Darn Near Perfect Popcorn

Darn Near Perfect Popcorn

If you’re feeling culinarily adventurous, try stirring in 1-2 tablespoons of Furikake (see note below) before adding the butter.

Why does popcorn taste so darn good? Well, for a start: pyrazines, phenols, pyrroles, carbanols and furans.

Pert-Near Perfect Popcorn
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  1. 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  2. 3 ounces popcorn kernels
  3. 1/2 teaspoon popcorn salt*
  4. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Put the oil, popcorn and salt in a 6-quart metal mixing bowl. Cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil and poke 10 slits in the top with a knife.
  2. Place the bowl over medium heat and shake constantly using tongs to hold the bowl. Continue shaking until the popcorn finishes popping, about 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and carefully remove the foil. Stir in any salt that is on the side of the bowl.
  4. Melt the butter in a microwave oven. Slowly drizzle it over the popcorn while spinning the bowl. Serve immediately.
  1. * Popcorn salt is ground very fine so that it will stick handily to the nooks and crannies o the popped kernels. If you buy it you're crazy. One cup of kosher salt goes into a food processor. And I think about 10 three-second pulses should perfectly smash this, or rather pulverize it, to the correct consistency.
  2. By the way, Furikake is a rice/sushi seasoning composed of shredded nori (seawead), sesame seeds and other spices. It's found at most good megamarts, Asian markets and on the interwebs. I'm crazy about it.
ALTON BROWN https://altonbrown.com/
Alton Brown's Perfect Popcorn with Furikake


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  1. 1
    Austin Ray

    Try using ghee instead of popping oil. Use a little extra ghee when popping and you don’t need to even add the butter. We use a Teflon stock pot set to high heat on the stove. Works great! We prefer white popcorn for fewer hulls. I like the idea of making your own popcorn salt. We have been having a hard time finding it in the stores.

  2. 2

    I pop my corn in a lunch bag with two staples in a microwave. I add either Kerrygold butter or good EVOO & add salt & pepper & have added such things as smoked paprika or Creole seasonings.

  3. 5

    Nothing beats old-school stove top popcorn. To keep kernels from getting tough, I start with lid on cast iron Dutch oven, and switch from lid to splatter screen soon after popping starts to let steam out that makes kernels tough. I read it somewhere and use pickling and canning salt on my popcorn. It’s pretty fine grain, so it sticks really well.

  4. 6

    I have an old pressure cooker I saved just for making popcorn in. I can use it for other dishes as well so t’s not a single-tasker.

  5. 8

    Carla, I offer a wee bit of help with your spelling, and reputation; it’s “bowl”, not “bole”, and I am almost POSITIVE you meant “crushed pepper”, not “crushed pecker”.

  6. 11

    I just made this and I have to say it’s the easier sure fire way not to burn it and I put some trader Joe’s seasoning salt. The best. Thank you Alton love all your science behind the food

  7. 12

    I gotta have salt and onion powder with a lite spritz of olive oil. When I want to get really into it I put minced onions,

  8. 13

    I have an electric oven, the kind with coils instead of burners. How would I have to modify this recipe/process in order to get good results?

    • 14

      I’ve done this on coils on my old oven, and I have done this on a ceramic top. I’ve even done this on the BBQ. The technique is the same. And it you don’t have the bowl, use a pot. I have stainless steel pots that work beautifully for this recipe.

  9. 15
    Lisa Clark

    Alton’s way has been the only way I have made popcorn since I saw the recipe 3 years ago. And I highly recommend the addition of the furikake. Have also sprinkled on hot paprika from Spain. Yummy!

  10. 17

    For those noting the need for oil for the salt to stick on the airpopped version, I use the misto sprayer with evoo in it and toss salt as it is coming out of the popper. I must try the salt – that makes perfect sense! Thank you.

  11. 18

    On our popcorn we use a mix of EVOO and butter to top it, then sprinkle it with Brewer’s Yeast and then salt. Lastly, drizzle Sriracha on the sides of a bowl and toss in the popcorn. Still until evenly coated.

  12. 21
    Gail Offen

    try this: 2 generous teaspoonfuls of corn oil
    6 generous tablespoonfuls of a mix of 1/4th white, red, black, and yellow popcorn
    salt to taste

    Place in a self-agitating popcorn popper. Pop until done. You may wish to wait an extra minute or two for any unpopped kernels to pop. Already popped corn shouldn’t burn. When done, decant into another bowl. Enjoy the delight of pure popped corn flavor.

