Introduction: How to Make [Perfect] Homemade Popcorn

Picture of How to Make [Perfect] Homemade Popcorn

The lights are off... The DVD is in the player... and everyone has found their favorite seat on the couch. The only thing missing for movie night? Popcorn!
If you think that making your own popcorn is hard, expensive, time- consuming, or old- fashioned, you are right where the boy scouts want you to be.
In my opinion, life is too short to eat microwave popcorn- it's too inconsistent, too expensive, and too... boring. Plus you can't control what mystery ingredients the manufacturers put in it.
Making it on the stove can take less than five minutes and is very versatile.
I'll show you how to make healthy, tasty, easy and fast popcorn!

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

You're going to need popcorn kernelsoil, and a large pan with a lid. You will also need any salt, butter, or seasonings you want to put on your popcorn at the end. I recommend a good brand of popcorn kernels because you can tell a difference in quality and taste.

Step 2: Faire Fondre

Picture of Faire Fondre

Place 2-3 tbsps. of oil in the pan, along with a few kernels, with the pan on high heat. This will help you know when the oil is hot enough for popping. When you hear the kernels pop, add 1/3 c. popcorn kernals to the pan, cover it with the lid, and take the pan off of heat for 30 seconds. This will allow all the popcorn to heat up so that it will all pop at about the same time.

Step 3: Pop It!

Picture of Pop It!

Replace the pan on the heat. Your popcorn will begin to pop shortly, and it's your job to keep the kernels moving around the pan so they don't get burned. You can shake the pan, or go a step further and move it in a circle so constantly spin the kernels. This encourages fast popping and less burning. If you keep the lid cracked or use a lid with holes to let the steam escape while it is popping, the popcorn will turn out crunchier.

Step 4: Dump It

Picture of Dump It

When you hear that the popping has slowed so that there is one second between pops, take the popcorn off and dump it into a bowl. From here you are free to add salt, melted butter, seasoning, or anything else you'd like. Enjoy!


Nasubi77 (author)2013-06-19

How do you butter the popcorn? Every time we melt butter and put it on, it just makes the popcorn soggy and nasty. We usually use the butter sprinkle, but if there's a way to use real butter, I'd rather use it.

SamD103 (author)Nasubi772016-05-24

Cut your butter into cubes, like 4 cubes to 1-2 tablespoons. immediately after the popcorn stops popping, keep lid on to trap the popcorn's heat, dump those cubes evenly across top of popcorn, put the lid back on and shake the pan up for about another minute. Don't use heat. The hot popcorn is melting the butter. The butter melts and coats, with out melting the actual popcorn. If you really want to get all the butter, leave a cup or two of popcorn in the pan and give it a really good shake, then mix that extra buttery stuff, with the rest of the popcorn.

drachedame (author)Nasubi772014-10-31

Use clarified butter.

Renee! (author)Nasubi772013-06-25

This is how my brother [also on this site- elephant 1292] taught me to do it: you have to heat the butter so that it is only partially melted, and when you stir it up it will make a sort of paste that you can then mix into your popcorn.
Sorry about the removed comment below, I had to fix a spelling error :p

mid_life_crisis (author)2013-06-24

Combine that with the paper bag trick to get a good even coating. I'm old enough that when I was a kid there were drive in movie theaters everywhere, The whole family would pile into the station wagon and go. Parked it backwards and dropped the tailgate so we could lie in the back and on top. Mom made a couple of bags full of popcorn that way. When done, no containers to account for, they just went into the trash. Wow, are you bringing back memories.

sconner1 (author)2013-06-21

True, use a good brand of popcorn kernels, it's worth it. I like white corn, personally.
I use safflower oil. It takes more heat before smoking, is very light and adds almost no taste.
It's a little more expensive but you don't use much.
I agree about the part where you keep the pot moving in a circle for more even heating.
It's so easy and takes the same amount of time.
I don't know why anyone would buy microwave popcorn.

sconner1 (author)sconner12013-06-21

Also don't store popcorn kernels for long periods. They dry out too much and will have more unpopped kernels and tend to burn if you try to force them by cooking longer or hotter.

Renee! (author)sconner12013-06-23

I'll have to try safflower oil. Thanks for your suggestions!

PhilKE3FL (author)2013-06-20

I wonder if you can put real melted butter in one of those butter sprayers? The problem there will be when it gets too cool after awhile. How about drilling a hole is a metal measuring cup & then letting it drip into the popcorn while moving the popcorn around in the bowl so only one drop per corn wets the kernel? I use popcorn flavored oil that comes in a bottle with such a hole & it works well enough. Also, do not use too much butter, you really do not want each and every popped kernel to get butter or salt for that matter, or at least I don't :) - Thanks for the Intructable, it reminds me of the expanding stove top popcorn.

Renee! (author)PhilKE3FL2013-06-23

You're welcome, and thanks for the ideas =}

chabias (author)2013-06-18

YUM! Good old-fashioned popcorn. Nothing like it! I got so fed up with un-popped kernels in those microwave bags...not to mention all the unknown additives....that I just went out and bought 2 bags of kernels. Great timing. Thanks for sharing your tips.

