A Guide to Making Perfect Popcorn

Popcorn is everywhere. Most of us have grown up eating this ubiquitous snack. Movie theaters universally have popcorn stands, and by prohibiting outside food, they manage to convince millions of people every day to pay upwards of $20.00 per pound of the crunchy, salty stuff that their profits are made of.

I happen to be a huge popcorn fan. That is to say, I am huge, and I am also a tremendous fan of good popcorn. Unfortunately, the good stuff is becoming harder and harder to find. Have you looked into the back room of your local movie theater in the last few years? You’ll find gigantic, six-foot plastic bags of pre-popped corn. They just re-heat it and serve it, and make the fairly good assumption that most people won’t know the difference.

Years ago, I became weary of searching out the few movie houses that still popped their own corn the old-fashioned way, and paying usuriously high prices for it. Nobody made “real” popcorn anymore, and it was getting me down. I decided that if I wanted real corn, it was up to me to make it myself. It took a while, but after a year or two of research and practice I discovered I could make popcorn better than any old-fashioned movie house could have served me, and do it for a reasonable price. Having become not just a popcorn expert but also a serious popcorn snob, it seems appropriate that I share what I’ve learned so that perfect popcorn knowledge, just like all the world’s best software, can be free.

What Popcorn Is Not
First and foremost, you must shake yourself free of the notion that those puffed treats made in a microwave oven have any relationship at all to popcorn. Popcorn was invented long before radio, and true popcorn is not made with radio waves for the same reason that news, weather, and sports are not received on popcorn kettles. Microwave energy heats water. This will cause kernels to pop, but once they’ve popped they continue to be bombarded with RF energy, steaming the pieces of puffed corn from within and destroying their texture. The resulting mess is chewy, tough, and unworthy. If that’s palatable to you then by all means enjoy it, but let’s not kid ourselves by calling it popcorn.

Popcorn is not made with hot air, either, for the same reason that legislation is not made with popcorn kettles. Hot air popping robs popcorn of ALL of its moisture, leaving it brittle, slightly scorched, and incredibly dry. Since there’s no oil used in the process, the popcorn is starving for moisture and is actually hygroscopic, soaking up moisture from the air and from your mouth as you eat it. It actually sticks to your tongue — it’s like eating one of those “DO NOT EAT” silica gel packets from an electronics package. If that turns you on, eat away, but again, let’s not sully the good name of a good snack by calling this rubbish “popcorn.”

Popcorn does not come in pre-popped bags. There’s a reason that those products use clever, different names, like “Smartfood.” The manufacturer knows it’s not real popcorn. They’re being honest — isn’t that refreshing? Popcorn tastes best when eaten just minutes after it’s popped, before it’s had a chance to absorb moisture from the air and become chewy and stale, and while it’s still slightly warm. There’s no way to preserve that just-popped magic in a bag that’s sat on the shelf for a week or more.

Popcorn is not healthy. If you can eat a bowl of popcorn without feeling at least mildly guilty, you’re doing it wrong. Popcorn is pure carbohydrate, has a very high glycemic index, is loaded with the worst kind of fat you can possibly eat, and is also uproariously high in sodium due to the salt we use to flavor it. For the health-conscious, this simply means that a harm reduction strategy needs to be employed: don’t eat popcorn every day. A bowl of the good stuff once every week or two is infinitely preferable to a bowl of microwave-irradiated sponges daily, for me. If you pop yourself right into your first heart attack, consider this my disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for any ill effects you may experience through the use of my popcorn knowledge. Eat at your own risk.

What Popcorn Is
Popcorn is one of several species of very specialized corn, roasted in oil at a high temperature until it pops.

Popcorn is a natural product. It’s removed from the plant, cleaned, carefully dried, and packaged for sale without the use of any additives or preservatives.

Popcorn is a treat. It’s not a staple of our daily diet, and it’s not meant to replace real food. Like any so-called “junk” food, it needs to be taken in moderation. I don’t eat popcorn as often as I’d like to, and for me, that makes every bowl of fresh popcorn an occasion worth some serious time and attention to detail.

What Goes Into Perfect Popcorn
High quality ingredients and the proper equipment are the key to perfect popcorn. You’ll need some skill and experience, too, but nobody can make good popcorn from bad ingredients. It’s all important.

