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How Do You Make Popcorn?

I do like popcorn. The yellow, large kernel variety. I have prepared it many ways over the years and thought I had finally settled on a way that suits me. I have been using a Presto microwave popper with Orville's name on it. I like it because it uses no oil (more butter) and makes virtually no noise since it is used in the microwave (I don't wake my wife at night).

But now I have to find another way. I much prefer the no oil method so I can use more butter. However, the bean counters at Presto have dumbed down the "power cups", those white discs, so much that the thing is virtually useless. If someone made after market "power cups" that actually worked, I'd buy them. Not long ago you could count on using one disc for three batches. Now you need two discs and they last for one batch. It is now a worthless piece of junk. Thanks bean counters. Once again you have reached the pinnacle of the peter principle. I'm open to all thoughts on how to solve this problem. I need my popcorn.

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  1. Quick and easy, I buy microwave bags. Otherwise, stovetop with a mix of butter and oil and sea salt.

    If I don't want to make any noise, I will get pre-made carmel corn.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ocshooter

      I certainly thought of that but I don't like all the chemical ingredients in the stuff.

      1. re: Enigma3

        Put kernels In paper bag in microwave.

        1. re: melpy

          I have recently bought a box of the Natural Orvil Redenbacher popcorn and was pleasantly surprised. It doesn't create that horrid chemical smell/taste. After over a decade of only popping my own in a pot with coconut oil... I now try and keep a box of it in the house.

          I use it to make the BEST caramel popcorn ever... (Dam Good recipe)

          1. re: melpy

            I agree with melpy...place 2 or 3 TBSP yellow popping corn into paper lunch bag...fold top closed leaving room for popped corn...microwave til almost all done popping...carefully empty into bowl and put desired toppings on. I keep using the same bag, too. I have never had any popcorn pop out of the bag; this is the easiest way to have popcorn, it seems to me.

      2. I just use a large soup pot... a little coconut oil in the bottom of the pan and sprinkle in some kernels. I've never made it any other way and it's the way my parents made it for us growing up. Dump it in a large paper grocery bag and cover w/ salt and butter and shake!

        1. The only way I can think to go no-oil so you can add more butter is to buy a hot-air popper.

          1. I use an air popper so i can add fat of choice later. DH can have his butter and salt, I have olive oil, salt and crushed red pepper. It is a little loud, but fast. Clean up is a snap.

            1. A brown paper bag (lunch sack size) in the microwave. No butter or salt added for the popping process. Crease the top of the bag well a few times so it doesn't burst open.

              I use 1/4 to 1/3 c. measure of Orville R. popcorn.

              This method results in more dead kernals after popping then ... say ... making on the stove top in a dedicated pan (my second favorite method), but it's quick and easy, and you can re-use the bag.

              Drizzle with oil/butter and salts of choice after popping.

              3 Replies
              1. re: MunchkinRedux

                Second the brown bag method... You can use lots of different seasonings / toppings - yum!

                1. re: MunchkinRedux

                  Haha, yes, I have a dedicated popcorn pan as well. That thing is older than I am (my mom got it in her Revere cookware set when she was married) and makes perfect corn every time. Other than that, I go for the brown bag in microwave too. I can't believe the money the food companies made with those awful microwave popcorn bags. Most people didn't realize they could do the same thing at home for pennies on the dollar.

                  1. re: MunchkinRedux

                    Now this I will try. The "power cups" that come with the popper have rings on them which are supposed to concentrate the microwave oven's power. Like the material inside the box on a pot pie which will brown the top of the pie. That material is what the bean counters have reduced severely. If I could find some material like that and a brown bag I'd have it.

                  2. I either do it on the stove with peanut, corn, or coconut oil....Or use this:


                    It's a glass microwave popcorn popper and it makes really crisp popcorn.

                    I do NOT buy nasty microwave popcorn from the store...gross. I would never pop my corn in any popper that has plastic parts, either.

                    Oh, and I'm a white popcorn person - I find the crisp texture to be more appealing than the chewiness of yellow.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sandylc

                      So you're a white corn lover. Good for you, but I am not. Interesting, I live in upstate New York in Mennonite country with many mennonite stores. They love the white corn so much that in many of their stores you cannot buy yellow popcorn. But thanks for your reply.

                      1. re: Enigma3

                        White or yellow, the glass microwave popper is a treasure!