Renee! (author)chabias2013-06-23

You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

tomascco (author)2013-06-18

I was buying a bag of Jiffy Pop in my local supermarket one day when this elderly gentleman nearby told me to empty the bag into a Mason jar with a couple of tablespoons of water; seal it and let it steep a few days. The corn will absorb the moisture, which is the basic requirement for a good pop. This will help revive stale corn that's been on your shelf for a few months as well.

Renee! (author)tomascco2013-06-23

Tell that elderly gentleman "Thank You" for me, please. I have a bag of stale corn that could use a good reviving ;)

mzmclady (author)tomascco2013-06-18

will have to try that... thanx

gtrachel (author)tomascco2013-06-18

Great tip!

nplant (author)2013-06-18

One tip: learn your stove well enough to get the temperature to the point that the kernels will pop, but not burn. For me, this is just over medium, towards medium-high on my 15-year old electric stove. You don't need to swish or shake, unless you want to try to get all the kernels popped (because some will be lifted up off of the heat when the mass of popped kernels starts to climb up the pot. Anyway, I rarely burn a single kernel anymore.

Renee! (author)nplant2013-06-23

Yes, your stove is an important thing to consider. Thanks for the tip ;)

dangerine (author)2013-06-18

if you need to make enough for a crowd, i suggest dumping into a paper bag after it pops. it avoids you needing to quickly find a few large bowls, allows you to season inside of something that closes for shaking, and it wicks the extra oil away. then pour into you bowls for serving. the bag might get greasy on the bottom, so you might want to put it on a newspaper section. :)

Renee! (author)dangerine2013-06-23

Good idea!

sssaksena (author)2013-06-18

Nicely done! This was featured a while back on lifehacker and I remember making my own mix with Indian spices: vegetable oil, turmeric pwd, crushed mustard seeds, salt (crushed), red chilli pwd, paparika thats it.

TIP: when you add salt to your popcorn, I suggest you crush it well into powder form. This way it'll stick to the popcorn better.

Renee! (author)sssaksena2013-06-23

Thanks for the tip!

mbergmann (author)2013-06-18

Nice Tutorial, I prefer sweet popcorn - i know it's not very common in the states, but thats globalisation, right? ^^ Just add solid sugar to the oil in the first step and let it caramelise. When the sugar is molten and starts to get brown add the popcorn and continue just like Renee! told you.

Thanks again Renee for the great instructable

Renee! (author)mbergmann2013-06-23

You're welcome, and that's a great idea! It sounds like it would make some amazing popcorn.

mid_life_crisis (author)2013-06-18

My mother made it like that when I was a kid. To account for variations in pan sizes, the simplest rule of thumb was to pour in just enough oil to cover the bottom (you should have to pick up the pan and tilt it to make the oil run and cover it) then dump in just enough popcorn to accomplish the same thing once the oil started to spatter from the heat, although using a couple of kernels as test dummies works well too.

Renee! (author)mid_life_crisis2013-06-23

Nice! That's a pretty reliable way to measure- since it's important that the pan isn't overcrowded when popping.

MonkiMan (author)2013-06-18

I'm totally trying this, I got a air popper but it makes yucky popcorn hopefully your method will make nicer popcorn.

Renee! (author)MonkiMan2013-06-23

Oh, yes, I got an air popper for Christmas and it almost always it overheats, only pops half of the kernels, or makes chewy, un-tasty popcorn. I think that some kind of oil is needed to get the best results.

GrumpyOldGoat (author)2013-06-18

My recipe except for the pan.

I use an 'anodized' aluminum pan and when I add the kernels, I shake it to coat the kernels.

Then I put the lid on where it will vent to keep the popcorn from getting soggy and let it pop.

It's old school, easy, and there is no comparison to microwaved, hot air, or any of the other 'time saving/healthy' versions on the market.


Renee! (author)GrumpyOldGoat2013-06-23

Cool- I've never heard of an "anodized" pan. Good idea!

mthomp1 (author)2013-06-20

Only use real butter. Butter spreads and butter spray contains water and can make popcorn soggy. Real butter do not contain water. I use popping oil that contain coconut oil which give a nutty flavor to the popcorn.
White popcorn pops up smaller but is big in flavor. Yellow popcorn pops up bigger but has less flavor than white popcorn.

denbecr (author)2013-06-18

It pops when the moisture inside boils and turns to steam. Water boils at lower temperatures in higher altitudes due to reduced atmospheric pressure. I wonder what the popcorn would taste like if it was popped in a partial vacuum at a low temperature. Something like a pressure cooker with a hose from the vent to a vacuum pump would be easy to hook up.. I think there's an instructable on how to turn a bike tire pump into a vacuum pump that might work. Maybe the water inside would be immune to the vacuum since it's confined inside the seed. The bursting pressure would still be nearly the same, but the emerging fluff would expand easier into the vacuum. OR Pump high pressure into the container, heat it to 212 deg. then release the pressure suddenly. Maybe all the kernels would pop at the same time.

