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Popcorn at home

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A voice of dissent here.

We had a popcorn popper when I was growing up that was a deep aluminum pot that sat on top of a separate heating element. It made great popcorn, and when I went to college, my Mom gave it to me (she'd gotten a new popper). I made fabulous popcorn all through college, but the popper was so old by then that it didn't survive my college years.

I then tried an air popper (awful -- popped corn so dry that no amount of butter could save it), some other electric popcorn maker (okay, but not great), and every pot and pan that I owned that seemed like a good candidate for popping corn. The stovetop results were uniformly bad. Tough, chewy popcorn, loads of unpopped kernels. Sometimes greasy, sometimes not, but never good.

Fast forward some years. I was at my sister's and she made popcorn. It was great. "How'd you make this?" I asked. She looked at me like any big sister looks at a little sister who's clueless. "Microwave. Duh." I was a convert and have been ever since.

True, "butter flavor" microwave popcorn is awful. And it's harder than ever to find "natural" popcorn (read: without awful fake butter flavoring). But Orville and Paul Newman both make very good plain (salted) microwave popcorn -- in fact, that's what I used this year for caramel corn. Granted, it's very expensive, and I do wish they made the plain stuff in the smaller bags, but that doesn't seem to be in the stars.

Also, just in case you think I haven't tried stove-popped popcorn lately: At work, we had a Whirley Pop stovetop popper, and it made decent popcorn -- not great, but okay. It died, however, and recently a colleague made popcorn in a heavy pan on the stove. Gotta say -- tough, chewy and greasy.

Just my opinion. I'm sure I'm missing something that's obvious to everyone else.

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Maybe you're not missing anything and it's just a taste preference. I like the fact that whatever oil I use (olive combined w. something else usually) absorbs into the popped corn a bit, and I don't mind a few slightly browned pieces on the bottom. I actually like them.

As for "what's good about 'em," these two varieties I've tried taste nuttier and fresher -- and pop fluffier -- than the Food Lion corn I'd been using. I'm still working on perfecting my cooking method, however.

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I've always popped popcorn on the stove. It's so fast and so good and it never burns. The few times I've tried the microwaved popcorn (in hotels or at the office), I always burn it.

I've tried all types of oils, spices, herbs, etc., and my favorite is to pop it in Crisco's butter-flavored shortening. It tastes buttier when popped when cooked in the butter-flavored shortening than if it had popped in actual butter.

Best topping -- just a sprinkling of sea salt and some Creole seasoning.

I buy the popcorn in the bag and then store it in an old Orville Redenbacher jar in the freezer. It pops clean without any burning and almost every kernal pops. (Orville's popcorn is good -- but about 4X the price of the popcorn in the bag, which is just as good.)

Rhonda

P.S. - Jaymes, I made some of your caramel corn with pecans and peanuts, and now the office is addicted to the stuff, too. We use the nickname someone else gave it -- they come to my office and ask for some "crack". :laugh:

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Though I generally enjoy my Whirley-Popped corn with just salt and pepper, I finally found a dry seasoning that I really LIKE: Penzey's Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle (Romano Cheese, salt, garlic, green peppercorns, parsley, and sweet basil).

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was wondering if anyone could give me an idea of about how to pop corn at home? I know, its corn kernels in oil, but do I just need a thin layer deep enough to just cover the kernels? How hot do I want the oil to be? 400? Also, how do you guys store popcorn to keep it fresh?


"It only hurts if it bites you" - Steve Irwin

"Whats another word for Thesaurus?" - Me

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I put enough kernels into brown paper lunch bag to cover the bottom in single layer, fold over the top about an ½" and lay it in the microwave fold down. Pop on high until the popping slows..I use at least a pop every five seconds. If I don't hear it, I stop it. I'd rather under pop than over pop because 1. Burned popcorn is icky, and 2, you can try to re-pop it.

Salt first then butter. Eat by fistfuls. :biggrin:

I think this idea might originally have come from some food network person, but I don't know who and if anyone can tell me, I'll edit to credit.


“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”

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I put enough kernels into  brown paper lunch bag to cover the bottom in  single layer, fold over the top about an ½" and lay it in the microwave fold down. Pop on high until the popping slows..I use at least a pop every five seconds. If I don't hear it, I stop it. I'd rather under pop than over pop because 1. Burned popcorn is icky, and 2, you can try to re-pop it.