  13. 22

    I worked in a movie theater for close to 4 years. I think the key here is not so much the kernels, but the oil you pop it in. Most movie theaters use coconut oil for the popping. There’s definitely a difference in taste. Also, for the love of all that’s holy, DON’T USE MARGARINE!!! Soggy popcorn is not good.

  14. 23

    Mr. Brown: leave it to you to make my favorite snack in the whole world simply and deliciously. No unitaskers invited to the party. But WHAT is in your glass??

    • 30

      If you don’t want to shake the metal bowl against your glass cooktop, you could insert a “stirring tool” to keep the kernels rotating. This kitchen tool has 3 legs, runs on battery, and keeps my gravy from burning at holiday cookathons. I see it these days on Amazon called Robo Stir or Stir Crazy.

  15. 31

    I love this method for making popcorn–one thing I do is to use a combination of clarified butter and canola oil to pop it (rather than pouring butter on the popcorn after it’s made). I use about 75% clarified butter and 25% oil. It more evenly distributes the butter.

  16. 32

    Isn’t it, “seaweed?”

    Kasandra Maidmentt, I’ve eaten that yeast on popcorn since I was little. I think it’s a BC thing. Too funny you’re in Roberts Creek. I’m in Sechelt 😀

  17. 35

    Here is another trick, heat the oil with one kernel until it pops. Then pour the rest of your popcorn in, take it off the heat for exactly one minute then put it back on the heat. You have gotten the kernels up to temp and they will pop at one time. Results, less unopened kernels if any at all.

  18. 37

    My most interesting popcorn comment is….guess what was used to pack fragile items prior to packing peanuts? You guessed right!!! Plain popcorn!!!

  19. 38

    Haters hate. Gosh. Keep it light. Alton knows what he is talking about. Pots wouldn’t distribute the oil the same way. In fact, using a bowl seems perfect because the surface area of the bottom would make for the perfect amount of heat and the scoopy sides would make the popped kernels get out of the way. Don’t you guys ever listen to Alton?

  20. 39

    Just use a wok. I have for years. Med. to high heat. Love ya, Alton. You’re off on this one. More important here is the quality of the popcorn. I’d rather you rate brands than tell me how to pop. Like wine, there’s a lot of crappy popping corn out there.

  21. 40

    I grew up with an air popper and still prefer them for reasons other than nostalgia for my misspent youth. First, it’s no big deal if you don’t have the appropriate oil, since all you need is the kernals. Secondly, you don’t need a stove or microwave. (which is a consideration for me) Also, air-popped corn can be used in crafting (think old-fashioned tree garlands) without worrying about it going rancid. Not only that, but you can ALSO use the popper to roast coffee beans or even toast seeds and nuts (very handy if you don’t have a stove or oven).

  22. 41

    While on vacation in Hawaii I had to improvise a meal. I made a sort of salad of avocado, lemon and Furikake. It was fab. Now I make a similar concoction, but more like guacamole, and put it on toast. I also love Furikake with butter on sweet potatoes.

  23. 44

    Cayenne pepper &/ or crushed red peeper in the oil adds a nice kick. Try some curry or turmeric powder in the oil. Also, a finely cut up fresh garlic clove sprinkled on top after popping is good.

  24. 47

    Didn’t you just make Jiffy Pop?

    Mix a little coconut oil with the butter 50/50, just like they used to do it at movie theaters before the government mistakenly announced that coconut oil was bad for us.

    • 49

      You could, but it would be very heavy. Shaking the bowl/vessel is a very important part of the process, so using your dutch oven would give you a great arm workout. Maybe you want to burn your calories before you eat them? 🙂
      If you have a frying pan with a lid, you can use that instead. Try halving the recipe and cooking it in a frying pan with a lid, holding the pan’s handle with one hand and the lid closed with your other hand. If you use the full recipe, you will probably more than fill the pan, and then the popcorn will push the lid up. This will result in not all of the kernals popping, but it is still very yummy!

    • 50
      Gregory Galassi

      NO…YOU CANNOT USE A FRYING PAN OR DUTCH OVEN. The whole point of this recipe is that you have a very specific shaped container for popping the corn so the smaller surface area can more carefully focus the heating surfaces to control the heat distribution and dissipation. Also the angled sides would keep most of the popped kernels off the bottom cooking surface and out of the way to prevent burning them and give more opportunity to better pop the kernels on the bottom.

