A bowl of buttery popcorn is a staple for family movie night. If you're interested in cooking fresh popcorn at home, you may be wondering what the best pot is for making it. We've shucked our way through the research and have several kernels of advice for you!
The best popping pots for the stove are the saucepan, dutch oven, or stovetop popper. For extra entertainment value and a mostly hands-free experience, you could use a machine called an air popper. Low on time? Utilize a microwave popping bowl!
So, why are these methods the most effective? Why is my stovetop popcorn chewy? Can I make bagged popcorn on the stove? Pop on through this post to learn all about making your perfect homemade snack!
Pot and popper recommendations
Saucepan on the stove
For fluffy, crispy popcorn, you cannot go wrong with a simple saucepan. The recommended size is a four-quart version with a lid. This way, all that multiplied popcorn volume has somewhere to go. Obviously, the lid is essential in retaining some steam- and keeping your kernels from exploding all over the kitchen!
When using a saucepan, it's important to only cook on medium-high heat. That temperature ensures a good cook without burning the kernels. Also, a thick-bottomed pot like cast-iron, hard aluminum, or stainless steel will apply a more even cook than thinner materials.
Cookie and Kate has yummy instructions for Perfect Stovetop Popcorn that illustrates saucepan use.
Dutch oven on the stove
If you're a hardcore camper, you probably already have a good dutch oven at home. Whether it's cast iron or aluminum, these heavy-duty pots are wonderful at retaining heat for popping. Not to mention, if your cast iron sees regular use, it most likely adds some extra seasoning to your food!
Dutch ovens are fairly similar to saucepans for our popcorn purposes. Namely, four-quart remains a good size, although larger is fine, too. Be sure it has a lid and that you only cook on medium-high heat. As previously mentioned, these pots can get quite hot, so remember to have some oven mitts handy!
A fun fact while we're on the subject: these are also amazing for making delicious popcorn over a campfire! Head over to Cool of the Wild for an amazing guide on making Campfire Popcorn.
Check out the Dutch Oven Popcorn recipe from Accidental Happy Baker to see this method in use.
While the looks of stovetop poppers can vary, they all share basic design elements. Essentially, they're pots made with a crank handle that attaches to paddles to stir the cooking popcorn. Since it's constantly being rotated, you'll get more popped kernels from this process and fewer burnt remains. The lid is normally vented and hinged.
These cookers are arguably the single best method for crunchy, fluffy results. We highly recommend trying one- you'll never look back! A popper is fast, easy to use, simple to wash, and (most importantly) it's really fun!
The Theater-Style Popcorn recipe from Key Ingredient makes the stovetop popper method look drool-worthy.
For those of us with kids in the house, air poppers are a favorite. They're safe for older children to operate, as it mostly entails plugging the device into the wall and flipping a switch. Best of all, they love watching the kernels pop and spit out into the bowl. The machine finishes in about two to three minutes and has a removable cover for ease of cleaning. It's almost completely hands-off!
If you're watching out for your health or just prefer plain popcorn, this is definitely for you. Unlike most other approaches, it does not require oil or butter in the cooking process. Although, you can still add those if desired, of course.
Cuisinart illustrates how to make mouth-watering Kettle Corn in a hot air popper.
Microwave Popper Bowls
Let's be honest: the majority of us are pretty in love with the convenience factor of that nuke machine. That being the case, a microwaveable popper bowl is another basically hands-free option. There's no standing over the stove. You'll receive light, fluffy bites that you can eat right out of the same bowl. No extra dishes or time involved, and they're dishwasher-safe. Perfect for those nights where you're just ready to finally sit down and veg!
Popper bowls are also the cheapest option on today's list and come in several color designs!
Jen Haugen shows us some delicious Microwave Popcorn Maker recipes using a microwaveable bowl.
How to pop popcorn on the stove?
Making popcorn on the stove is not difficult; however, you do have to pay attention, or it will burn. Let's walk through a simple technique!
To begin with, you'll need to have the following items available:
- A 4-quart (or larger) saucepan or dutch oven
- 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels
- 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of butter (optional)
- salt to taste (optional)
Heat the oil in your pan on medium-high heat. Once warm, add two to four kernels as a temperate test. Wait for them to pop.
Now add your remaining kernels and cover the pot. Remove from heat for exactly 30 seconds. Count it out!
Return to the heat source. When the real popping starts, gently shake the pan across the burner to prevent burning. If you like crispy popcorn, keep the lid slightly ajar at this point to let some steam escape. Once the popping slows to several seconds in between, remove the lid and dump the contents into a large bowl.
Drizzle melted butter, you can use the same hot pan, and add salt to taste. You may also enjoy other savory toppings, like garlic powder, cayenne, or paprika. Cinnamon and nutmeg work well for a light sweetness. Pre-packed popcorn seasoning mixes are also sold in stores. They come in flavors such as ranch, nacho cheddar, bacon, caramel, jalapeno, and more!
Can I pop popcorn without oil?
We do not recommend cooking popcorn on the stovetop without oil. Not because it can't be done, but because of the high burn risk both to your food and the cookware.
The best way to make popcorn without including oil is by using an air popper or the microwave. Since oil is not necessary for those methods, you can prepare a healthier- or even fat-free- snack. Your heart will thank you, and your taste buds won't be denied in the process!
Visit Veggiekins for an Oil-Free Popcorn recipe that's also vegan and gluten-free.
Why is my stovetop popcorn chewy?
When you end up with chewy stovetop popcorn, there's usually one big culprit behind it: steam. If the lid on your pot is not ventilated properly, excess moisture absorbs into your food. This makes for an unpleasant texture. Next time, be sure that your lid has vents, or just prop it slightly open during the cooking process.
Also, don't wait too long to eat your snack! Dig in within a few minutes. The longer the bowl sits there, the more moisture is absorbed via the air. And we already know what rubbery popcorn tastes like. Yuck.
One last reason your popcorn has extra chew could be from adding too much oil. Aim for around one tablespoon of liquid per 1/4 cup of unpopped kernels.
Can I make bagged popcorn on the stove?
If you have a bag of microwaveable popcorn- but no microwave- don't be sad! You actually don't need one. Instead, pour the bag's contents into a large saucepan. Since bagged versions include a clot of butter-like substance, you won't need oil. Warm over medium heat, breaking up the mixture as it melts. When the popping starts, shake over the burner to prevent burnt clumps. As soon as the pops die down, take it away from the heat and enjoy!
Thanks for popping by
Aww, shucks, we're at the end of our post. Hopefully, you've learned everything you never knew you needed to know about preparing popcorn! We established that the best pots for the job are saucepans, dutch ovens, and stovetop poppers. Air poppers are also effective, fun, and don't require oil. And, of course, you can always nuke some kernels in a microwaveable popper bowl!