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Who doesn’t love settling down to watch a movie or Netflix binge with a big bowl of freshly popped popcorn? The pre-popped stuff in the bags at the supermarket just isn’t the same…cold and often not so fresh.
However, the microwaveable stuff in the little flat packets isn’t so desirable either. They often create a fug of popcorn odor all through your house, and often contain some suspicious ingredients and additives (more on that below!). So, what do we do? There’s a clear answer. The stovetop, a large pot, some kernels, and a few easy steps.
Read on to find out how to make popcorn on the stovetop…
- Large pot or stock pot with a tight-fitting lid (the larger the better, especially for generous servings of popcorn). You can also use a large Dutch oven. As long as it has a lid, has a large capacity and is stovetop safe (obviously!) it’ll be fine
- Popcorn kernels (½ cup), this will yield approximately 16 cups of popped corn
- Coconut or canola oil (¼ cup per ½ cup of popcorn kernels. There are 4 Tablespoons in ¼ cup so multiply or reduce the quantities accordingly)
- Tea towels or oven mits to protect your hands when dealing with the pot handles and lid
- Slotted spoon for removing the first “trial” kernels
- Flavorings, if using (see further below for a list of suggestions)
- Drizzle ¼ cup of coconut or canola oil into your large pot and place over a medium-high heat
- Add a few kernels to the pot (3-5 kernels will do) and place the lid on
- Stand by and listen out for when the few kernels pop. We do this step to make sure we add the kernels at the right point, when the oil is just at the right temperature. If we add all of the kernels to cold oil, they’ll just be sitting around in the moisture waiting for the heat to raise. If we add the kernels to too-hot oil, they’ll just spit and burn
- Use oven mits or tea towels to open the pot, as the lid may be hot, and the steam inside can burn your hands as you lift the lid
- Scoop the kernels out with a slotted spoon and discard
- Add the rest of the kernels to the pot, reduce the heat to low-medium and cover
- Pick the pot up with your mits or tea towels and give it a good shake to disperse the oil amongst the kernels
- Listen as the kernels pop, shaking every 30 seconds or so just to make sure everything gets a fair share of heat and burning doesn’t occur
- Once the popping has petered away (perhaps a pop or two every 20 seconds), very carefully remove the lid, keeping your face and hands as clear from the pot as you can. There will be lots of very hot steam waiting to escape the pot, and steam burns are particularly nasty
- Leave the pot open to allow the steam to escape. This step helps to keep the popcorn crisp. If you left the lid on, the steam would eventually settle into the popcorn creating a stale, moist result
- Add your flavorings (if using), stir them through, and give the pot an extra shake with the lid on to allow those tasty additions to be evenly dispersed
- Eat with abandon, preferably in front of the TV with a movie marathon or TV series binge session ahead of you
Is popcorn a good snack choice?
While popcorn seems like a total “treat food”, it’s actually a nutritious snack…depending on what you put on it!
Popcorn is a whole grain, which means it has kept a lot of the nutrients from the corn which can otherwise be stripped away during processing. One of the best benefits of popcorn is that it provides a generous dose of fiber. 100 grams of popped popcorn (which is a lot considering how light the stuff is) has approximately 13-15 grams of fiber.
Considering the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is 25-30 grams, this is impressive. Dietary fiber is crucial for regularity, a healthy bowel, weight management, healthy cholesterol levels and healthy blood sugar levels. Popcorn also serves generous doses of B vitamins, Phosphorus, magnesium and manganese (among other nutrients).
If you eat popcorn plain, you can give your body a healthy serving of fiber and nutrients without piling sugar and saturated fats into your body. Plus, popcorn feels like a treat food, kind of like chips (potato crisps), so it can be great for satisfying your cravings without falling off the deep end.
Stovetop popcorn versus the microwave “bag” stuff
Microwave popcorn has come under fire multiple times for various health concerns. The main concern has been that microwave popcorn can cause or increase the risk of cancer. This came down to the fact that the bags themselves (not the popcorn) contained chemicals which broke down into PFOA when heated, a toxic chemical we are familiar with in the cookware realm.
PFOA has sinced been banned by the FDA, which means you won’t find any PFOA lurking in your microwave popcorn these days. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t other harmful chemicals in there.
The other issue is appropriately called “popcorn lung”. This concerns the ingredients used to give the popcorn that intense, buttery, “movie theatre” look and taste.
The culprit is called “diacetyl” and it has been proven to be very harmful to the lungs, especially in those who work in close proximity to the chemical (i.e. people who work in microwave popcorn factories or those who regularly eat microwave popcorn). Because of the proven dangers of diacetyl, the big microwave popcorn companies made sure to take it out of their recipe over a decade ago.
The verdict on this? Avoid microwave popcorn. You can’t be sure of exactly what’s in it and if there are harmful ingredients. The risk really isn’t worth it, especially when you can make even tastier popcorn on your stove…knowing exactly what’s going into it.
Ideas for stovetop popcorn flavorings
Note: these suggestions are obviously not intended to be healthy or diet-conscious! They’re simply tasty, moreish toppings to be enjoyed when you’re in the mood for a treat without worrying about nutrition (which is fine once in a while, so enjoy it!)
- Butter and salt (a classic)
- Butter and icing sugar, a sweet-savory favorite
- Icing sugar and cinnamon
- Butter and honey melted together
- Chili powder, ground paprika and salt
- Garlic salt
- Maple syrup
- Nutritional yeast (gives a cheesy flavor without dairy)
- Homemade caramel or butterscotch
- Toss fresh, hot popcorn with dark chocolate or treats such as Maltesers, Milk Duds or M&M’s for a sweet and salty combo
- Crushed chocolate biscuits and sea salt
- Melted peanut butter and honey
- Cocoa, brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt
- Finely grated lime zest, pepper and sesame oil
- I had a friend who would melt together Marmite and sweet chili sauce and toss her popcorn in it…I’m not sure if I recommend this one
We hope your stovetop popcorn experience is a great one! Experiment with new flavorings and enjoy the high-fiber goodness of this easy and tasty snack.