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Popcorn at home

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There are three big factors that come in to play when you pop on the stovetop:

1 - Choice of pot. There are some pots that just are not well suited to popcorn making. You want to stay away from anything with a thin bottom. The pot that works best for me is an 8-quart thick-walled anodized aluminum (Calphalon) stockpot. The slow, even heat is ideal for popping. Quick, uneven heat, like you get from cheap lobster pots, will give you burnt, small and tough kernels. The shape of the pot matters mostly from the perspective of having enough vertical space to contain the kernels -- the tall stockpot shape is ideal for this.

2 - Level of heat. This is something that requires trial and error. I mean, medium heat on my stove isn't the same as on yours. By the way, gas stoves are much better for popping popcorn, because they don't cycle on and off like electrics. If you use electric, the thick-walled pot becomes even more critical.

3 - Quality of popcorn. This doesn't necessarily mean overpaying for a brand name. Around me, the best popcorn is also almost the cheapest -- it comes by the pound in the bin-food area of a local market. But if you get some really crummy stuff, you'll find that it just doesn't pop well, no matter what you do. Popcorn also doesn't have infinite shelf life.

There are some other issues, for example the right amount of oil (there's a lot of leeway here), type of oil (I use corn oil), quantity of kernels (a single layer covering the bottom) and shaking often enough.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Stove-top popcorn:

Get a good-sized pot with a lid; it can be loose fitting. Heat it for a good while over medium high heat. Pour in 2-4 tablespoons of oil (peanut is best, but pretty much anything will do) and swirl it until it's just about to hit the smoke point. Toss in 1/2 cup of good popcorn, and start shaking. As the popcorn pops ,you may run out of room, so have a big bowl ready to dump it as needed. When you've popped most of the kernels, the time between pops slows down; when you can count to three between pops, you're done and in danger of burning. Dump the popped corn, toss a few tablespoons of butter into the hot pot, melt it (or brown it -- yum) and dump it on the corn. Eat by the fistfull.

what he said, except for instead of peanut oil, i always use corn oil. i mean, it's corn, right? think of it like a very fast duck confit... ok that's a really bad analogy...

anyway, popcorn was the first thing i could make growing up, since i was probably about 10. we always used this battered aluminum pot we had that was reserved for popcorn only. a tablespoon or two of oil, heated as chris mentions above. we used 1/4 c. popcorn. stir with wooden spoon. at the first pop or two, put the lid on and make with the shaking.

the key thing is to get the oil frickin hot before you put in the kernels, and to use enough to coat them, but not enough to make the final product too oily. you want to get those kernels up to popping temp ASAP. also salt immediately after dumping it in the bowl--the hot oil on the popcorn makes the salt stick, and you need less.

dumping butter in the hot pot will give you popcorn with black butter... if you like that it's cool, but i don't, therefore i say that IF you need butter, melt it separately, unless you're using a cheap battered aluminum pot like we did, which cools down very quickly.

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3 - Quality of popcorn. This doesn't necessarily mean overpaying for a brand name. Around me, the best popcorn is also almost the cheapest -- it comes by the pound in the bin-food area of a local market. But if you get some really crummy stuff, you'll find that it just doesn't pop well, no matter what you do. Popcorn also doesn't have infinite shelf life.

somewhere around here, there's a thread of mine about a batch of 10-year-old popcorn i made just a couple months ago.

ah, here we go

ok it was a year ago, as it turns out.

so anyway, yeah, the shelf life is not infinite, but it's looooong if it's stored right. or even if it's stored KINDA right.

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Chris!

It's like you've been popping popcorn with me for years.

Just one point.

Toss in 1/2 cup of good popcorn, and start shaking. As the popcorn pops ,you may run out of room, so have a big bowl ready to dump it as needed.

Do you think you could avoid this issue if you a) used a larger pot or b)put less popcorn into the pot to begin with?

Or does the pouring of the popcorn out of the pot while pieces continue to pop and fly all over the kitchen help make it a fun experience for you? (which I completely understand)

:wink:

A little grated parmesan can make a nice addition. (I'm sorry I have no great flavouring ideas for you - I'm a butter and salt girl)

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What's the reasoning behind heating the oil before adding the kernels? I always add everything cold and heat it all together.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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What's the reasoning behind heating the oil before adding the kernels? I always add everything cold and heat it all together.

My popcorn is .. chewier when I don't preheat the oil.

I watched one of those food network shows yesterday (I have no idea which one) that had a segment on a 'gourmet' popcorn store. The owner said that you should heat the oil with 3 kernels already in it. When those 3 have popped, the oil is ready for the rest of the popcorn to be added.

She also added the salt right to the pot before the popcorn was popped - something I've never thought of. She claimed that it left an even coating of salt on the popcorn. Anybody do this?