Popcorn
There are literally dozens of species of popcorn. The only thing that they all have in common is that they are cultvated expressly for popping. Many popcorn growers have developed their own unique hybrid popcorn strains which they guard as closely as nuclear secrets. Most famous among these growers was a fellow from Indiana named Orville Redenbacher. Yes, he really did exist, that really was him in the television advertisements, and yes, he and his partner developed the strain known today as Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn. Redenbacher had been working on developing the ideal popping corn since high school.

(A bit of popcorn trivia: Orville Redenbacher almost always wore a bow tie when he appeared in public or in his advertisements. The bow tie was almost always some shade of red. This is in homage to the original name of the strain of popcorn he and his partner developed. Before a marketing company decided it should carry the Redenbacher name, it was called RedBow Popcorn: Red for Orville Redenbacher, and Bow for Charlie Bowman, the man you’ve never heard of.)

The stuff you will find at your local grocer, packaged in clear plastic bags, is called bulk popcorn. It’s guaranteed to be fairly low-grade stuff. It’ll pop, all right, but the popped volume will be low, the kernels are likely to be mushroom-shaped and chewy, and you’ll find a lot of “old maids” (unpopped kernels) in your bowl. Bulk popcorn is a blend of species and harvests, and will never be very good or very bad. It’s consistently mediocre. Bulk popcorn is to premium popcorn what blended Scotch Whisky is to a good single-malt.

There’s no sure way to evaluate the quality of popcorn by examining the kernels. Therefore, more so than in the buying of any other food product, you must judge popcorn by the grower’s reputation. Orville Redenbacher’s corn is of a very high quality, and properly prepared, it has a nice, fluffy texture with a high percentage of “butterfly” kernels. It comes in a sealed bottle and is thus easily stored. It’s also pretty expensive when compared with bulk popcorn, and it’s the only widely available high-end popcorn. Pop Weaver popcorn, almost as widely carried, is also very good, and slightly less expensive for similar quality and quantity.

I’m going to tell you a secret now. It’s one of the key factors that makes the popcorn at my house the very best, and I’m going to give it away so that you too can share this knowledge with others. I know where the world’s finest popcorn is grown.

It comes from a place called Murray, Kentucky. Every fall in that small farming community, the Ellis family harvests a strain of popcorn that has been their family’s legacy for more than half a century. For generations this family has brought us the perfect popcorn by supervising every aspect of its production, from planting to delivery. Their product bears, and richly deserves, the name, “Blue Ribbon Popcorn.”

This is not an advertisement — I do not work for Ellis, and I’ve not been compensated by them — but I am an enthusiastic, loyal customer and would love for this fine family to have your business if you are so inclined. Their web site allows ordering, albeit in somewhat large quantities. For smaller quantities, they can direct you to a local dealer or online distributor. They are the friendliest people you will ever talk with, and proud of what they do.

Ellis Blue Ribbon Popcorn Company
101 East Poplar Street
Murray, KY 42071

Toll Free: (800) 654-3358
Fax: (270) 753-7002
http://www.ellispopcorn.com

UPDATE: Ellis is out of business, sadly. But there’s hope. See this post.

I tend to buy popcorn in large quantities. It’s less expensive that way, and if stored properly, popcorn has a wonderfully long shelf life. If it’s stored at moderate to low temperatures in a tightly sealed container, it will be almost as fresh after a year of storage as it was when it was first shipped. Stored in open air, it’ll be flat and useless after a month or two. My last order from Ellis was about 8 pounds of popcorn, and I still have two or three pounds left after nearly a year. I made some two nights ago and it was still quite fresh and good. I store my popcorn in ziploc bags, sealed tightly after squeezing out as much air as possible.

Oil
Oil for popping popcorn needs to have some very specific properties. It needs to be able to withstand temperatures in excess of 500 degrees (Fahrenheit) without smoking, breaking down, or catching fire. It needs to have either no flavor or a flavor that complements the corn’s taste. It must be thin enough at high temperature to evenly coat the kernels as they pop, but firm enough at room temperature that it doesn’t make a gooey mess when you’re eating. You health-conscious people have already seen where I’m going with this, haven’t you? Popcorn is best when popped in saturated fat.
After countless experiments with various types of oil, I have once again found what I think to be one of the key ingredients of perfect popcorn, and I’m going to share it with you. Of all the oils I’ve used, coconut oil makes the very best corn.

