Kettle Corn

By • October 30, 2013 • 17 Comments

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Author Notes: Kettle corn is a multigenerational food, much like peanut butter and chicken fingers.

It's a food you can make with your kids, for them -- on top of them, if you're Nicolas Day. You can also make it all for your adult self. You can pile it high in a big bowl and nestle it in your lap and drink a beer with it and be happy, and if you're doing everything correctly, a little high from sugar. Isn't it the time of year for that, anyway?
Kenzi Wilbur

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1/4 cup neutral oil (like vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until hot. Add 3 popcorn kernels and cover. When these pop, dump in the rest of the kernels and the sugar, and stir to coat.
  2. Cover the pot, and shake it frequently until the popping becomes much less frequent. The minute you hear that, take it off the heat so as not to burn.
  3. Turn the kettle corn out onto a parchment-lined tray for the sugar to dry -- and before it does, sprinkle generously with salt.
Jump to Comments (17)

Tags: corn, popcorn

Comments (17) Questions (0)

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Stringio

6 months ago Schteveo Rukiddinme

OK, I do KK as a salable item at street fairs / festivals / etc.

Of course we use a 50 gallon cast iron pot, stirred with a 'boat paddle' to make 25 gals at a time, but I've been cooking this on the stove for almost 20 years now too. I do it the same at home, just in smaller batches.

They've got the measurements right up above, but not the cooking method. I've NEVER seen the cooking directions written the way we cook on the street, but I've seen people do it that way at festivals. Their KK is more 'crusted' with sugar, than coated with a light glaze like ours.
I will tell you that cooking KK this way gives it almost a candy coating on the outside, so safety is important. Hot candy and lava are ONLY different in that one is rock, the other sugar. The two worst burns I've ever seen were from cheese off of a pizza at a Dominos I used to run, and the other was from THIS KK recipe! Both were 2nd degree burns, so BE CAREFUL!!! Please!

So here goes...read this several times, line up your ingredients, and then start.

Heat the oil until it shimmers or looks like it's roiling around on it's own, almost smoking ACTUALLY.

Do NOT add any popcorn now!!!

When the oil is hot, add in the sugar...it will crystallize ALMOST IMMEDIATELY, keep it moving, keep it moving, keep it moving OR IT WILL BURN. The sugar will 'slump' down into a syrup in about 45 secs to 1 minute. This happens suddenly and when it does, pour in the popcorn, shake it up, put on the lid and keep SHAKING that pot, or the sugar WILL burn.

Cook the popcorn as always, listening for it to almost stop popping as you always do.

When it's done, pour it in a heat resistant bowl, hit it with a little salt, flip it around and your finished! LET IT COOL before sticking your hands in it.

NOTES:
If you've done it right, the KK will actually keep moving as the coating sets and hardens. We actually call that 'crawling' when we work a show.

If it was me, and this is how we train people to make a 4lb batch at a time, try preparing the oil & sugar a time or two, just to see what I've described. It's a dollars worth of oil and sugar, but when the 10th pot comes off the stove and your the neighborhood KK Guru next Superbowl Sunday, you will have LONG forgotten that buck worth of oil and sugar.

Enjoy.

Me_2009

9 months ago MrsPrincess07

I have a ceramic cook top. How do I make this without scratching my cook top?

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10 months ago twinjadojo

Made this with 3 tbsp. virgin coconut oil and 1 tbsp butter, pushed right to the edge of their smoking points. I liked the element of danger involved waiting for those three kernels to pop and then adding the rest. I got a little sveaty when it took so long for the balance of the corn to start popping, but all turned out well. Where should I send your cut of all the money I'll save at the farmers market now?

Me

10 months ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

:) Even still, there are few things better than walking around the market eating a large bag of the stuff.

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10 months ago twinjadojo

So true! This was such a hit at my Stitch 'n' Bitch last night. All projects went home a little saltier; a little sweeter. And just to be Captain Obvious, Protector of Soft Palates, don't eat this right out of the pan. Not only does it hurt (real bad! duh!), but I found the salty sweet contrast became more pronounced at room temp, as did my flavorful oil. And I am pretending to write this in the past tense like I didn't just make another batch for the Twinjas.

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11 months ago Chickenfog

Think this would work w/ brown sugar?

Me

11 months ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

I do!

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12 months ago NANCY AMBROSE

If you use mushroom popcorn it's even better, it's the big puffy corn they use to make the kettle corn. Go to "JUSTPOPPIN.COM) to find the mushroom corn kernels makes a big difference.... enjoy

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12 months ago frizz

I started researching how to make kettle corn at home about six months ago. I tried this method, and it failed miserably. The sugar sinks to the bottom and burns quickly, no matter how much shaking goes on.

Instead, I now pop all of the kernels first, and THE MOMENT it's done, I turn off the heat and add the sugar. I still shake the dickens out of the pot - both up and down, and side-to-side. The pot still has plenty of heat for the sugar to melt, but it never burns. If you're sugar isn't melting, you can substitute powdered sugar. The finer granules melt more quickly.

Me

12 months ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Thanks for sharing your method! This one works for me consistently, if you stir when you first add the sugar (this way it sticks to each kernel), but I'll have to try yours.

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about 1 year ago LeeLeeBee

I've always loved kettle corn and had NO IDEA it was so easy! (Food52 has made me realize that about a lot of things...) Thanks for a wonderful recipe, it made a lazy stay-at-home Friday night into something pretty spectacular. :)

Me

about 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

This makes me really happy. Here's to many more lazy Friday nights made better!

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about 1 year ago HapppyBee

My mom used to make this for us when we were kids sans the salt and we loved it. She didn't spread it out on a sheet to cool, so it turned out lumpy like caramel corn. I can't wait to add salt to it for the kettle corn version at home. Thanks for the memory. There's always room for another popcorn recipe!

Me

about 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Indeed there is. So glad to jog your memory! Happy kettle-corning.

Stringio

about 1 year ago MaryAlice

That was really good!

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about 1 year ago Rochelle Bilow

A bit of bacon grease wouldn't hurt matters, either!

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about 1 year ago KimmyV

I'll be making this as soon as my boys get home from school! They love kettle corn. Thanks for this great snack idea.