Perfect Wok Popcorn

Perfect wok popcorn is a technique that makes some of best popcorn we’ve ever had. All you need is a wok, some oil, and popcorn kernels. And these instructions on how to pop popcorn on the stove.

A person holding a wok for making wok popcorn in front of their face.

This recipe instructs you in the art of making perfect wok 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 jigger the heat ever so slightly so the popcorn neither scorches nor too many seconds elapse between when 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, uncovered, after being pulled from the heat to ensure the puffy corn turns from tough to tender. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. Actually, perfect is overrated. But this comes close to it.–Renee Schettler

Perfect Wok Popcorn

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 5 M
  • 5 M
  • Makes 6 to 12 cups
5/5 - 1 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge cookbook

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


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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.

Tester tip: To minimize cleanup, first 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.

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. Originally published January 18, 2011.

Print RecipeBuy the Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge cookbook

Want it? Click it.

    How To Season Your Wok By Making Popcorn In It

    • Cookbook author Grace Young explained to us that making popcorn in a 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.


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    1. I have used a cast iron wok to pop corn for years. One of the reasons I use a wok is because I do not have to shake it. The heavier kernels fall into the hot oil as the lighter popped corn sits on top. I just turn off the heat while there is still a few seconds between pops. This way makes perfect popcorn and I rarely have unpopped kernels..

    2. This IS the Perfect Popcorn recipe! Now after two flawless attempts I deem this method a complete success: perfectly popped popcorn, no burned pieces, and very few to no left over kernels! I will admit, I was skeptical when trying this recipe. I thought for sure the heat of the wok would burn the popcorn, but this method is better than any other method I have previously tired (microwave, large flat bottomed pot, air popper). I used a piece of 18 inch long heavy duty foil and I laid it flush to the edges of the wok lid and folded the excess over the top edges of the lid, so in essence it made a flat surface for the popcorn to bounce off of. The 18 inch foil length helped create a nice seal and fit perfectly on the lid of my wok. While the foil did make clean up a breeze, I also do think the foil served a purpose of keeping the steam closer to the kernels and allowing the popping to be done quickly, in about 1 1/2 minutes once the popping began. Once finished, I wiped out the wok with a dry paper towel since the popping seemed to season my wok effortlessly in the popping process, a win, win!

      1. Dawn, it seems like you have this down cold! (Or should I say “hot?”) Grace Young, one of my very favorite cookbook authors, really does hit it out of the park with this recipe. So glad you like it.

    3. 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. :)

      1. 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!

    4. 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.

    5. 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

    6. 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.

    7. 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!

    8. 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.

    9. 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.

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