You can use pure, raw coconut oil if you like. It comes in jars, it looks disgustingly like lard, but it works. However, popcorn, in addition to having a nice, savory, salty taste, is even better with butter. Real butter is a pain to handle and even more difficult to use in popping without creating a burned mess. A company called LouAna has the answer in the form of a product called Coco-Pop.

Coco-Pop comes in square sticks, wrapped in waxed paper, just the way butter is often packaged. The wrappers are helpfully marked at tablespoon intervals so that you can slice off just the right amount for the perfect batch of popcorn. The bars contain pure coconut oil, natural butter flavoring, and a small amount of a natural yellow dye called annatto — the same dye used to turn cheddar cheese yellow. Using this oil results in cleanly popped, well coated popcorn with a rich, yellow color that makes a nostalgic guy like me grin, and the corn tastes buttery and wonderful. Coco-Pop is what the popcorn professionals use, and with good reason. It’s the best.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find. Coco-Pop is a product primarily sold to concessions, because there’s little to no consumer demand for it. You’ll have to hunt around a bit. Ellis Popcorn will sell it to you, at a slight and reasonable markup, but you may be able to find a local source as well. A company called Capital City Supply in Atlanta, for example, was willing to sell me small quantities on a walk-in basis when I told them I was a popcorn nut. They’re accustomed to selling things by the case, but they were willing to accommodate one eccentric customer. You may have similar luck.

If you’re unable to find Coco-Pop anywhere, seek out pure coconut oil. It’ll still have excellent popping properties, but you’ll have to drizzle on real melted butter after popping. Hints on that later.

Salt
Popcorn is salty. Oh, sure, you can have your caramel corn and your Cracker Jack and your popcorn balls at the holiday times, but when we’re talking about real, traditional popcorn, it’s got salt on it. Making popcorn at home as a kid always frustrated me, because the one thing I could never get right was the salt. I’d sprinkle on granulated table salt, shake the bowl, sprinkle on a little more … and I’d still eat bland popcorn and find all the salt waiting for me in a pile at the bottom of the bowl. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was hopeless from the start. I was using the wrong salt.

Popcorn salt is different from table salt. Popcorn salt is very finely ground and is in the form of a fine powder, rather than the large granules of table salt. The small particles are stickier and cling to the oil on the surface of the kernels, ending up in your mouth rather than at the bottom of the bowl with the old maids. This fine salt is now sold in grocery stores under the name “popcorn salt,” and it comes in flavored and unflavored varieties. The pure salt is white, and the flavored products generally have a yellow (annatto) color. If you are using Coco-Pop to pop your corn, you’re already getting a dose of butter flavor, so flavored salt is somewhat less important, but if you’re using natural coconut oil, you might want the extra flavor shot from the salt.

I love buttery flavor, so I always use a flavored salt. Not surprisingly, the salt I choose turns out to be the one most professional popcorn producers and vendors use. It’s called Flavacol, and it’s sold by a company that’s been in the popcorn business for many decades: Gold Medal Products. Flavacol comes in a quart carton of the sort in which you’re accustomed to buying milk, and at about two bucks a carton (which will literally last for months or years), it’s a bargain. It’s a fine salt that sifts easily, clings perfectly to the popcorn kernels, and has a slightly buttery flavor that is the perfect partner for Coco-Pop’s savory flavor notes. A Google search for the word “Flavacol” will probably turn up a dozen places that’ll sell it to you online; it’s also commonly carried at warehouse stores like Sam’s Club.

Popping
The finest ingredients will turn to garbage if the wrong equipment or technique is used to do the actual popping. There are three critical areas we need to address: heating, agitation, and steam control.

Heat
To pop big, beautiful, fluffy kernels, popcorn has to be heated evenly and at the right rate. To understand this, we need to think about how popcorn pops.

A popcorn kernel consists of a hard, moisture-impervious shell filled with starch. In its natural form, the starch is hard, dense, and solid, and it contains a small amount of water which generally resides near the center of the kernel. The moisture does not evaporate over time because the shell is, for all practical purposes, hermetically sealed.

