Preparation: Gather together the basic items: a deep pot, pot lid or aluminum foil, popcorn kernels, corn oil, seasonings.
Heat: Set your stove to a medium heat or slightly higher. Using a higher heat will not pop the corn faster. It will only lead to burned corn and a smoky kitchen. As popping tapers off, reduce heat slightly. Every range is different, but starting at “6” on an electric range and reducing to “5” is the right kind of idea.
Corn oil has a delicate, almost buttery flavor and feel, making it a good pairing with popped corn. Drizzle the pan with just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, approximately 2 tablespoons.
Popcorn: To fill a large stockpot, add 1 1/2 cups popcorn. If you use less popcorn, use less oil to compensate.
Add the popcorn while the oil is still heating. Swirl the pan around until all the kernels are coated in oil.
Cover the pan with the pot lid or a sheet of foil crimped around the lip of the pan. Wait for the corn to heat. Swoosh the pan around occasionally, holding the handles and making a circular motion so the contents heat up evenly.
Once the popping starts, keep shaking the pan, swirling the kernels inside. This prevents the corn from sticking and burning. When the popping slows down and corn hardly pops any more, take the pan off the heat.
Start your butter heating at the same time you begin popping the corn. Drizzle it over the top. Add any seasonings. Try a new powdered seasoning for a treat. Possible sweet toppings include sugar and cinnamon, caramel powder or a melted Hershey bar. Possible savory toppings include garlic salt, salt and pepper, barbecue-flavored powder, or add heat with crushed chili flakes.
I always think cooking popcorn is simple until someone else tries to do it, or tries to help me. I have high popcorn standards. Microwave popcorn is ok but the type of artificial butter used for the popping oil does cause serious lung irritation. I used to use Jiffy-Pop expanding foil popcorn pans a lot, but flat-top electric ranges put an end to it. It works, but the aluminum welds streaks into the glass range top. Stove-top popcorn in a copper-bottom pan is better. I’ve been eating a lot of it this year, it’s a good whole grain treat. If you have a little garden space to spare for a fun project, plant some of the old heirloom popcorn and compare to store-bought. Garden-grown anything is always better, and it’s much better cooked the old-fashioned way.