We use a stove top popcorn popper when we make popcorn at our house. We were introduced to this method by my brother-in-law who would make us theater style popcorn whenever we would visit them. He used the actual oil and popcorn salt that they used in movie theaters (purchased at Sam's Club) in his stove top popper. That is originally how we used our popper as well, but then I started looking for healthier options. This recipe is our favorite variation so far.
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1. Stovetop popcorn popper (like the one on the right)
2. 2 tbs. Refined Coconut Oil
3. Scant 2/3 cup Popcorn Kernels
4. Course ground salt
Put your stove top popper on your stove top. Turn heat to somewhere below Medium and whatever the next lowest number is. Heat is important in this recipe, too hot and the kernels won't fully pop and you will end up hard and crunchy and, possibly, painful. It is better to err on the low side for this one, even if it takes a little longer to cook.
Add 2 tbs of refined coconut oil. This oil has NO coconut flavor. I have found good, organic refined coconut oil at my local Winco, for about $10 for about 1.5 quarts, which is where I usually buy it. But recently I found a whole GALLON of nutiva brand refined coconut oil at Costco for $16. I was ecstatic. I am probably going to go by two more gallons and throw them in my freezer and see how they do....I'll let you know how that goes.
Add a scant 2/3 cup popcorn kernels. I usually buy organic kernels at the health foods store nearby, but I'm not always super picky about it. Close the lid and wait, turning the crank every couple of minutes. When you start to hear the kernels popping, start turning. If the popping stops, you can take a break for a little while, too. Once the popping is pretty much constant, keep the crank turning until it won't turn any more. Once it won't turn, remove from heat, but let the popping slow down before you pour the popcorn into a large mixing bowl.
Once in the bowl, top with course salt to taste. I use Himalayan Pink Salt in a salt grinder, also purchased at Costco. Put some salt on top, and then toss the popcorn in it to coat it well. I always do a little dash on top that I don't mix in since some of the salt settles to the bottom. Enjoy!!
A note: We rarely wash our popper. Sound gross? Not really. I figure the heat pretty much kills any icky stuff in there, and all that is left behind is the oil. Anyone who has ever fried anything knows that you can reuse oil until it goes rancid, so leaving some in the kettle isn't a big deal. The oil leaves the kettle seasoned much in the same way you would season cast iron. This allows for using less oil in the future. If this is your first batch in your kettle, or if it is squeaky clean, you may have to add 1/2-1 tbs extra coconut oil that first batch. We wash ours if it starts to smell a little off, that means that something has gone rancid, but this rarely ever happens since we use it so often and the heat keeps it pretty clean. BUT, if not washing you kettle bothers you, or if you feel it is unsafe, or if you are only using it once in a blue moon, by all means, wash away.
Variations: I grew up topping my popcorn with Lawry's salt, and I have also enjoyed garlic salt and dehydrated Parmesan cheese on my popcorn. In the mood for something sweet? Add 1/4 cup sugar to the kettle about the time it starts popping to make Kettle Corn...but just know that it may give your next batch a sweet flavor as well if you don't always wash between uses.
There are lots of other alternatives to the microwave popcorn bags you can buy in the store.
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1. Air popped. This is the popcorn I grew up with, straight from the air popper, topped with lots, and lots of butter and salt. The down side to this baby is that when you add oil or butter it shrivels up the popcorn....this is actually an issue for my kids who look at it and turn up their noses without even giving it a try. I say, the soggier the better. Just follow the machines' instructions for perfect popcorn.
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2. Microwave. Didn't I just say that microwave popcorn is bad for you? Yes, but I was referring to the pre-packaged baggies full of all those nasty artificial flavors and colors. There are plenty of gizmos that also allow you to pop popcorn in the microwave, some are made of plastic (which I tend to shy away from), some are made of silicone. OR, I have heard of people using paper lunch bags to pop popcorn in the microwave. Most of the microwave methods don't make large batches, so you might have to make several for a crowd.
The photos used in this post link to Amazon searches for products in case anyone wants to shop around. I also included affiliate links to some of the products. HAPPY POPCORN MAKING!!