                    2. An air popper will make 1/2 cup unpopped kernels (around 6 cups popped, I think?) in like 3 minutes and is really easy to clean up, as someone else said...I think the popper itself was $15-20 on Amazon. If you're worried about noise, maybe make a batch when everyone is awake and just keep it in an air-tight container until you want to eat it? Don't top it with butter or oil till you're ready to eat or it could get soggy.
                      I have also done the stovetop method with great success, but it does take a little longer and requires cleanup so the air popper is usually my go-to for popcorn these days. But, you can do homemade kettle corn using the stovetop method. :)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Maggiethecat

                        Yea I have considered a hot air popper. I have found that different brands of popcorn react quite differently in a hot air popper. And they are noisy. But once you find a brand of popcorn that pops good, the thing works fine.

                      2. I've had poor results with air-poppers, so I just use a pot on the stove with a tablespoon of oil - however I'm not really that into butter, just a little salt and chilli powder, and I think we possibly don't get the same type of corn that you're describing in the UK - just plain old white popcorn once popped. I make it as a work snack, do a pot at the start of the week, season it, let it cool and then put it in zip-lock bags. Haven't had an issue yet of it tasting stale or feeling chewy, but I admit it's not quite the same as fresh out of the pot.

                        1. Clarified butter is your friend here. I cook mine on the stove, in a pot, using clarified butter as the cooking fat. Unlike regular butter, the clarified can stand up to the heat without scorching. I much prefer this to cooking without fat and adding butter later, as the butter is spread thinly but evenly over the popcorn. Plus the salt sticks better when the popcorn is cooked in fat.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: MelMM

                            This is a very good idea! Next time I make it I will try this method. I like the taste of clarified butter. Much better for the body and buttery taste. Interesting that Aruvedics cook with clarified butter all the time but use no butter. I always keep a jar of ghee in the fridge so it will be easy.

                          2. I use peanut oil, on the stove, when hot enough for three kernels to pop, pull it off the heat and add the rest of the kernels, count to 10, back on the heat. We get very few old maids this way. Sometimes I'll put the salt in the oil to start, sometimes we add that and butter and garlic powder. I can't use coconut oil, very allergic to it, and I refuse to use the microwave brands.

                            1. I can vouch for the brown paper bag method.
                              My MIL pops her popcorn the the microwave using a small brown bag (sack lunch size).
                              I estimate she uses about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of kernels.

                              1. I use a "Whirley-pop". And ghee then I add more butter too :). I used to use an air popper but found too many unpopped kernels.


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: CanadaGirl

                                  I also use the whirly pop! Keep meaning to try the brown bag method though.

                                2. I used microwave but began to find the smell disgusting. Now I just pop it the old fashioned way in a large skillet with whatever oil is handy. Once done my husband gets half with just salt while I melt butter for mine. Usually only make it when I'm settling down to watch a movie by myself--especially fun on a hot summer afternoon when I go into the TV room, turn the air conditioning on high and settle in for a matinee.

                                    1. Why do you need oil if you cook it on a stovetop? I've made it without any oil at all and it seems to turn out the same? Just a big cast iron skillet with a lid, put it on medium low, add popcorn, pop.

                                      1. If you like your Presto, then I'm sure you'd like the Nordic Ware MW popper --


                                        It's Teflon-, BPA, and Melamine-free, and doesn't require power cups or anything else. Just put in the popcorn (with or without oil), add lid, and MW about 3 minutes. Great popcorn every time!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: bakergal

                                          Presto hot air popper here-dating back from 17 years ago, during my first pregnancy, when the smell of my coworkers microwave popcorn from the break room had me crawling on the floor nauseated. Still can't stand the smell, banned mw popcorn from the house, & walk REALLY fast into Walmart & Target, where they have those things up front. But the hot air popper is awesome-I prefer white popcorn, too...

                                        2. I use a big wok-shaped skillet on the stove with bacon grease. If I am feeling decadent, I add browned butter afterwards, but I find that the bacon grease is usually flavorful enough (even if I don't use very much) that I don't need additional butter. I also keep a container of Diamond extra-fine salt in the house specifically for popcorn - it sticks to the popcorn WAY better than regular salt. I add some to the fat and unpopped kernels before cooking, then taste and adjust after it's done. I've found this is the best way to ensure even distribution of both salt and fat!

                                          1. You're all such pros!

                                            My folks used an (ancient) air popper and so did me and the man. It was his so he kept it when we split, but you all have inspired me to try stovetop popping. I'm very interested in this even distribution of fat and salt, despite the cleanup. I'll have to pick up a bag of kernels today!

