This method for making popcorn on the stove uses vegetable oil to make the fluffiest popcorn possible. It’s ready and delicious in just a few minutes!
When I was a kid, microwave popcorn didn’t exist. My mom would instead cook popcorn on the stove in a metal pot. I remember the sound of those pops, and I remember that after the sounds came the best popcorn ever. I decided it was time to learn how to do it.
I figured it all out, and I have to say, it really does make the best homemade popcorn, and it’s easy to do as well. No movie theater popcorn needed, we’re doing movie night at home thanks to this recipe!
Why Cook Popcorn On The Stove
Popcorn made on the stovetop is light and fluffy, and has a great flavor. I find that even without adding any butter or salt, you can taste a subtle nuttiness that you don’t get from air-popped popcorn. But, the real reason to learn how to do this is because it’s so inexpensive and convenient. This was unexpected to me, but making popcorn on the stove ends up saving you money and space.
A jar of popcorn costs fractions of what a box of microwave popcorn bags costs, and you get so many batches of popcorn out of it. Also, that jar takes up very little space in the pantry, compared to a box of bags of popcorn. And, this method doesn’t require any special equipment so you don’t have a big air popper or anything like that to deal with.
The other big reason to choose to cook popcorn like this is that you have control over the ingredients. Microwave popcorn contains various things other than just popcorn kernels, butter, and salt. Some of it is there to stop the toppings from sticking to the sides of the bag, and some of it is in there because of the way processed food is made. When you make popcorn on the stove, you don’t have any of that.
Expert Tips For Popping Corn
There are three important things to know about popping corn in a pot on the stove.
- Use a heavy-bottomed large saucepan, like Dutch-oven-sized, about 5 quarts. You need the space for the popped corn to fill. And you want it to be heavy-bottomed so it maintains good steady heat. If you don’t have a heavy-bottomed pot, don’t worry. You’ll just need to keep your pot on the heating element or closer to it while popping.
- Use an oil with a higher smoking point. Don’t try olive oil or butter for popping because the oil will burn and you get a bitter burnt flavor on your popcorn. You’ll want to go with coconut oil, peanut oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, avocado oil, or grape seed oil for this.
- Get your butter melted before you start popping the corn. Everything happens really quickly once the popping starts. You won’t have time to do it during, and you’ll want to get it onto the popcorn right away once it’s done so that everything is nice and hot. I like to microwave the butter until melted, and then just as the popcorn is done, I heat it again for 10 seconds to warm through. You can alternatively melt the butter in small sauce pan and then turn off the heat, but keep saucepan on the element to keep it warm from the residual heat.
How Much Oil For Stovetop Popcorn?
You only need one tablespoon of oil per quarter cup of popcorn kernels. So, if you’d like to double the recipe below to serve four, you’d use two tablespoons and half a cup of popcorn. Just make sure the pot is big enough!
Steps For Making Popcorn On The Stove
Step #1 Get the Right Pot
Start with a big heavy-duty saucepan. You want it to be 5 quarts. That’s the typical size of a Dutch oven, if that’s easier for you to imagine. You want it to have a nice thick solid bottom too. This is because you want it to heat slowly at first and then stay evenly hot and retain that heat a bit. We really like this set of saucepans and the largest in the set is perfect for popping corn.
Note that if your pot is thinner, you’ll want to hold the pot closer to the element once the popping starts, and shake it often so that the popcorn doesn’t burn as it pops. The benefit of the heavy-bottomed pot is that you can keep the pot off of the direct heat and it stays hot inside, continuing to pop the corn kernels. With a thinner pot, you have to keep it closer to the heat, or on the element, to maintain the heat, and that risks burning the popped kernels.
Step #2 Add Kernels
Add ¼ cup popcorn kernels to the pot.
Step #3 Add Oil
And 1 tablespoon of oil. Use something with a high smoke point like coconut oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil or vegetable oil.
Step #4 Turn Up the Heat
Put on the lid and turn the burner on high.
Step #5 Shake Occasionally
Give the pot a good shake every 30 seconds or so. When you hear the first pop, take the pot off the heat and hold it an inch or two above the heat source. This is so that any popped kernels don’t burn while the unpopped ones are finishing off.
Step #6 Listen For Popping to Stop
When the popping has slowed down (this doesn’t take long to happen), turn off the heat and carefully take off the lid. You need to be careful because it’s steamy hot inside. And also, sometimes, one last kernel will decide to pop.
Step #7 Appreciate Your Popcorn
Not really a step. Just showing you the popcorn. There it is.
Step #8 Add Butter and Salt
There was already oil used in the popping and so I find that you don’t need to add melted butter. But need and want are different things. If you want it, add it. And sprinkle on some salt. Shake the pot again and then transfer the popcorn to a bowl.
Other Ways To Pop Popcorn
Ways To Use Popped PopcornPrint
- 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
- 1 Tbsp. oil (coconut, peanut, grape seed or vegetable)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. melted butter (optional)
- Add popcorn kernels to a 5-quart heavy-bottomed sauce pan.
- And the oil.
- Put on the lid and turn the burner on high.
- Give the pot a good shake every 30 seconds or so. When you hear the first pop, take the pot off the heat and hold it an inch or two above the heat source. This is so that any popped kernels don’t burn while the unpopped ones are finishing off.
- When the popping has slowed down (this doesn’t take long to happen), turn off the heat and take off the lid, being careful to avoid the hot steam and watching out for any last kernel that might pop at you.
- Sprinkle with half of the salt and half of the butter, if using. Toss. Add remaining salt and butter.
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This post originally appeared in September 2015 and was revised and republished in October 2023.