Salt first then butter. Eat by fistfuls.  :biggrin:

I think this idea might originally have come from some food network person, but I don't know who and if anyone can tell me, I'll edit to credit.

I think it was Alton Brown, but I could be wrong about that. I vaguely remember something about stapling the bag closed, too, and also shaking the kernels with a bit of oil after putting them into the bag. I used to use that method, but I still prefer stove-top popping, especially if I'm eating the popcorn plain.

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A voice of dissent here.

We had a popcorn popper when I was growing up that was a deep aluminum pot that sat on top of a separate heating element. It made great popcorn, and when I went to college, my Mom gave it to me (she'd gotten a new popper). I made fabulous popcorn all through college, but the popper was so old by then that it didn't survive my college years.

I then tried an air popper (awful -- popped corn so dry that no amount of butter could save it), some other electric popcorn maker (okay, but not great), and every pot and pan that I owned that seemed like a good candidate for popping corn. The stovetop results were uniformly bad. Tough, chewy popcorn, loads of unpopped kernels. Sometimes greasy, sometimes not, but never good.

Fast forward some years. I was at my sister's and she made popcorn. It was great. "How'd you make this?" I asked. She looked at me like any big sister looks at a little sister who's clueless. "Microwave. Duh." I was a convert and have been ever since.

True, "butter flavor" microwave popcorn is awful. And it's harder than ever to find "natural" popcorn (read: without awful fake butter flavoring). But Orville and Paul Newman both make very good plain (salted) microwave popcorn -- in fact, that's what I used this year for caramel corn. Granted, it's very expensive, and I do wish they made the plain stuff in the smaller bags, but that doesn't seem to be in the stars.

Update: to see if I was really missing something crucial, I bought a bag of JollyTime popcorn and started experimenting. I used almost the whole bag, with various amounts and types of oil, various pans and various heat levels. Sometimes the results were edible, but I can't say that they were ever actually good. I finally threw the rest of the bag away when I found Walgreen's house brand of "natural" (i.e., not butter flavored) popcorn in small bags, 12 bags for $3. Yes, it's still more expensive than a bag of Jolly Time, but not less than premium popping corn, and it's great every time.

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New tip: salt the oil. Just crush the amount of salt you want on the popcorn between your fingers and put it in the oil, then proceed as usual. The salt is distributed throughout the popcorn in a really wonderful way, I find.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Salt in the oil is how they used to make it at the movie theatre chain I worked at in the early 1980's.

Because my husband is on an extreme-low fat diet, we tend to use our Presto PowerPop Microwave Multi-Popper -without oil. We get just a few unpopped kernels, as long as the corn is fairly fresh. He has a spice mix he likes to sprinkle on, while I like good old butter. The Presto PowerPop does require use of a removable insert, but, you really can get 24 poppings out of it before it becomes too weak to work. It's still far cheaper than store-bought bagged microwave popcorn and has the amount and type of fat that you choose.

I live in Phoenix, and everything dries out really quickly, so I tend to vacuum seal my unpopped corn in canning jars just to try and keep some moisture in it. (we also do the teaspoon of water trick, too)

Once in a while, I make an old-fashioned batch on the stove with oil (usually olive oil) and I use my wok. The shape is a natural for popcorn because as kernels pop they move away from the small heat source in the center of the bottom. I do not shake or stir.

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My much-loved (and much-used, for 10 years or more) old Whirley-Pop is starting to come apart. I want to replace it, and while I'd be quite content with a brand-new Whirley-Pop, I feel the need to ask before ordering: Is there anything similar but better out there these days? If it matters, I have one of those idiotic smooth-ceramic-cooktop electric ranges at the moment, and probably won't get to replacing it for a few years.


John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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Haven't seen this topic before, surprising for this popcorn-a-holic.

I eat it at least 3 times a week (for breakfast, lunch, or dinner but rarely all 3 in one day!), most made plain in the microwave popper, with butter and salt. Occasionally like it sweet with popcorn sauce (my own concoction of 1 part honey to 2 parts molasses, zapped in microwave with butter to taste until it boils a moment, then over the popcorn and lightly salt all.

And recently broke down and bought a 2nd popper for work, although that will mostly be eaten plain as the logistics of maintaining a supply of butter and doing paperwork with buttered fingers....

