Perfect Popcorn

Perfect Popcorn Recipe

Cookbook author Grace Young has come to understand that making popcorn in her wok accomplishes a couple things. Arguably most importantly, it creates the lightest, airiest, most perfect popcorn. Less predictably, it also helps season her wok. “As the kernels pop, they evenly disperse a light coating of oil around the wok’s entire inside surface, which the heat then burns in,” Grace explains in her book, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge. “Of course, popping corn will not make a new wok suddenly look or behave like a 30-year-old pan. The traditional way to develop a patina once the wok has been seasoned is to cook regularly with the wok; you cannot replicate the elegance of a truly old wok overnight. However, the popcorn trick will cheat the process a little. If you’re content to let your wok slowly age without shortcuts, then use this recipe only if you want perfect popcorn.” And you thought you were just getting perfect popcorn.–Renee Schettler Rossi

LC Practice Makes Perfect Note

This recipe instructs you in the art of making perfect popcorn. Yet there may still be a little learning curve, a sort of dance, that eventually comes to happen in front of your stove to ensure that your popcorn pops properly. Like learning to increase the heat ever so slightly if a certain inexact number of seconds elapse and you hear nary a pop. Knowing to crack the lid just a touch rather than forcing it tightly sealed to ensure the steam can escape—and to ensure that you escape soggy popcorn. Even—and this is the tricky part—respecting the fact that popcorn requires a minute or two of rest after being pulled from the heat to ensure the puffy white flakes turn from tough to tender. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. Don’t forget that.

Special Equipment: A 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or other large pot with a lid

Perfect Popcorn Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 5 M
  • 5 M
  • Makes 6 to 12 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons peanut, vegetable, or coconut oil
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • Coarse salt, to taste

Directions

  • 1. Pour the oil and just a few popcorn kernels into a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok (or other large pot), cover, and place over medium heat until 1 or 2 kernels begin to pop, about 1 1/2 minutes. (To reduce cleanup, wrap the inside of the wok’s lid in aluminum foil. Otherwise the inside surface of the lid will be spattered with oil, making yet another thing for you to clean.)
  • 2. Working quickly, open the lid just enough to pour in the remaining popcorn. Immediately cover the wok and reduce the heat to medium-low. If you do not hear constant popping, increase the heat to medium. Shake the wok constantly back and forth on the burner until the kernels stop popping, about 1 1/2 minutes. Immediately dump the popcorn into a bowl and season with salt to taste.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Hey, there. Just a reminder that all our content is copyright protected. Like a photo? Please don't use it without our written permission. Like a recipe? Kindly contact the publisher listed above for permission before you post it (that's what we did) and rewrite it in your own words. That's the law, kids. And don't forget to link back to this page, where you found it. Thanks!


Comments
Comments
  1. Penny Wolf says:

    You know I may skip the salt and drizzle the popcorn with a melted butter blended with soy.

  2. Mary Capps says:

    Finely shredded white cheddar. Yum.

    And I just saw this on (I think) Viking Ovens FB page: Popcorn popped in duck fat, drizzled with truffle oil and sprinkled with truffle salt. Thud.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Gasp! Popcorn popped in duck fat. Why have I never thought of this?!

  3. Every weekday at 3:00pm, when my 4-year-old son needs a snack and the baby wakes up from her nap, we make popcorn on the stove. I always use my pressure cooker because it’s so tall and just put the lid on top without really closing it all the way. I’m going to have to try this wok idea.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Lovely tradition for your children to grow up with, Damaris. Lovely.

  4. Manju says:

    Hmmm, love using the wok — that’s brilliant, as is the duck fat suggestion. Just made some schmalz and gribenes (with chicken) so we may have to try this over the weekend!

  5. My mom used to make popcorn on the stove as an afternoon snack daily when I was a kid. We had a dog who, even after she was deaf and could barely walk, would pop up like a puppy for her daily popcorn treats. It’s such a lovely memory, but I’ve never managed to perfect my mom’s technique. Perhaps I’ll give this a try tonight, however, I think I’ll skip the salt, butter, or duckfat and go straight for the caramel with a short jaunt in the oven.

  6. SpyderVenym says:

    I make my popcorn differently and it works like a charm EVERY time. I put my pot on the stove on high without any oil in it. When a few sprinkled drops of water bead up in the pan, it’s hot enough. I then add the oil and 1 single kernel. When it pops, I add the rest of the popcorn and shake like mad. Remove from heat when the popping slows down! :D

  7. Even better than stove-top popped corn? Home-grown popcorn – yellow, white or even red. It’s worth a search to find locally grown, fresh(ish) popcorn.

  8. Sande says:

    My kids think I make the best popcorn. I pop it in ghee and add powdered salt. I like mine popped in olive oil with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a healthy sprinkle of Tabasco sauce. I eat if for lunch once a week or so.

  9. Jana Lindgren Early says:

    Popcorn made in a wok? That’s clever! Thanks for the popcorn post – oh how I LOVE the little organic, non-GMO popping corn which is so petite, purple, with that old-world nutty flavor. Then when popped, little jewels are dressed with a bit of coconut oil, olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, a crank or 4 of cracked pepper, and a couple of dashes of powdered garlic, or lemon pepper. Your choice – but either way? What bliss. :)

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      You’re very welcome, Jana. And I know that bliss well. I mean, I know my version of your popcorn bliss well, which is teensy organic, non-GMO kernels that pop up hull-less and white as white can be with a slightly sweet, delicate flavor, dressed only with the olive oil they were popped in and some crushed coarse sea salt. Ah…there may be popcorn for breakfast at this rate!

  10. grdmacs says:

    I have a round bottomed wok, will popcorn recipe still work okay ?? TY Cathy

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

*

Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail