How-To & Diy

How to Make Homemade Popcorn

October  3, 2013

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.

How to Make Popcorn

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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.

How to Make Popcorn

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.

How to Make Popcorn  How to Make Popcorn

Once all of your kernels pop, add the rest of the kernels to the pot, cover, and take it off of the heat.

How to Make Popcorn  How to Make Popcorn

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.

How to Make Popcorn 

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.

How to Make Popcorn

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.

Perfect Popcorn Recipe on Food52  How to Make Popcorn

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.

How to Make Popcorn 

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

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Smokymtngirl
  • Christeen
  • Carole Hamer
    Carole Hamer
  • Kris
  • Nicki Lindheimer
    Nicki Lindheimer
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



Smokymtngirl February 1, 2019
We eat popcorn quite a bit. I use an electric popcorn popper which pops all but 2 or 3 kernels. I also dump mine in a bowl a third at a time and then I add a little melted butter, white truffle salt and ground pepper. Keep doing that until it's all in the bowl and mix with a spatula. Best popcorn ever!!!
Christeen August 22, 2017
I wanted to try it out using no oil- I used all of your preparations **reducing the heat to medium** with only 2 tablespoons of butter to 1/4 cup of corn kernels and it worked like a charm! Seriously delicious and all the kernels popped :)
Carole H. July 19, 2016
Making Theatre popcorn at home is the best choice you can do, its cheaper and more healthy, I prefer using hot air popcorn popper, it produces tasty and healthy popcorn for your kids and family, it utilizes hot air to pop kernels, and you will get healthy snack with low calorie content, its cheap and it cooks quickly, you can check for more features about hot air popper here
Kris August 12, 2015
I don't have this kind of pot. Anything else I can use? stainless steel? or nonstick?
Ida February 8, 2019
(3.5 yrs later) Yep! Used a non-stick pan.
Nicki L. July 22, 2014
Love popcorn on the stove! I find the le creuset pot is so nice and thick its really hard to burn the popcorn and heat distributes evenly. No need to even shake too much. We use avocado oil. Like coconut oil it can take the high heat but doesn't influence the flavor too much. And yes yes! to the Amish kernels! Yummy. Time for a movie!!!!!
Bradley February 26, 2014
I used to pop corn this way, but it's too much hassle. Now I just put all the oil and corn in at once and put it on medium-high heat. When it starts to pop, I shake it every once in a while until it's done. Perfect every time. I really don't understand why people promote the 3-kernel method... I think it's an urban legend.
Colette B. September 12, 2020
I concur. Just blackened 2 pots with this 3-kernel method. Never had this happen when I just dumped everything in at once. Horrible. Back to scrubbing now.
Lauren T. February 3, 2014
Not quite the healthy alternative but my grandmother used to pop corn with her saved bacon grease. This was so tasty already but it was just the base for something much more decadent... She poured homemade hot caramel over sheets of popcorn, we buttered our hands and formed the sticky treats known as popcorn balls. But I agree, coconut oil is wonderful for everyday snacking. I add, pepper or rosemary or lemon zest. A friend dresses up her popcorn with spraying evoo and a sprinkling cardamom sugar over the top.
michelle_brown February 2, 2014
I use peanut oil to pop - much less than you do. I finish with EVOO and dust truffle salt on it. But hey, any pop corn popped on the stove that is fluffy and flavorful - I will happily eat!
tastysweet February 2, 2014
I love homemade pp. I though use coconut oil for my fat. And I only need 1TB. per 1/3 C pp.
I think I will try this method with the 30 second trick.
But I also use EVOO inlieu of butter. Then kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne. We love love it that way.
Simone January 25, 2014
I have never owned a microwave and have always made my popcorn on the stove. Instead of a neutral oil, I use olive oil and often eliminate the butter. To the commenter that mentioned the truffle oil-that is a fantastic variation! Make that and you will eat the entire batch in one sitting.
Debbie December 22, 2013
I quit using a micro-wave years ago! Popcorn is so much better when NOT using a micro-wave. I purchased the 52 popcorn popper! Will do a review when I use it the first time! *I also, only use Himalayan Crystal ordinary table salt in my house!
Two T. October 31, 2013
I have never gotten all the kernels to pop until now!
LauriL October 13, 2013
Must try with coconut oil! And who knew my dutch oven could pop corn?
Ann October 3, 2013
Stovetop popcorn is wonderful if you want the indulgence of oil or butter, but for everyday snacking, I usually use the paper bag method. Put about 1/4 cup kernels in a regular brown paper lunch bag, fold the bag over twice at the top, place it folded-side-down in the microwave, and microwave for about 2.5 min on high (varies by microwave; you can listen for it to finish popping). It might take a bit of trial and error, but once you get a sense for the popping time, it's fantastic. Makes one generous serving, ready to be topped with whatever strikes your fancy.
Marian B. October 3, 2013
Thanks for the tip!
calendargirl October 3, 2013
We have come to love the tiny kernels we order online from Amish Country Popcorn in Indiana:
Their popcorn tastes like corn, comes in red and purple as well as white and yellow, and they offer hulless varieties, as well. The diminutive white lady finger popcorn is a family fave in our house.
Rachel W. October 3, 2013
Try using a Whirly Pop popper on the stove. it is lighter, easier to use and less clean-up. You can have popped popcorn in less than three minutes!
WannabeBaker October 3, 2013
I notice that when I poor hot liquid onto popcorn (or really any liquid), the popcorn it immediately hits just soaks it up and doesn't leave much for the rest. I've had better luck pouring the liquid into the bowl first and swirling it around to coat the bottom and sides. Then I put the popcorn in and toss. This gives me better coverage on my popcorn.
Marian B. October 3, 2013
Great tip -- I'll try that!
Nancy M. October 3, 2013
I want to understand how you could shake a Le Creuset dutch oven with the lid ajar. I have several and they are way too heavy for this maneuver. Anyway, instead, put some oil in an ordinary pot, lay a piece of foil over the top, set the heat at medium/high, add a few kernels and wait for them to pop. When they pop add the rest, crimp the foil tightly around the top of the pot and stab about a dozen slits in the foil with a sharp knife. You don't need to shake the pot because the act of popping moves the kernels around so they don't burn. When the popping slows down remove the pot from the heat and wait a few seconds to be sure the popping is done. Take the foil off and dump the popcorn into a bowl. Add butter and salt. Perfection.
Exbruxelles October 3, 2013
Use white truffle oil in place of both the neutral oil and the butter. Your toes will curl, I promise.
Marian B. October 3, 2013
Fancy! I like it.
Tedi October 3, 2013
Thanks for the tips! We often by the microwaveable popcorn out of sheer laziness but it never tastes as good as the fresh stuff!