Used to have an air popper but the microwave is faster and simpler with this gadget, and there are no removable inserts required.

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I use a crappy little pot that doesn't hold heat well (which I think actually helps).

I put kernels in to pretty much fill up one layer on the bottom, add oil until the are covered partway up, and move things around until they are well coated.

I put a top on so that it mostly covers, but still leaves a vent for steam. Not open so much that you get escapees, though. It is a delicate balance...

Then meduim-high heat and just leave it alone - no shaking. I used to shake, but have managed to cure myself of that habit.

When popping starts to slow, I take it off the heat. When the popping really slows, I pour it out.

Perfect.


Food Blog: Menu In Progress

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I used the crappy-old-pot method for a long time before my wife got me the WP, and if the handle actually falls off the WP I'll probably use the crappy-old-pot method again until I get around to ordering another one... or not.

My default ingredients are Amish Country yellow popcorn and coconut oil, adorned with Morton popcorn salt and Annie's butter. If I'm feeling fancy I'll mix the yellow popcorn half-and-half with one of the white Amish Country varieties. Simple and tasty.


John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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WhirleyPop has a new model with the crank handle on top; I'll keep happily using the original design for now.

I'm another fan of the Amish Country corn, though my favorites are the ladyfinger and the blue varieties. :wub:

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Has anybody had success with putting all of the seasonings in the oil with the unpopped kernels? I know putting the salt in makes it much more evenly distributed, but what about other spices (chili powder, etc)? Will it burn, or does all the shaking keep it safe?


"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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I've settled on coconut oil as the ultimate cooking medium, but am still looking to create the authentic movie theater popcorn of the past. One promising find is something called Flavacol which I found in my local restaurant supply store. It's basically powdered salt with some butter flavoring. The first test was pretty promising although it's so fine that I couldn't properly disperse it even with a fine mesh shaker. The result was over salted. I think I'll try it in the oil next time.

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I experimented with Flavacol years ago and I dimly remember that putting it in the oil was in fact the secret. You may find that you need to use more oil to get the full effect.


John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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I'm not sure if that's what it was called, but back in the days when I worked at the movie theatre, we had a powder like that which we'd add to the oil to flavour the popcorn. Every once in a while we'd put double in and make a batch for the staff when it was slow.. Oh so good.


Edited by Shamanjoe (log)

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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So ... having heard me repeat my newfound stovetop popcorn obsession, Mom gave me a huge case of 12 varieties from Fireworks Popcorn for Christmas:

http://www.popcornlovers.com/c-2-popcorn.aspx

There are actually 13 types lister here, but as I'm not at home right now I can't recall which one is left out of the box).

So far I've tried Harvest Blend and High Mountain Midnight, and both were delicious.

I just got these for my roommate as a christmas gift and they're delicious. I remember as a kid, I always used to pop popcorn in butter. The kernels that were an golden brown colour were the most delicious as they had soaked up some of the browned butter.


PS: I am a guy.

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I experimented with Flavacol years ago and I dimly remember that putting it in the oil was in fact the secret. You may find that you need to use more oil to get the full effect.

I can't believe it took me this long to try this (was out of popcorn for a while and don't make it very often anyway), but this is a total winner. Flavocol into melted coconut oil - then the kernels. By itself, I think think I'd classify it as 'circus-style' popcorn. With some melted butter or margarine after the fact, I'm pretty sure it will be my holy grail of classic old school movie theater popcorn.

Since I viewed this as an experiment, I didn't inform my wife that popcorn was in the offing. She had fixed herself a small bowl of ice cream. Carrying it out of the room, she decided to stop and sample a kernel. "It's good!" Then another, "No, it's REALLY good." Then a few more. Then I noticed her looking at the bowl of ice cream in her left hand like "What do I do with this now?". But having committed herself by dishing out the ice cream, she carried it away to consume - but then came back for more popcorn.

Once I fine tune the proportions, I believe my popcorn preparation search will be at an end. :smile:

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I don’t know if I should post my ultra continent way of making popcorn here or in The eGullet Hall of Shame .. Theme music please..

I mix ½ cup popping corn with 2 TBS of olive oil together and place inside a brown paper bag, seal, lay flat and microwave for 3 mins. Works every time...

I sometimes sprinkle with sea salt and crushed pepper for a savoury fix.

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