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What's the reasoning behind heating the oil before adding the kernels? I always add everything cold and heat it all together.

it always seemed to come out chewier when the corn was added too early.

obviously some experimentation is in order. perhaps i can work on this early next week.

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FWIW, Orville Redenbacher says to start with all the ingredients in the pot:

http://www.orville.com/R05-perfect_pop.jsp...ecipes#electric

So does Jolly Time:

http://www.jollytime.com/fun_tips/tips2.asp

However, the Popcorn Board says to heat the oil first and test on a few kernels:

http://www.popcorn.org/frames.cfm?main=/en...m&usernav=flash

(The Popcorn Board also says pre-salting will toughen the kernels)


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Popcorn added to pot and oil before heating popped just as well as when I heat the oil first. I wonder if it has anything to do with the popcorn I use.

Next I'll try adding the sale before popping.

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Today I bought a bag (cheap, Food Lion brand) of popping corn and made some in olive oil in a big pot with lid on the stove. Why did we ever stop doing this, and how were we led to believe this was so complicated we must own appliances dedicated to this task, and finally, bypass it entirely for a rubbery, chemical-additive-laden microwave substitute?

What I'm searching for, however, is better popping corn than this. Anyone know where to get it? Have any favorites?

I think this could very well become a daily habit. The olive oil adds the perfect touch.

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I am still doing this from time to time. Its much healthier and satisfying than whatever microwave-pop-in-the-bag junk you find almost everywhere.

If you have a garden, you can even grow your own! Some variety have grains of different color like the decorative corn you find almost everywhere in the fall.

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It's my favorite snack. And sometimes it's lunch. There are several brands of organic popcorn sold in many markets. If you have a farmers' market you might check to see if the farms that sell corn in the summer also sell their popcorn. That's where I get it. I make it just the same, the old-fashioned way, just a layer of oil (I never tried olive--I use corn oil), a layer of popcorn, and pop. My husband thinks I should be shaking the pot, but I find all the popcorn pops by just leaving it alone: the lighter weight popped corn piles up and the unpopped stays in the oil until it pops. I eat it with nothin' but gray salt. Delicious. It might be interesting to try different salts.

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I popped corn at home again for the first time in decades & yes it was SOOO good. but I dont' know if my popcorn was old or the heat was too high, or what but a large percentage of my kernels didn't pop before some of the others were ready to scorch & I had to take them off the heat....


Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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Like many people, I ate mostly microwave popcorn from when it first came out until early 2002. Why did I stop? At a dinner party in Morocco, the host served us some freshly popped popcorn to snack on. I had forgotten how delicious "real" popcorn, without any artificial flavourings, was.

So now I only eat stove-popped popcorn. I did really love my hand-cranked maker, but I trashed the pot (long story), so now I just use a regular pot. I shake it a little at the beginning, but mostly just leave it alone.

I have also used regular popping corn in the microwave, but stove topping gives fewer unpopped kernels.

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Rancho Gordo makes great popping corn if you don't mind the smaller size. For whoppers go with Orville. A decent balance available in stores is the Paul Newman brand.

I agree, Chappie. I make popcorn at night once a week at the least, and whenever anyone outside of the family tries it, they ask for my "secret."

"I pop it on the stove and add butter and salt," I say.

"Wow. That's dedication!" say the microwavers. "How long does it take?"

"About four minutes, start to finish," I say.

You can finish the rest.

ETA: Here's the method (cuz someone asked):

Put on your beaten-up aluminum popcorn pan and turn the heat to high. While you're letting it warm up, get your ingredients ready (corn, peanut oil, salt, butter).

When the pan seems terrifically hot, about a minute, add two or three tablespoons of oil. It should become watery immediately and smoke soon.

Dump in enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pan; more is ok, but remember you want contact with the bottom of the pan. They should immediately sizzle.

Shake a few times, then get your big bowl. If popcorn starts to push up the lid, dump it into the bowl. (The popped kernels rise, so you'll be left with kernels.) When you go three or four seconds between pops, you're done. Dump it all into the bowl.

Put your butter in immediately and start cutting into bits with a butter knife. It's good if it turns brown so don't fret. Melt it over that high heat while shaking; if you're melting unsalted butter, add your salt to the butter directly. When it's all melted, pour it carefully across the entire bowl.

Add more salt to taste, and toss the bowl in the air like you toss your ingredients in a skillet.

Eat it like there's no tomorrow.


Edited by chrisamirault (log)

Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I popped corn at home again for the first time in decades & yes it was SOOO good.  but I dont' know if my popcorn was old or the heat was too high, or what but a large percentage of my kernels didn't pop before some of the others were ready to scorch & I had to take them off the heat....

Heat too high or too low, is my guess. I've been popping really old popcorn (it's at least 2 years old, possibly even 3 or 4), and I don't have any problems with popping unless the heat is either too high or too low (I get scorching with either of them). It's a very fine line between the wrong temperature and the right one.