When we heat a popcorn kernel, the temperature inside rises. As we pass the boiling point of water, the moisture inside turns to steam and expands. At first, it begins to saturate the starch inside the kernel, softening and eventually gelatinizing it into a  more pliable substance and “cooking” it slightly. Pressure builds inside the shell and continues to build to well over 100 pounds per square inch! Eventually, the shell can no longer withstand the pressure, and it fails catastrophically. The steam, now released from any confinement, expands in a huge (for its scale) explosion, escaping from the starch and expanding it as it goes. What’s left behind is a puff formed by the foamed, then cooled starch.

If we heat the kernel unevenly, we’ll burn one side of the shell. The shell will lose strength, and the kernel will burst prematurely or not at all, resulting in either an old maid or a small “dud” kernel.

If we heat the kernel too slowly, the shell will spend too much time under pressure, and either a defect in the shell will leak away the moisture, or the starch inside will overcook. Dud kernels are the usual result here, too.

If we heat the kernel too rapidly, it will rupture its shell before the starch gelatinizes. It will merely break into fragments without really expanding at all, or sometimes will simply turn inside out.

The ideal popping heat will bring the corn evenly to popping temperature in two to three minutes. Since all poppers are different, experimentation is really the only way to find this ideal setting.

Another important consideration is what happens when we’re done popping. When popping slows, we want to very quickly remove all heat so that the kernels in contact with the bottom of the popper don’t scorch. If we use a pot with a heavy metal bottom, it’s not going to be easy to cool it down quickly. Thin, highly heat-conductive metals are better.

Agitation
Heat itself isn’t enough. As we saw above, we can’t heat just one side of the kernel. We’ve got to keep the kernels moving so that they’ll heat evenly on all sides and not burn or scorch.

Some poppers have an agitation device built in. The “Stir-Crazy” popper from West Bend has a rotating wire that keeps the kernels rolling around until they pop. If you’re popping in an old-fashioned flat-bottomed kettle, you can shake the pan. However you do it, keep ’em moving until they pop.

Steam Control
As each kernel of popcorn pops, it releases a burst of steam. What happens to that steam next is really important. It needs to go away, and quickly! If the steam becomes trapped in the popper with the freshly-popped corn, it will steam the popped kernels and make them tough and chewy. Never, ever pop popcorn in a tightly covered popper of any kind. Make sure it’s well vented so that steam can move freely past the corn and out the top, where it will do no harm.

The Popper
As it turns out, I have found the ideal home popcorn popper, and it’s not high-tech at all. In fact, it’s inexpensive, simple, and human-powered. I’m talking about the Whirley-Pop, made by Wabash Valley Farms and available everywhere (even on Amazon.com) for about twenty bucks.

The Whirley-Pop has a kettle made of aluminum, and a lid with hinged metal doors for adding ingredients and dumping the popped corn. Attached to the lid is a hand-cranked gear mechanism that drives an agitating wire at the bottom of the kettle. The heat source is your range-top or stove-top. The lid is well vented for excellent steam removal. It is without a doubt the best inexpensive industrial design I’ve ever seen, and it makes perfect popcorn.

The aforementioned West Bend “Stir Crazy” popper works well and would be my second choice if I didn’t have a Whirley-Pop. It has a motorized agitator and contains its own electric heat source, but it costs twice as much and doesn’t work half as well, so I’ll be doing my own cranking, thank you.

How Is It Done?
We’re down to the actual procedure now. I’ll explain each step as we go along, and that can take a little time, so give this a thorough reading before you start. Once the popping starts, things happen pretty fast. I’m going to assume you’re using the Whirley-Pop and my preferred supplies, but these instructions should be easily adaptable to any decent equipment and materials.

First, start with a popper free of any hulls or old kernels. It is NOT necessary to completely wash and dry your popper after every use; some actually say there’s an advantage to keeping the pot “seasoned” with a small amount of oil between uses and washing it sparingly. Coconut oil does not go rancid easily and will be fine under most conditions.

Have a large bowl ready to receive the popcorn. When the time comes to dump it, there’s no time for a search. Also have your oil and salt ready.

