It takes just as long as the bagged stuff, so get poppin'.
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Growing up, popcorn was a Sunday night treat. My dad would pop a big pot, dump it in the large woven-wood bowl, and bring it to the den with a set of smaller bowls for us to scoop portions. It was also the hey-day of Jiffy Pop, and rare was the slumber party that didn’t have us clustered around the stove watching the foil dome expand. So, it’s no surprise that popcorn is my go-to, all-season, all-weather snack. And often dinner. I have always loved popcorn, from that neon-yellow movie theater popcorn, to the slightly Styrofoam texture of the bagged stuff, from caramel corn to cheese, and as a Chicagoan, cheese and caramel mixed together.

But I was never a convert to microwave popcorn.

Don’t get me wrong, if someone puts microwave popcorn in front of me I will eat it. I just never really love it, not the way I love what I cannot help but think of as “real” popcorn.

So, it is always a shock to the system when I run into someone who fulfills all of their popcorn desires with those flat packs of grease and kernels. Because, and this is the part few people tell you, it takes about the same amount of time to pop real corn as it does microwave popcorn. Unless you are working with some insanely high-powered microwave, they will almost always tell you to set it for five minutes. And on my stove at least, five minutes is about right for a large pot of fluffy kernels.

Try it. You’ll never go back.

The kernels

At our house we are a bit mad about popcorn, so I make a big jar that is a blend of Orville Redenbacher Yellow kernels, Orville Redenbacher White kernels, and Amish mushroom kernels I buy on the internet (these are the cannonball-shaped ones that you seen in commercial caramel corn). I find this to be a very satisfying mix, but buy any good quality kernel you like. You will need 1/8 cup of kernels per person for a party snack, ¼ cup of kernels per person for a nice reasonable after-dinner snack bowl, and ½ cup per person if you are planning to eat popcorn for dinner.

The oil

I use peanut oil for popping because of its high smoke point and neutral flavor. But canola, vegetable, sunflower, and coconut are all good. I don’t waste olive oil on popcorn; the heat kills the flavor. You are going to use 1 ½ tablespoons per quarter cup of kernels, plus ½ tablespoon “for the pot” like the extra scoop of coffee.

The pot

You want a large stock pot big enough for there to be space for the kernels to get some momentum. Think a minimum of 4 quarts of pot space per quarter cup of kernels.

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Credit: Dave Long Media

Dave Long Media

The method

Place your pot over high heat and add oil and kernels all at once, shaking the pot around to coat all the kernels in oil. Cover with a lid and let it hang out till you hear popping. Give it another shake. Let it sit and pop. When you hear it start to slow, shake again. When it takes three seconds between pop, turn the heat off and remove the pot from the pan. Give it another good shake for ten seconds. Then take the lid off and salt to your personal taste, and then serve.

I know a lot of people tell you to do three kernels and wait till they pop before adding the rest, but this is an unnecessary waste of time. The kernels don’t absorb oil, and then it just takes longer for them to come up to heat to start popping. With my way, you get your popcorn about 2-3 minutes faster, making it solidly in microwave range, time-wise.

I don’t use anything but sea salt on mine, but feel free to butter or cheese or season to your heart’s delight.

Get the recipe: Spicy Popcorn