The Best Way to Make Popcorn At Home

The Best Way to Make Popcorn At Home

My personal popcorn intake has recently reached such an all-time high that I?ve had to chop myself off?cold turkey. It?s all due to an air popper that found its way into my kitchen, making it dangerously simple to pop bowl after bowl. Prior to the best air popped popcorn, I came from a careful burner family. All of this got me thinking: what’s the simplest thanks to pop white popcorn kernels?

A simple, lightweight aluminum pan equipped with a handheld crank that keeps the kernels moving, including a vented lid that battles steam-related sog. He tested the essential Whirley Pop against a high-end version and a stovetop method and located that the cheap Whirley Pop produced the lightest popcorn within the shortest amount of your time. 

Because I could not just take his word for it (and because I wanted an excuse to bring popcorn back in to my life), I knew I had to try to do some popcorn testing of my very own. Kenji?s findings were helpful, but I still had questions on other popping methods, and that I needed them answered so as to really get to the rock bottom of which popcorn method is best.

?I’ve decided to venture out and test popcorn popped using four best methods:?

  • Stovetop-popped with many oils: This method was made popular by Chef Jessica Koslow of Sqirl in LA. She uses far more oil than traditional stovetop recipes, nearly frying the kernels. The abundant oil perfectly coats the popped kernels, allowing them to grab on tightly to your dry seasonings with no additional fat. 
  • Whirley Pop?popped: As described above, this inexpensive and light-weight aluminum pot heats up fast and comes equipped with a crank to stay the kernels heating evenly. 
  • Air-popped: Air poppers are countertop appliances that use only hot air to circulate the best popcorn kernels for air popper and obtain them popping?it’s the acute opposite of Chef Koslow?s method.
  • Microwave-popped: the tactic that?s so ubiquitous, you?d be hard-pressed to seek out a microwave without a “popcorn” button. Instead of using store-bought microwavable popcorn, of which there are too many sorts on behalf of me to possess tested thoroughly here (though we did conduct a taste test back in 2010), I popped my very own kernels during a plastic microwave-popcorn container. 

What’s Popcorn, Why Does It Pop?

Popcorn is one of several sorts of corn that is grown and harvested throughout the planet. Although other sorts of corn, like flint and dent, can pop into a crunchy puff, nothing becomes a fluffy snack quite like proper popping corn. This is often thanks to its unique combination of a troublesome exterior, a densely packed and starchy interior, and 14 to twenty percent moisture by weight.

Underneath the hull of any kernel of corn, no matter type, are the corn germ and endosperm. The endosperm is the collection of mostly starch and a few proteins that exist inside a seed.* It provides the nutrients and energy for germination. 

Guess what? Corn is taken into account a seed, a grain, a vegetable, and a fruit!

The endosperm in each sort of corn features a particular ratio of two different sorts of starch?amylose, and amylopectin?and protein. It?s this ratio that determines the qualities of the corn and, most significantly for our purposes, whether or not it?ll pop. 

Amylose may be a molecule made from an extended and straight-chain of sugars that easily pack into dense and tight configurations, while amylopectin molecules are branched and form weaker clusters. Because popcorn contains a high percentage of amylose relative to other sorts of corn, it’s more densely packed and harder. 

When a kernel of popcorn is heated, the moisture inside it quickly transforms to steam, exerting pressure on the seed from the inside out. Luckily, the tough outer hull is likely strong that it can withstand forces up to six to seven times that of the atmosphere before bursting, giving the dense collection of starches inside many times to melt and hydrate.?

Once the hull finally breaks, the tightly packed slurry of high-amylose starch and protein expands quickly thanks to the dramatic change in pressure, very similar to topping being ejected out of a pressurized canister. The starch then immediately cools into the crisp, crunchy, and lightweight foam that has us returning for more.

The perfect temperature should be for popping corn is around 380?F (190?C). What we’d like for the simplest results may be a method that gets as many of the kernels as possible thereto ideal temp, as evenly as possible. If the popcorn is unevenly heated then any kernels that poped early are likely to burn before the entire batch pops, while also leaving too many tooth-cracking un-popped or semi-popped suckers.

Because the outer hull isn?t completely impermeable, timing is additionally of important importance. Heating up the kernels too slowly may result in the moisture escaping, leaving a surplus of unpopped kernels; heating too quickly means the starch inside won’t have an opportunity to hydrate, leading to less fluffy popcorn. 

What?s the Best Way to Pop Popcorn?

The best method of popping corn will evenly heat up the kernels, not too fast nor too slowly, while also allowing the developing steam to flee therefore the popcorn stays crisp and crunchy. How about we see which strategy is generally capable.

 The Testing

I popped three batches of popcorn using each of the four methods. For the stovetop method, I added one-third of a cup of safflower oil, staying faithful to Chef Koslow?s sort of starting out with more oil than kernels. within the Whirley Pop, I included two tablespoons of oil, for a more traditional ratio.

For each round, I popped two ounces of kernels following the simplest practices for every method: 

  • For both the stovetop and therefore the Whirley-Popcorn, I first preheated the oil over medium-high heat with just a few kernels. Because popcorn acts as its own thermometer, once those test kernels popped, I knew the oil was at the perfect temperature. After removing the tester kernels, I poured within the remainder of the corn. After I’d added the kernels, I kept them in motion over medium-high heat until the popping settled right down to only one every 10 seconds.
  •  For the microwave popcorn, adhering to the maker’s guidelines, I added the corn to the bowl and got the vented cover. I popped the corn on high until the popping died down to at any rate one portion like clockwork. In our 900-watt microwave, this required around three minutes. 
  • The air popper works by circling the un-popped pieces with hot air. Once the kernels pop, their increased area allows them to be easily blown through a chute by the air. I popped the corn within the air popper until the last kernels stopped popping, which took a mean of six minutes per batch.

