How to Make the Most Delicious Popcorn at Home
Popcorn is a universally loved snack. It's nutty and crispy, and it pops up quickly when a craving strikes. It's also inexpensive, which makes it perfect for feeding a movie-night crowd.
Popcorn is incredibly easy to pop at home, with each cooking method resulting in slightly different flavors and textures. When you make your own homemade popcorn, you get to control the ingredients you use, which is ideal if you want to avoid the salt and additives that often accompany packaged microwaveable popcorn varieties.
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Keep in mind how popcorn pops up: a little goes a long way. Two tablespoons of unpopped kernels make about 3 1/2 to 4 cups of popped popcorn. That's one serving. If you have a crowd to feed, you may need to pop more, but it may be easier to pop in batches so you get the best results.
What's the Best Oil for Making Popcorn?
If you choose to pop your kernels on the stovetop, you need to use an oil that has a high smoke point. That's because you will get the oil very hot before adding the kernels. You don't want to burn the oil before you even get the kernels in the pan.
High-heat oils include canola, coconut, peanut, grapeseed, vegetable, sunflower and safflower.
Low-heat oils like olive oil, walnut oil and avocado oil are great for spraying or misting on the popcorn after the popping is finished for a bit of flavor. Just don't use them to pop the kernels, or you risk a burned flavor.
How to Make Popcorn on the Stove
This classic popcorn-cooking method requires oil, unlike the other methods, so your final result will have more calories even without adding any for flavor at the end. However, stovetop popcorn is still healthier and lighter than the kind you'll find at the movie theater, and you can choose the ingredients you use, which makes it healthier than most microwaveable kinds.
How to Cook Popcorn in the Microwave
The store-bought microwaveable popcorn bags are easy because they don't create a mess or dirty up any pans or appliances. You can re-create that familiar method without the chemicals or other ingredients you want to avoid. All you need is a brown paper bag and some popcorn kernels.
In a Paper Bag:
In a Bowl:
If you don't have a stash of brown paper bags, you can also microwave popcorn in a large bowl with a makeshift lid made from a dinner plate.
How to Cook Popcorn with an Air Popper
The hot-air popper has been around for decades, and it's incredibly easy to use and effective at creating light, fluffy popcorn. Plus, you don't need to use oil to pop the kernels, which can help you save calories for a topping.
What Is Popcorn?
Popcorn is made from the dried kernels of a particular kind of corn. These kernels resemble the corn you see on corn-on-the-cob, but only a certain type of corn has the ability to pop when heated.
Popcorn kernels are made of three key parts: the endosperm, germ and bran or hull. The classic hull color is white or yellow, but popping-corn kernels can be red, black or any number of colors.
When heated, a small bit of water in each kernel turns to steam. This steam creates immense pressure, and the kernel explodes. The hull is torn apart as the endosperm, which is primarily starch, turns into the puffed starch we know as popcorn.
Is Popcorn Healthy?
Popcorn is an incredibly healthy snack. However, it can be prepared in ways that are less than healthful.
For example, 1 cup of air-popped popcorn has about 30 calories, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of protein and very little fat. But when you pop it in butter or oil you'll add calories. Every teaspoon of butter adds about 30 calories and a teaspoon of oil adds about 40 calories. Movie-theatre style popcorn can have lots of added calories in the form of buttery topping. Besides fat, popcorn is often flavored with salt. A little salt is fine, but don't go overboard.
Popcorn is also chock-full of polyphenols. These are compounds that have been linked to reduced rates of cancer, improved heart health and better blood circulation.
Popcorn is as healthy as you prepare it. Because you have control over the ingredients when you pop your own at home, you can make popcorn healthy and flavorful without adding too many calories or extra salt.
The Best Way to Flavor Popcorn
Don't add salt, spices or any other flavoring ingredients until after the kernels have popped. Some ingredients, like salt, may prevent kernels from popping properly. It's better to wait until after the popping is complete.
Plus, ingredients adhere better to hot, fluffy popcorn than they do to cold, hard kernels. This will maximize the amount of delicious flavor that reaches your mouth while you're snacking.