jsefija (author)denbecr2013-06-19

Thats exactly who they make pop corn in china.
A beautiful cannon

denbecr (author)jsefija2013-06-19

Thanks to jsefija the pressure release 'all at once' idea is verified. I can't find anything about popping in a vacuum though.

micahd02 (author)denbecr2013-06-19

THIS would be an Awesome Science Demo for my students. I'll have to try this one out. I wonder how high I could blow the lid of the popper, in the explosive release?

denbecr (author)micahd022013-06-19

BE CAREFUL ! Once I was using a pressure cooker to steam a piece of thin wood so I could curve it. when I thought it was long enough I turned the burner off. When the regulator quit jiggling I thought the pressure was fully vented. When I opened it, the lid hit the ceiling, the gasket stretched to uselessness and I got a painful burn on my chest. It's easy to see how it could have been much worse. Too bad I wasn't thinking about the popcorn experiment then.

juanvi (author)2013-06-19

Great! I used to do them this way till i bought one of these to avoid having burnt corn
Pretty handy!

Kxris (author)2013-06-19

Great tips. I'll try this out because I'm tired of burned microwave popcorn.

ddraper (author)2013-06-19

This is a good start, but for the best popcorn you need to only use 100% coconut oil at 2:1 to popcorn by weight so 1cup of popcorn to 4 Tbs of oil also when the oil is melted in the pan you need to add 1-2 tsp of "Flavacol Seasoning Popcorn Salt" a butter salt product. You can use just very fine salt but it is not as good.
And if you must put butter on you popcorn make sure it is clarified.


lapja (author)2013-06-18

Hum! For sure they might taste better than the microwave. But you will also have a multiple in grease calories + un extra dose of burned materials and toxic fumes.

I don't eat pop corns, but if I did I'd stick with a the grease and fume free microwave solution.

rwolkens (author)2013-06-18

I've made "kettle" stove top popcorn for years, and have perfected my recipe over the years since my mom taught me when I was young. You are correct in suggesting the use of coconut oil, as that is what movie theaters use, but I usually use corn oil. I have found the peanut oil is really good, but expensive. When I make it, I put enough oil in to cover the bottom of the pot @ 1/8 inch deep, and I dribble a few drops of water in there, and when the water "pops", I put the corn in. Shaking is good as it cooks, because the kernels pop first in the middle closest to the heat, so shaking moves more unpopped kernels to the center. When the first batch is done (I always cook 2 potfuls), I dump them into a doubled up paper grocery bag. I melt a full quarter stick of salted sweet cream butter i n a small sauce pan at the same time, and I shake the paper bag as I add salt and butter to mix it up evenly. BTW, I think yellow corn is best over white corn, as the white corn comes out "tougher". I love to put Kraft grated Parmesan cheese (green can) on the popcorn in my bowl. Using the paper bag makes it easy to scoop popcorn with my bowl for refills.

Mrchips (author)2013-06-18

This is something that a generation ago everybody knew how to do, but good on you for re instructing the new generation.

As a TOTAL popcorn fanatic though, I have to say that for consistent good popping results and no need for oil, it is not possible to beat a good hot air popper.

Presto Poplight is the best and only 20 bucks at Wal Mart. That is less than buying popcorn for 3 at the theater - once!

mzmclady (author)2013-06-18

never had luck using Stainless Steel pot.....
aluminum worked best for us....
when we were kids, we used bacon grease,
duck, or goose fat..... I'm telling ya... that's
the best popcorn....
today we use the orville reddenbacher popper
for the microwave.... w/or without oil.... works
either way.....still makes good popcorn....
I would go back to aluminum, but all my pans
are stainless steel these days....

leonard613 (author)2013-06-18

Taking popcorn off the heat while there is still "one second between pops" means that you'll have some unpopped kernels to contend with. Over the past 15 years i have two broken teeth to prove this contention.

What I do now is to give a slow count of 10 (ofttimes even 20) after the last kernel pop. If there is another pop during that count, I start counting to 10 again. Since i started this practice about five years ago (after my last broken tooth) I've encountered very, VERY few unpopped kernels and NO MORE BROKEN TEETH.

One other tip. If you LOVE popcorn like I do, invest about 20 bucks or so and get yourself an automatic popcorn popper (with a stirrer on the bottom). And never, NEVER use an air popper or the microwave unless you want to wind up in popcorn purgatory the rest of your eternal life!

barking_spider (author)2013-06-18

I like to use Hot Chili Oil (available from Asian markets) half/half with the coco oil. I love the burn!

JustBlend (author)2013-06-12

wow, this is awesome. thanks!! :-)

Renee! (author)JustBlend2013-06-13

You're welcome, it was fun to make ;j

j-dubz44 (author)2013-06-12

Nice stove

Bandboxer (author)2013-06-12

Stove cooking has got to be better than microwave, I love popcorn, my favorite? caramel. There are so many flavors sweet, savory and even gourmet popcorn.
You can get a free popcorn recipe book at

denotsKO (author)2013-06-11

Stupendously well explained. Awesome lesson!

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