Perfect Popcorn

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How to make a perfect batch of popcorn, with no burnt kernels! Easy stove-top popcorn recipe.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Making popcorn from scratch can be tricky. Not only do you want as many kernels as possible to pop, but you also want to keep the kernels from burning at the bottom of the pan.

Until my mother showed me her way of cooking popcorn, I usually took the easy way out and used (gasp!) microwave popcorn, which by the way, is not that good for you.

My mother’s method of making popcorn not only pops almost every kernel, it also prevents the kernels from burning. She first learned this technique decades ago from the back of a popcorn box.

Her approach allows the popcorn kernels to come to an even temperature before popping, which results in much fewer un-popped kernels (usually none) and fewer burnt kernels (again, usually none).

Ever since we first posted this how-to in 2005, it has been one of the most popular recipes on the site. Enjoy!

Perfect Popcorn

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  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2 quarts, a nice amount for two people, or for one hungry one.

Make sure the inside of the pot is completely dry before heating the oil in it, or else the oil will sputter.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp coconut or peanut oil
  • 1/3 cup of high quality popcorn kernels
  • 1 3-quart covered saucepan
  • 1 Tbsp or more (to taste) of butter (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Method

1 Heat the oil in a 3-quart thick-bottomed saucepan on medium high heat. If you are using coconut oil, allow all of the solid oil to melt.

2 Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil.

3 When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer. Cover, remove from heat and count 30 seconds. (Count out loud; it's fun to do with kids.)

This method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time.

4 Return the pan to the heat. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. Once the popping starts in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner.

Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper).

Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into a wide bowl.

With this technique, nearly all of the kernels pop, and nothing burns.

5 If you are adding butter, you can easily melt it by placing the butter in the now empty, but hot pan. Note that if you let the butter get just a little bit brown, it will add an even more intense, buttery flavor to the butter and to your popcorn. (Here's more info on how to brown butter.) Just drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn and toss to distribute.

6 Salt to taste.

Additional tips: From the comments section

a If you add salt to the oil in the pan before popping, when the popcorn pops, the salt will be well distributed throughout the popcorn.

b Fun toppings for the popcorn - Spanish smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, cayenne powder, chili pepper, curry powder, cumin, grated Parmesan cheese.

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More ideas in the comments. Thank you and keep 'em coming!

Perfect Popcorn

Showing 4 of 437 Comments

  • Zfj

    Thanks! The outcome was perfect popped popcorn! I used sunflower oil and salt. All of them popped evenly,I always made popcorn and wondered why few seeds wud remain unpopped and burn.
    Thanks again!!!!

  • Kuaiba

    I tried it and it turned out to be perfect. It was my first time. Please can I use sugar for this method also instead of salt? And please how and when should I add the sugar

  • Alan

    I use this recipe years ago and it worked perfectly. Glad I was able to find it again only wondering, I swear the last time I made this it called for grapeseed oil and now coconut oil. Am I losing my mind or was recipe updated?

  • Sandeep David Rao

    Hi there!
    I have a QUESTION.

    Im a complete novice at making popcorn – so apologies in advance if this seems like a terrible question!

    Can we use butter instead of the oil in the beginning? My reason being – ive seen butter added at the end doesnt usually get distributed evenly and sometimes even a lump is stuck to 1 of the popped kernels.

    Regards from India

  • NAEEMAH LAWSON

    Omg! Best Popcorn Ever! Thanks for the recipe ☺ It popped exactly as you said it would without burning. I used coconut oil and a small amount of Himalayan salt before popping the kernels. Amazing!

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