Sure, you can stick a lumpy little packet into the microwave and punch a few buttons. But once you learn to pop your own corn on the stove, you’ll never want the fake-tasting kind again.
: When cooking at the stove, have an adult nearby to supervise you.
Step 1: Add oil Measure three tablespoons of the oil, and pour it into the pot. Swirl the oil around to evenly coat the bottom.
Step 2: Add popcorn Measure one-third to one-half cup of popcorn, and pour that into the pot. Shake the pot gently until the kernels are evenly coated with oil, and cover the bottom of the pot in one layer.
Step 3: Heat popcorn Place the pot on the stove, put on the lid, and, with a grown-up’s help, turn on the burner. Set the heat to medium.
Step 4: Listen The secret to perfect popcorn is listening carefully. As soon as you hear the first kernels pop, use the potholders and shake the pot back and forth over the burner a few times so that no kernels get burned.
TIP: Another way to get popping is to put just a few kernels of corn into the oil and turn on the burner. As soon as those kernels pop, the oil is hot enough and you can pour in the rest.
Step 5: Pay close attention Keep listening. Notice when the popping slows down and finally stops. Once three seconds go by without a pop, turn off the burner.
TIP: Several times as the corn is popping, lift a corner of the lid a bit to let some steam escape. You’ll get fluffier popcorn that way. Just open the pot away from you, and don’t forget to use a potholder!
Step 6: Let the popcorn cool Uncover the pot and let the popcorn cool for a minute or two.
Step 7: Pour popcorn Have a grown-up help you lift the pot and pour the popcorn into a large bowl.
Step 8: Add butter If you like butter on your popcorn, put a chunk into the pot, which should still be hot. When the butter’s melted, dump the popcorn back into the pot, stir it around, and pour it back into the bowl.
TIP: You can also melt butter in the microwave, in a small bowl or cup. Zap it for just several seconds at a time; it will melt quickly.
Step 9: Add salt Sprinkle the still-warm popcorn with salt, if you like. Popcorn salt is very fine and clings better than table salt. But table salt tastes just as good if it’s all you have.
TIP: You don’t have to limit your popcorn flavorings to butter and salt. Try other add-ins, like cayenne pepper, Parmesan cheese, taco seasoning, black or lemon pepper, olive oil, or a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon.
Step 10: Enjoy Take your bowl of popcorn and munch on it while you watch a movie. It always tastes best in front of a screen—even a little one.
FACT: The Aztecs made jewelry and headdresses out of popcorn for ceremonies.