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How to Make Perfect Popcorn in a Pot

Updated on June 19, 2014

Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

Making popcorn in a pot on your stovetop is easy, fun, and cheap. It's almost as easy as throwing a bag into the microwave, and better for you and for the environment. (Do you really want to be eating something that gives people who produce it lung disease as the chemicals found in Microwave popcorn do?) I learned to make this popcorn from my Scrabble partner back in the day when we both lived on kibbutz and didn't have any money to waste. He'd perfected a method for perfect popcorn and I've been making popcorn this way, with nary a burned pop or wasted kernel in sight, ever since.

Stovetop Pop Corn at a Glance

Quick Reference

You need: bulk popcorn, oil, salt, heavy bottomed pot.

Step 1: Spread a thin layer of oil in heavy bottomed pot (high enough to cover half a popcorn kernal).

Step2: Add two unpopped kernels to the pot.

Step 3: Place the pot on the stove, with the flame on high

Step 4: When the first of the kernels has popped, remove the pot from the flame.

Step 5: Spread a layer of popcorn kernels evenly accross the bottom of the pot.
Very important: There should only be a single layer with no overlapping kernels.

Step 6: Evenly salt the single layer of popcorn kernels.

Step 7: Return the pot to the stove until the kernals stop popping (about 2-3 minutes).

Step 8: Empty popcorn into a large bowl.

Step 9: Immediately fill the pot with warm soapy water. (This will make washing up later very easy).

Step 10: Taste, and adjust salt if necessary. Enjoy!

Why Bother Making Popcorn on the Stove When You Can Just Microwave Some with No Muss, No Fuss?

There are lots of reasons to make homemade popcorn in a pop on your stovetop:

  • Mainly: It's cheaper. You'll save up to 70% compared to packaged microwave popcorn.
  • No need to buy or store an extra piece of equipment you use only once in a while.

  • It's better for the environment because it cuts down on a lot of unnecessary packaging.

  • It's better for your heath because it doesn't contain any artificial chemicals or additives like you find in microwave popcorn.

  • It's tastier than air popped popcorn, which taste about the way you imagine those styrofoam packaging peanuts do.

  • You control the ingredients so you get to make it taste exactly how you like.

  • There is some controversy about how healthy microwaved food actually is. Better to be on the safe side.

So lets get started!

Stovetop Popcorn - the Ingredients

1. Some bulk packaged popcorn, about 1/3 cup (you can use a gourmet brand, but it's not necessary)

2. Some vegetable oil, preferably with a high smoke point like peanut or canola. (Just about any kind you have on hand will do. Sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil, peanut oil and even olive oil work fine. For popcorn that tastes just like the kind you get in the movies, you can use coconut oil, which is more expensive but also very good for you.)

3. Salt

The Secret to Making Popcorn that Tastes Like You Get in Movie Theaters: - Coconut Oil

Yes, that's right! Coconut oil is what makes movie popcorn taste so good. It's wicked good for you too. And with the money you're saving on making it from scratch, you can treat yourself to some grassfed butter to slather over it.

Stovetop Popcorn - the Equipment

1. A large, heavy bottomed pot, about 3 quarts, with a lid

2. A stove or hotplate

3. A large bowl

Stovetop Popcorn - the Method

1. Add the oil to the pot. You will need about 1/8th of inch of oil, about enough to cover half a popcorn kernel. We don't want too much oil or the popcorn will be too greasy - so use just enough to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

2. Add two kernels of popcorn to the pot. This is the first secret to making perfect popcorn. These are your test kernels to make sure the oil is hot enough before adding the rest of the popcorn, so that they will pop almost immediately and not get soggy.

3 . Heat the oil on medium high heat until at least one kernel pops.

4. Add the popcorn to the pot. Okay, here is the is the second and most important secret to making perfect stovetop popcorn.. Make sure that you have a single layer of popcorn evenly spread out on the bottom of the pot, with no kernels overlapping on top of each other. (Shake the pot sideways back and forth to achieve this). This is a very important step, because when you have perfected this, all the kernels of popcorn will pop at about the same time. Thus, you won't end up with either kernels that remain unpopped or a pan that gets burned while you are waiting for the last kernels to stop popping.

5. Remove the pot from the heat (so that the popcorn doesn't start popping in your face while you are doing this) and sprinkle salt evenly over the popcorn. Take this opportunity to mush any kernels that are overlapping in a double layer or sticking up out of the oil down into it, if shaking the pan back and forth didn't result in a single flat layer. This is the third secret, because now we will have both the salt and the oil thoroughly distributed in the kernels as they pop.

6. Return the pot to the heat, and cover it with the lid, leaving the lid slightly ajar so the steam can escape (the last secret), until the kernels have finished popping. Letting the steam escape this way helps keep the popcorn crisp instead of mushy. If you have distributed the kernels in a single even layer, you won't need to shake the pot. Remove the pop from stove stove immediately after all the popping sounds stop.

Stovetop Popcorn - Easy Cleanup

As soon as the popcorn has finished popping immediately transfer it to the large bowl, and fill your pot with hot soapy water. Leave it to soak while you are eating the popcorn. Since we haven't burned anything using this method, it should wash up very easily.

Popcorn Toppings - Optional

Popcorn made like this is delicious enough to eat as is. But if you get bored of plain popcorn, you can top it with some of these:

Melted butter ( the classic favorite)

Parmesan cheese,

Sesame oil or olive oil and garlic powder

Truffle salt

Nutritional yeast (I think this tastes disgusting, but I know people who swear by it, and it's certainly good for you)

Thanks for Visiting My Lens

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    • SilverLotus1 profile image


      4 years ago

      I've been making stove top popcorn since forever, and I'm glad you published this lens!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      The most favorable treat in the family. Thanks for the tips. I think we will improve our pop corn a little bit...

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas

      One of my favorite treats when I was a kid was Jiffy Pop. I rather have fresh popped than microwaved any day of the week. I have never had Parmesan cheese on popcorn. It sounds really good. I love salt!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Glad you just verified my way of making popcorn. Just made it up myself, didn't know if anyone else did it this way.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love stove top popcorn. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice ideas on my all time favorite snack.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Love popcorn! Thanks for sharing the stovetop popcorn method!

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 

      6 years ago

      nice lens. Stove top was the only way to make popcorn until they came out with all the fancy popcorn makers; even microwave too. Thank you for stopping by my Traditional Irish Plum Pudding Recipe lens and giving it a "thumbs up" I appreciate it.

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 

      6 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      Sounds just like I used to do it before my docs told me to use a hot air popper. I still always added butter :-) What the docs don't know won't hurt them.



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