                                            For what it's worth, I also didn't know there was any kind of popcorn other than white. The more you know..

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: megjp

                                              I don't find the cleanup to be bad at all. I use a splatter screen to keep the popcorn in but let the steam out (steam can toughen the kernels), but a regular lid works fine too, in which case there isn't any mess at all (other than a single pot and lid to wash). If you eat the popcorn straight from the pot, the residual heat keeps it warm, too (just be careful not to burn your hands/arms on the edges of the pan).

                                              1. re: biondanonima

                                                I'm getting really zen about doing dishes, anyway, after not having to do them for years (I cooked, he cleaned; easy peasy, then we broke up and OMG I make a ton of dishes). I'm not too concerned.. and I have a huge wire mesh strainer that doubles as a moderately successful splatter screen.

                                                I got through shopping for clothes too late to buy kernels today, but this is totally on the list for tomorrow. I have a long weekend because I'm using the last of my 2011 vacation, so I'll have ample opportunity soon.. I'm honestly excited.

                                            2. I recently read (I think it was someplace here on CHOW) about using a wok for popcorn. What a great idea!!! The gently sloped sides channel un-popped kernels down into the heat, and the hi domed wok cover allows popped kernels to migrate upwards. Although I own a couple of different size and type woks, and I use them often, I've always used a fairly heavy-duty soup pot. Now I feel like a moron for not having thought for myself to use a wok.

                                              Since I'm using the wok, I use peanut oil out of habit. But I also add a shot of toasted sesame oil to the peanut oil. Toasted sesame (whether it be the seeds or the oil) is one of my favorite flavors / aromas in general. Adding a hit of toasted sesame oil to the popping oil ends up infusing the popcorn with the sesame flavor, which compliments the distinct toasted corn flavor very nicely. For popcorn I prefer this toasted sesame flavor much more than the 'traditional" butter flavor (even if it's real butter).

                                              I finish the popcorn with some salt, garlic powder and a hit of cayenne powder. If some of you think that this treatment for popcorn is strange, then I think you are going to be really shocked when you discover how much of the world dresses its popcorn with curry flavor.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Habanero

                                                The wok is a good idea. I make stovetop popcorn in a stainless steel washbasin for the same reason; the small flat bottom area causes popping kernels to jump up out of the oil and avoid getting soggy. The fat is a mixture of butter and corn oil and the finished corn gets tossed with garlic powder and table salt - the fine grains stick better than kosher salt.

                                                1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                  I agree with you about using fine table salt instead of the the kosher salt. Most of us "foodies" are used to using kosher salt out of habit. But in this case you are absolutely right: the finer grain of table salt adheres to the popcorn much better than kosher salt. I've often wondered if there was any salt that was even finer than table salt. Is there any such thing as a powdered salt that might be analogous to powdered confectioner's sugar? I think something like that might be even better still for popcorn. Does anybody know of any sort of powdered salt product? Let us know.

                                                  1. re: Habanero

                                                    Pickling salt (green box) is finer and purer. I use it now instead of table salt. Table salt actually seems kind of coarse now to me.

                                                    1. re: Becca Porter

                                                      That's exactly the kind of "out-of-the-box" answer I was looking for. Thanks Becca!

                                                    2. re: Habanero

                                                      I use Diamond Crystal salt for popcorn - it comes in a cylindrical can, and says "the finer salt" right on the container. It's very powdery and sticks exceptionally well to fried foods and popcorn.

                                                  2. re: Habanero

                                                    The wok idea was probably from me, as I've championed it here. Topped with a splatter screen over a paper towel, with just enough room for water vapor to escape

                                                    And Diamond table salt is the salt of choice; it's finer than Morton's or others. (And Diamond kosher is the gold standard for kosher, just not for this purpose.)

                                                  3. Stovetop, in olive oil, with salt, black pepper, dried dill, and nutritional yeast- it's fantastic!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: frannieface77

                                                      I'm with Frannieface, olive oil on the stovetop. I pop it in a wok where I can use less oil and the heat is concentrated. Once it has stopped popping, I slide 1 T of butter, sliced into 4 parts into 4 quadrants of the wok to get a slight browned butter flavor. I season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Yummy.

                                                    2. Hot air popper works best for me; favorite topping is butter, fresh parm, black pepper & sea salt.

                                                      1. Ditto on the hot air popper. I recently tried topping it with a mixture of melted butter with a few drops of truffle oil, and grated parmesan. Yum! Very umami :)