Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Nothing says party time quite like popcorn. Seriously, this is food that manifestly knows how to have a good time!
Not only is popcorn delicious but depending on your cooking methods and toppings, it's actually pretty good for you too. Im not talking about the frankenfood stuff at the cinema with all that crazy fake butter, nor the endocrine disrupting plastic lined microwave stuff. Im talking super simple, no gadgetry required, stovetop popcorn. Its a good idea to keep in mind that conventional popping kernels usually contain relative high levels of residual pesticides, so its better to choose organic popping corn from your local health food store where possible.
Don't be put off if you've had disastrous popcorn results in the past though. Ive got a foolproof method that makes excellent popcorn every time. All of the kernels usually pop and there are no burnt bits - except if you wander away and get distracted doing something else!
This method is all about getting all of your kernels to the same even temperature before popping. The basic recipe for 2 generous servings is:
1/3 cup of popcorn kernels
3 tbs* (45ml) of a high smoke point cooking oil - I tend to use grapeseed oil.
* Please note that there is a disparity between tablespoon measurements in Australia and the rest of the world. Australian tablespoons are usually 20ml (they always say on the spoon how many mls they are), whereas in many other countries tablespoons are 15ml. Interestingly, measuring teaspoons are universally 5ml. This recipe is based on a 15ml tablespoon measurement because there is something very pleasing about the 1/3 cup to 3 tbs ratio and its easy to remember. You can use the bigger spoon measurement but your popcorn will taste more oily. For Australians, use 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon to be precise or to vibe it go with 2 tablespoons and an extra splash.
Start with a heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid on medium to high heat.
Add your oil to the pot plus 3 - 4 popcorn kernels.
Wait for the kernels to pop with the lid off.
When they have popped, add the rest of the popcorn kernels to the pot. Swish the kernels around so they are completely covered in oil.
Put the lid back on and remove the pot from the heat for 30 seconds - this is the step that allows all the kernels to evenly reach the same temperature. If doing this with kids, they love to count along or sing a counting song while you wait.
Put the pot back on the stove on medium-high heat.
As the kernels start to pop at full speed, give the pot a gentle jiggle and shake every now and then to ensure none of the kernels are sticking to the bottom of the pot.
When the rate of popping starts to decrease, leave the lid slightly ajar to allow steam from the pot to escape.
Soon after, the popping will slow to an occasional pop. At this point turn off the heat and you are done.
* Optional - For simple salted popcorn add 1 teaspoon of salt to the pot when adding the corn kernels in step 4 and swish around so the salt is dispersed through the oil. Somehow this makes the popcorn taste like its been cooked in butter; the salty flavour is impregnated right in the middle of each kernel. Leave it like this or adjust the salt level and you have made classic delicious movie theatre style popcorn without any of the nasty additives. If you want to add other seasonings, I would skip adding salt during the cooking phase so you can control all the flavours. If you want to step it up a bit there are a million flavour variations you can try.
One of the biggest crowd pleasing flavour favourites is my vegan cheesy popcorn. No disrespect to plain old lightly salted popcorn but every time I make this super simple yet delicious popcorn, I always get recipe requests, so here it finally is.
Vegan Cheesy Popcorn
1 heaped tbs (Australian size) savoury yeast flakes*
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 - 1/2 tsp turmeric powder - More makes more yellow (think about who is eating and where they're going to put their fingers!) and slightly bitter.
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper finely ground or cayenne pepper for a spicy version.
1/2 tsp salt or more or less to taste.
Mix together in a small bowl, and when the popcorn is ready, transfer to a large bowl and mix through. You can mix the seasoning through in the saucepan, but you have to be quick otherwise the flavouring will start to burn in the hot pan and become a little bitter. Note: I don't add any salt to the cooking popcorn when I add additional flavours.
*Savoury Yeast flakes are also sold as nutritional yeast flakes but don't confuse with brewers yeast which is bitter and I think unpleasant tasting.
For the nutritionally minded folk; popcorn is a wholegrain food containing a number of important nutrients. 100g of popped corn will contain:
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): 7% of the RDI (recommended daily intake).
Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 12% of the RDI.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): 8% of the RDI.
Iron: 18% of the RDI.
Magnesium: 36% of the RDI.
Phosphorus: 36% of the RDI.
Potassium: 9% of the RDI.
Zinc: 21% of the RDI.
Copper: 13% of the RDI.
Manganese: 56% of the RDI. source
You can see that it is a particularly great source of Manganese. Manganese is an important trace mineral needed for many vital functions, including nutrient absorption, production of digestive enzymes, bone development and immune-system defences.
Popcorn is also one of the highest sources of dietary fibre. Dietary fibre is important for maintaining bowel health, lowers cholesterol levels, helps to regulate blood sugar levels, and assist with weight loss. The fibre helps you to feel full for longer and compared to similar amounts of other delicious snack foods (hello potato chips 😆), it has very little calories; well depending on what topping you add.
Savoury yeast is a deactivated yeast with a cheesy umami flavour. Sacharomyces cerevisiae (usually this species) cells are grown on a sugar rich medium such as molasses and then deactivated with heat, dried and packaged. It is very nutritious; hence the nutritional yeast moniker, and delicious. It is a complete protein - contains all 9 essential amino acids, a rich source of B vitamins and many trace minerals. The nutritional profile depends on whether it is fortified or not - so check the label if you are using it to bump up your nutritional intake. Thanks to the popularity of vegan foods, it is a readily available ingredient even in supermarkets nowadays.
Now go and get stuck in and let me know how you go!