The team blind-tasted the popcorn with no seasonings added, to avoid adding more variables to the combination. I also counted what percentage of un-popped kernels remained in each batch.

The Results

The Stovetop Method With Loads of Oil

As soon as I saw the kernels bobbing around during a sea of oil, I used to be worried. But once that they had fully popped, it clothed to be just the proper amount of fat to coat each kernel. This method resulted in big, fluffy kernels, with a hearty and dense crunch that a lot of tasters preferred. The popcorn popped with this method also stays crunchy the longest, retaining its texture even on the subsequent day. 

This method also cuts out the additional step of buttering up your popped corn, which may often cause soggy kernels. By popping in ghee or drawn butter, you’ll get the taste of butter in popcorn that stays crunchy and is prepared for a sprinkling of salt, plus an additional dried seasoning if you would like.

Whole butter contains both water, which can generate steam, and milk solids, which can burn at the heat required to popcorn. In ghee and drawn butter, both the water and therefore the milk solids are removed, so you get that buttery flavor without the unwanted steam or burning.

The downside to the present method is that the dangerous amount of splatter that happens during popping. so as to stop the popcorn from becoming soggy from the steam created during cooking, in my testing, I found that this provided a gap for decent fat to jet out, nearly removing an eye fixed in one instance.

In an effort to attenuate oil splatter, I also tried this extra-fat method with a couple of adjustments. First, I popped the corn within the same pot but fully covered with a grease splatter screen in situ of the lid. This allowed all the steam to flee, leaving not one soggy kernel, but it left me heavily speckled with oil burns. The oil made its way through the fine mesh of the splatter screen; it had been just an excessive amount for even a splatter guard to contain

I next tried popping with many oils during a Whirley Pop, which is provided with a vented lid. Even with the complete coverage offered by the Whirley Pop?s lid, even as much oil splattered through the vents as once I left the lid ajar on the pot. Together, the tiny vents within the lid of the Whirley Pop end in the maximum amount of a gap as a lid left ajar, not offering far more protection from oil splatter.

I then took a cue from Iranian-style steamed rice, which involves covering the lid with daikon to soak up excess moisture and stop soggy rice. I wrapped the cover of the pot with a spotless kitchen towel and kept the pot firmly shut during popping. The kitchen towel absorbs the moisture that develops because the popcorn pops while allowing you to stay the lid safely shut. However, if you?re working over a gas range, there’s potential for the towel to catch ablaze, so, as another precaution, I used an enormous enough towel to permit me to traffic jam the corners over the lid.

If you are making popcorn using this hot-oil method then I’ve found that a clean kitchen towel is your ally, no matter whether you’re popping during a pot or during a Whirley Pop. Wrapping the lid of a pot with a towel allows you to keep it closed without making the kernels soggy while securing a towel over a Whirley Pop can catch any oil that creates it past the vented lid. Either way, given the high potential of towels catching ablaze or oil hitting your eyeballs, it?s safe to mention that this method isn?t recommended for little children or popcorn-popping novices.?

The Whirley Pop Method?

The Whirley Pop popped the kernels the fastest, at slightly below two minutes, and left the fewest unpopped kernels behind. The skinny aluminum bottom transferred heat quickly, while the hand crank kept the kernels moving for even and efficient heating. The vented lid allowed built-up steam to flee, without losing any popping kernels the way a lid left slightly ajar might. Apart from the good yield, this method made the lightest popcorn, with a crispy and fluffy texture like great movie popcorn, and it had been the favorite of many of the tasters. If you favor your popcorn minimally buttered, this is often the tactic for you.

The Air-Popper Method

The Air-Popper Method Eating the stale and soggy best air popped popcorn was like snacking on Styrofoam peanuts. The popcorn was small and unevenly popped, instead of light and fluffy, with many un-popped and semi-popped kernels left behind. Even right out of the popper, the corn did not taste crisp and crunchy, likely because the interior starches weren?t heated enough to completely hydrate and swell.

The Microwave Method

The microwave made the tasters’ least favorite popcorn. It tasted stale right out of the microwave and only continued to shrivel because it cooled. Not only did this method leave behind many un-popped kernels, but the popcorn also easily burned if left within the microwave for just seconds too long.

On the plus side, this method was easy and resulted in the minimal cleanup, because of the dishwasher-safe container. Because it doesn’t require plugging anything in or using the stovetop, this is often an honest method for teenagers to popcorn on their own or to be used in dorm kitchens. 

For kicks, I also tried popping corn within the microwave bowl with the addition of two tablespoons of oil. This left even as many un-popped kernels, but the resulting popped corn tasted less stale and was fluffier. 


At the top of the day, I?ll take popcorn whatever way I can get it?stale, unsalted, even slightly under-popped. But I used to be surprised to ascertain the good differences between the four methods. I’ve for all time set aside my air popper and am currently and always a Whirley Pop adherent. How much oil is added during popping is the thing that will decide if you wrap up with light and feathery or thick and crunchy parts. When it involves popcorn, I would like quantity, and therefore the popcorn popped within the Whirley Pop was light enough on behalf of me to simply munch through a full batch. If you?re on you’ll still want that Whirley Pop?you can use the lots-of-fat method in it (covering the Whirley Pop with a clean towel to avoid skin-searing pain) and still cash in on the even heating offered by the hand crank for even better results. But definitely don?t take my word for it. Do some popcorn testing of your own, ’cause that is the thing that Serious Eaters do.

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