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 making stovetop 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!

How to make perfect popcorn on the stovetop

Perfect Popcorn

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  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2 quarts, enough for 2 people

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 Tbsp or more (to taste) of butter (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Special equipment:

  • 1 3-quart covered thick-bottomed pot

Method

1 Heat the oil: 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. Wait for the popcorn kernels to pop.

heat oil and add 3 to 4 popcorn kernels to the pot

3 When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer.

Wait for the popcorn kernels to pop when the popcorn kernels pop, add the rest of the kernels in an even layer

4 Cover the pot, 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.

5 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.

Tip: As the popcorn pops, try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper).

6 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.

once the popcorn stops popping, remove the pot from heat Immediately empty popped popcorn into a serving bowl

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

7 Melt butter in the empty hot pan: If you are adding butter, you can easily melt it by placing the butter in the now empty, but hot pan.

melt butter for drizzling over popcorn

Tip: 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.

Just drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn and toss to distribute.

8 Sprinkle the popcorn with salt to taste.

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

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Popcorn Toppings

Want something more than butter or salt on your popcorn? Try sprinkling with some grated Parmesan cheese! Smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, cayenne powder, taco seasoning, or curry powder also make for fun and interesting toppings.

Have a favorite popcorn topping? Please let us know about it in the comments.

how to make popcorn

Showing 4 of 467 Comments / Reviews

  • Monica

    I really liked this popcorn! I couldn’t find the lid for my microwave popper and I’d already told my son I was making him popcorn, so your recipe saved my afternoon!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Pam

    The holy grail!!! My kids and I are forever grateful….

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Sheeda

    This was awesome. Thank you so much. I used coconut oil and it worked out perfectly, there wasn’t a single kernel left. My little guy loved counting and watching the kernels pop. This is now a staple :-)

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • emilee

    I just started making popcorn on the stove top a few months ago. My mom did it this way when we were kids but after microwave popcorn came out in the 80s she went to that and that is always how I made it too. Thanks for these tips, I think this will help. I am going to make a big batch today and add pretzels, Valentine M&Ms and drizzle with white chocolate. I did some at Christmas, it was a big hit. My sister does homemade kettle corn I think I am going to do that. Thanks for the post!

  • Ali

    Thank you for this recipe! I have used others for stovetop popcorn and it never turned out like this! It was perfect — fluffy, crispy and no burnt kernels. My kids said I nailed it this time! Thank you so much!

    xxxxxyyyyy

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