Friday, August 1, 2014

Nail That Popcorn

Game of Thrones. Orange is the New Black. Orphan Black. My goodness, there is a lot of good TV to binge watch during this Summer hiatus. It's enough to make a girl never want to get up off her couch again (you know, like a healthy individual). So why not have your friends over and binge watch with company?

Naturally, group laziness promotes the consumption of snacks. What better than the stereotypical movie favorite, popcorn? Buttery, salty popcorn. The real stuff. You can even get cute little popcorn bags and serve them to your guests in individual portions. Delicious hot or cold, popcorn is easy appetizer or snack to make ahead and always welcomed by guests. 

The downfall to this beloved treat? The resilient kernels that resist popping in favor of a comfortable position lodged in your throat.
Fortunately, through trial-and-error and help from the bountiful Internet, we were able to find a great method for ensuring that practically every kernel pops.

First off, this trick embraces stove popping (versus microwaving). I resisted the stovetop popcorn method for some time due to perceived difficulty (read: sheer laziness), but it truly does produce airier, fresher-tasting popcorn. Plus, you can customize it to your taste.

So what's the secret? In a nutshell (or kernel, har har), making sure the oil is exactly at the right heat before you add the kernels. This way, each of the kernels reach a uniform heat and pop in unison. Let's walk through it together.

For a large bowl of popcorn, start with a cup of kernels.

Put the heat on medium-high and pour in a quarter cup of canola oil (or other flavorless oil). Add several kernels and cover.

When you hear those kernels pop, remove from heat. Make a mental note that you should clean your pot's enamel before taking photographs.

The rest of the action takes place behind closed doors (or lids, as it were). Pour in the rest of your kernels and set aside for 30 seconds. This gets the kernels up to temperature. Then, put back over medium-high heat and keep slowly shaking around. The kernels should be popping almost immediately, but don't be discouraged if it takes a little bit (that just means that the temperature has dropped during the transfer). When the popping slows to 1-2 seconds in between pops, remove from heat. Give it a few extra seconds in case there are any remaining kernels set to pop (or scream loudly as one suddenly pops up into your face... you know, hypothetically).

A pot of fully popped popcorn!

From here, there are a host of flavorings you can include. For standard butter-and-salt popcorn, I transfer to a bowl and toss with a half stick of butter, cubed. The hot popcorn melts the butter easily, at which point I continue to toss while adding sea salt to taste. Conveniently, this allows you to test several handfuls of popcorn. Go figure!

For popping inspiration, I have compiled the most tasty-looking recipes I could find featuring unique flavors. I have yet to try these so, if you give any of the below a go, please leave a comment and share how it turns out!

Unique Popcorn Flavors

Perfect Stove-Popped Popcorn

Adapted from Elise Bauer's Perfect Popcorn

1 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup canola oil (or any flavorless vegetable oil)
1/2 stick of butter, cubed
Sea salt
  1. Place a pot over medium-high heat and pour in a quarter cup of canola oil (or other flavorless oil). Wait a minute or so for it to heat up
  2. Add 3-4 kernels and cover. Stay close and wait for them to pop.
  3. Once you hear that the kernels have popped, remove the pot from heat and discard the initial kernels.
  4. Add popcorn kernels with the pot still off of the heat, and count to 30 seconds (a full 30 seconds, not a speedy "I'm hungry" count). This allows all of the kernels to come to the appropriate pre-pop temperature.
  5. Put the pot back onto the heat, covered, and continue to gently turn and shake to distribute the heat consistently amongst all kernels.
  6. Because all of the kernels have reached a uniform heat already, they should start popping promptly. When there is a 1-2s pause between pops, remove pot from heat and let sit for another minute.
  7. Transfer popcorn to a big bowl.
  8. Toss popcorn with butter, ensuring that it is evenly coated.
  9. Add sea salt to taste.

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