Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Tonight, we're making perfect popcorn.
You've been burned before: you've had bad popcorn. Its smell doesn't leave your kitchen for days. It leaves black pockmarks on your good pot; it is inedible. It's a total movie night buzzkill.
You've also likely made good popcorn: minimal burnt bits, a small number of unpopped kernels hiding at the bottom of your bowl. You cover it with a modest amount of butter, a pinch of salt. It plays an obligatory role in your movie night. It's fine.
But tonight, we're making perfect popcorn, thanks to a technique from Simply Recipes. There's going to be counting out loud (in unison!), and there's going to be lots of butter. All of your kernels will be popped evenly, with none left behind. Now the only thing you'll be fretting over is what to watch on Netflix.
More: If you're craving sweet over salty, try caramel corn.
First off: mise your ingredients. It will make your popping easier. For every 1/3 cup dried kernels, you'll need 3 tablespoons of neutral oil, 3 tablespoons of butter, and salt.
Pour your oil into a heavy-bottomed pot. Drop 3 to 4 kernels into the pot, cover, and turn the heat to medium-high.
Once all of your kernels pop, add the rest of the kernels to the pot, cover, and take it off of the heat.
Count to 30 -- out loud works best, for very scientific reasons -- and then return the pot to the stove, over medium-high once again. Here's the regular popcorn rigamarole that you're used to: once your corn begins to pop, shake the pot vigorously with the lid ajar, waiting for the frequency of the noises to slow.
Once the pops slow down to every 2 to 3 seconds, take a peek -- because of the counting technique (you did it out loud, right?), you shouldn't have too many of those un-popped stragglers that cause everything else to turn black.
Dump your popped kernels into a bowl and turn off your heat -- but keep your pot on the oven! Make sure the popcorn isn't overflowing in your bowl -- you'll want some headspace when you mix things around.
Here's where you'll feel very very efficient: you're going to melt butter in your already-hot pot. Fearlessness behooves you here: a good three tablespoons will yield the best results. Swirl the butter around in the pan until it melts, and just begins to brown. Pour it over your popcorn. Toss with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until there's an even sheen of butter throughout. Add salt with the same generosity with which you added your butter.
If you're worried about aesthetics, transfer to a cleaner, smaller bowl. Eat one by one, or by the handful. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Photos by James Ransom