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I put regular popping corn in a brown paper bag, pop a few holes in the bag with a paring knife, put it on top of a bowl in the microwave at 70% power. When the bag fills, I shake it and scrape out the popped kernels, then put it back in the microwave. I keep scraping out the popped kernels until it's all popped. I love the little half popped kernels.

Then top with melted butter.

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I dont' know if my popcorn was old or the heat was too high, or what but a large percentage of my kernels didn't pop before some of the others were ready to scorch & I had to take them off the heat....

Heat too high or too low, is my guess.

Or not enough oil.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I used to do this all the time when many I was watching a lot of movies on my new DVD player and had a Netflix subscription.

I used "stole" the beat up popcorn popper from my mom and dad. It was terribly thin and had one of those lids with the crank handle that turned the a stirrer. The thing actually worked really well. I eventually tossed it in the trash when I started buying more pots and stuff an ran out of space. Then, I started to use my stainless steel Revere Wear dutch oven. That worked well too, but was a pain to shake due to the short stubby handles.

I used Orville's pop corn. and copious amounts of butter. And pop corn salt. I haven't made popcorn in several years. I just don't watch movies at home like I used to. But with this thread, and something I saw at World Market the other weekend, maybe I should change that.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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I used to do this all the time when many I was watching a lot of movies on my new DVD player and had a Netflix subscription.

I used "stole" the beat up popcorn popper from my mom and dad. It was terribly thin and had one of those lids with the crank handle that turned the a stirrer.  The thing actually worked really well. I eventually tossed it in the trash when I started buying more pots and stuff an ran out of space. Then, I started to use my stainless steel Revere Wear dutch oven. That worked well too, but was a pain to shake due to the short stubby handles.

I used Orville's pop corn. and copious amounts of butter. And pop corn salt.    I haven't made popcorn in several years. I just don't watch movies at home like I used to.  But with this thread, and something I saw at World Market the other weekend, maybe I should change that.

Tea (with lots of milk) and popcorn are the perfect combination. Should fit in nicely with your new tea jones.

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I have not found an appreciable difference between the cheap brands -- Goya, Jiffy, the bulk-food section -- and the premium or organic brands like Newman's. If anything, I get the best results from the popcorn from the bulk-food section of my local market, perhaps because it's fresher. Although, I've not really noticed a problem with older kernels. The only really poor-performing popcorn I recall having was some ridiculously expensive stuff from Williams-Sonoma.

What I have found are significant differences among pots. I have a particular pot I like to use -- an 8-quart Calphalon stockpot -- because it has a number of properties that I favor. First, because it's thick-walled aluminum it heats evenly. Second, its diameter-to-height ratio is such that if you cover the bottom with a single layer of kernels it pops up to near the top of the pot but never high enough to push off the lid. Third, it has a glass lid. And finally, the thick construction minimizes noise -- I can pop popcorn in this thing while a child is sleeping no problem.

Having tried both approaches, I'm forced to disagree with Mr. Amirault's order of operations. I treat popcorn more like bacon than like a stir-fry. In other words, I put the kernels and oil (I prefer corn oil but that's not a hard-and-fast rule) in the pot before turning on the heat. Then I turn the heat to high and let the whole thing come up to temperature. I think, though I haven't done extensive side-by-side testing, that this approach yields fewer unpopped kernels as well as fewer burnt ones.

I use as much oil as is needed to moisten all the kernels thoroughly, but not so much that they're swimming in it.

It takes several minutes for the first kernel to pop. In that time, I shake -- swirl, actually -- the pot once or twice just to be doubly sure about even heat distribution. I leave the lid off until the first kernel pops, because I think that building up too much steam in the environment of the pot leads to damp popcorn.

As soon as the first kernel pops I put the lid on. I give it another swirl and let it go. Once the kernels are popping rapidly, I turn the heat down to medium. When the popping slows to 5 or so seconds between pops I shut off the heat and remove the lid to let the excess steam escape.

If I'm using butter -- usually not -- it has already been melted in a ramekin in the microwave. Most of the time I just add salt. When salting or buttering popcorn it's helpful to use a bowl that's much, much larger than the amount of popcorn in it, so you can toss the popcorn and get it really well coated.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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mmmm.....buttered popcorn! It seemed to be all I wanted last week. Made small stovetop batches several nights in a row.

On Saturday I added extra oil then threw in some sugar and salt after the first one or two kernals popped and shook like crazy to make Kettle Corn or as I call it Sugar Pop.

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our Friday supper for years and years...

stove popped corn (Goya is a very good reliable brand..it is not needed to buy anything more for this as long as it looks ok in the bag!) ... on the stove ..old pan ..lots of oil in the pot ..hot hot.. ...and I always always use warm clarified butter on popcorn..the one thing I think is worth the effort for taste and texture ..less water...all fat ..and ever so much better

lots of salt

home made oatmeal cookies for dessert


Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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