!

                    1. re: Torrancetiger

                      I think I descovered today that heating it at lower heat helps to get rid of the chewiness. Instead of 5 or 6 on my 1-6 heat setting on the gas burners, I set it to 4 for the entire heat cycle. My popcorn was almost perfect.

                      1. re: redlover

                        Actually my settings are 1-6 with a hi and lo setting on either end. Also I think I might try it on 3 until it starts to pop and then turn to 4. Also I'll follow other posters advice about allowing some steam to escape.

                2. I think it's the kernels too. Cheap kernels are OK, but old kernels are not. Keep them in an airtight jar. Your technique sounds OK.

                  1. You must shake the pan...lid on as you go. Don't skimp on the amount of oil either. Not just a pan coating...a little depth.

                    Hottish pan...add oil and corn...shake rattle and roll!

                    white popcorn produces small almost hull free pieces.

                    yellow... big pieces thus more hull.