      • 51
        Gregory Galassi

        Before someone comments otherwise, I am referring to Alton’s recipe here. Of course, you CAN use a frying pan or dutch oven, but it will not yield the results of Alton’s recipe to the same degree. If some old maids or possible burnt kernels aren’t a big deal, go ahead. Btw, I use a Zippy Pop stovetop popcorn popper which includes a glass lid and handcrank tumbler to keep popcorn kernels moving for even heat distribution that I use with a couple tablespoons of avocado oil (like coconut oil and canola oil, avocado oil is a high temperature oil — be careful you don’t burn with olive oil which is only medium temperature oil). It’s pricey, but can be used for chex mix and other stuff too. I like it a lot.

  25. 55

    I worked in a movie theater many years ago and we used sunflower oil and a butter flavored popcorn salt for the popcorn. I miss that popcorn.

  26. 56

    I bought a very cheap flat bottom carbon steel wok at an Asian restaurant supply store. It has a very ill fitting lid. It makes the perfect popcorn for a couple of reasons. One, the flat part is only about 4 inches wide so the un-popped kernels keep recycling to the bottom, which means I get very few old maids. Second, the lid allows the steam to escape. Steam is the enemy of nice crispy pop corn.

    Air poppers are only useful when you need a substitution for Styrofoam packing chips. They have no place in the universe.

    • 57

      I really like the results air poppers give. No oil needed, don’t have to shake it to ensure that almost all the kernels are popped. Just pay attention to when it seems that almost all are done and unplug it. Fast, too! Cheap to buy. Simple to clean. Air poppers work well in my universe.

  27. 60
    Kasandra Maidmentt

    We use Engevita yeast as our seasoning. Put it on after the butter, and toss. We have a slightly more complicated version involving butter, above yeast, crushed fresh garlic, and a tsp. of tamari or light Japanese soy. (melt everything in the butter in the microwave, stir, pour and toss.) This is my go to version. Twice as much butter, too. The recipe is called Roberts Creek hippie popcorn.

    • 62

      Can use any oil you want. My wife uses Coconut Oil. You can even buy Popcorn Oil that has flavor built in it to make it taste more like at the theater.

    • 63

      I use coconut oil in an old fashioned had crank popper over the stove. My recipe 4 T good quality popcorn kernels, 2 T coconut oil. Crank until they are all popped. Seasoning depends on the mood.

    • 64
      Another Geoff

      I’ve made stove-top popcorn with Olive Oil. I actually prefer it. It adds a nice sweetness to the corn and you can actually get away with less or no butter.

  28. 66

    My guess on the bowl in lieu of a pot is that the thin metal will transfer heat quick and cools quickly. The kernels will begin popping quickly after heat is applied. The bowl will also not retain much heat so that once off the heat you will not burn the popped corn. Lastly, as you shake the bowl, the unpopped kernels will get funneled into a small area in the bottom where heat is concentrated and the popped ones will move up and away from the heat.

    • 67
      Casey Williams

      I prefer using a covered pot on the stove. I find the longer time it takes to start popping fries the outer shell of the kernel in the oil and provides a crispier texture that I prefer. Somehow fewer shells end up stuck in my gums.

  29. 70

    Another use of furikake is it freaks out the MSG-phobes and obsessives. I like to put it in a cabinet visible from the front door to scare off the more annoying people who tend to pop by.

    • 75

      My guess is, the bowl lets the popped kernels float up, away from the flame, and concentrates the heat on the remaining unpopped bits that can kind of filter down with the motion generated by the popping itself.

      Something with a flat bottom would heat everything equally, run the risk of burnt popcorn, and leave too many old maids.

    • 76

      The shape of the cooking container will make a difference in how evenly the kernels pop. Also, since the heat is more concentrated in the bottom of a bowl, only the kernels which are uncooked (and therefore fall to the bottom) come into contact with direct heat. It’s much easier to get burned kernels in a pot than in a bowl when trying to get those last few pops. Some of the same reasons why woks are so efficient for high temp cooking.

  30. 77
    Jim Young

    Growing up, we made popcorn in a dutch oven (not quite a metal bowl, but close) and have continued to do so even though it’s not always the fastest way. My mother loved margarine and I love butter – we found that margarine poured on popcorn will shrink the kernels; butter will not.

    • 79

      You can put furikake on rice, noodles, fish (I like it on salmon), homemade chex mix, anything you would like seaweed & sesame flavor on… the possibilities are endless!

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