Add 3 tablespoons of oil to the popper. If you’re using Coco-Pop, just slice an exact cube from the end of the stick — exactly as long as the stick is wide.

Fill a 1/2 cup measuring cup with popcorn kernels until they’re level with the top of the cup. Don’t forget to re-seal your popcorn container.

To the cup with the popcorn, add 1 level teaspoon of popcorn salt or Flavacol.

Place three popcorn kernels in the oil in the popper and close the lid. Apply heat. On an electric range, you will want between 3/4 and full heat. On a gas burner, a medium-high flame will do nicely. There is no need to agitate at this time.

Wait until you hear the first of the three kernels pop. When that happens, immediately dump the cup of popcorn and salt into the popper, shake to even it out, close the lid, and begin cranking. My target is usually about 40 to 50 RPM. On a gas flame, agitate more quickly, since there’s a tendency for hot spots to form on the kettle’s bottom. At this stage, you are also using the agitation to mix the finely powdered salt with the popcorn and oil.

When you hear the first pop, continue agitating, giving a quick side to side shaking motion every few seconds to keep the kernels evened out on the bottom.

When popping becomes so fast you can no longer count the pops, keep agitating, but at the same time, raise the kettle slighly off the heat source — 1/2 inch is often plenty. This maintains the temperature in the kettle but doesn’t let it keep increasing, to avoid scorching popped kernels.

The crank will get harder to turn under the weight of the popped corn. As it does, slow your cranking a bit. Within a few moments, the popping will slow. When you can count to three between pops, immediately open the lid and dump the popcorn quickly into the waiting bowl. Don’t burn yourself — the kettle will be very steamy and the popcorn quite hot.

You probably will not need to add salt unless you are a real salt fiend, but if you’re going to do so, do it NOW while the corn is still warm and moist from the steam in the kettle. The salt will stick perfectly now. Shake or toss the popcorn as you salt it for even coverage.

If you desire real melted butter, put about a quarter of a stick into a microwave-safe coffee mug and heat it on the defrost cycle of your microwave oven for about two minutes. The defrost cycle heats intermittently — it will melt the butter slowly and won’t burn it. By the time it’s liquified, the corn will have cooled slightly and will be ready to receive the butter. Drizzle it sparingly over the popcorn, toss the corn to distribute, and repeat until you’re happy with the butter coverage.

With any luck at all, you now have before you a large bowl of perfect popcorn. Add a friend, a good movie, and a comfy couch, and you’ve got the makings of a fine evening.

Enjoy. If you’re also a popcorn nut and would like to share any of your own secret (or not-so-secret) tips, I’d love to hear them!

27 Comments


  1. O! My gosh, that was fascinating!

    I have honestly never considered popcorn to be anything more than a cheap nasty snack sold at cinemas. I feel all enlightened now (and peckish!) and I really would love to have a bash at making Popcorn properly.
    You need to Thing this, mister.

    Hey, don’t come to England if you want to enjoy proper fast food and popcorn the American way – we have a nasty habit here (where food is concerned) of taking something that works perfectly and buggering it up. On the other hand, proper British food (with little or no external influence) is genuinely great and I know you’d love a real British Roast Beef cooked our way. With Horseradish sauce and all. If you ever make it over here I’ll do you a good Roast. You can consider this an IOU as I love cooking.

    Oh, and as for adding salt – proper (British) chips have to have the salt added _after_ the vinegar, and it’s a sign of a good chip-shop when the staff know that. Not difficult to work out but you’d be surprised how many places get it wrong. Generally, the Scots usually get it right 🙂

    Damn you, Scotty! I needs must find a jar of Olives at the very least and it’s way past my bed-time!


  2. Do you like popcorn, then?


  3. Flavacol is awesome! Popcorn, good popcorn that is, is serious business. Gold Medal, that company you talk about above, actually has some cool videos that show their popcorn machines in action and a ton of great articles and guides too.

    Here is a link to their tutorial videos where you can watch how the magic happens: http://www.gmpopcorn.com/tutorial-videos.cfm


  4. Very informative! I was enjoying a nice delicious bag of popcorn at Target and noticed they used Ellis products. So I googled and was pleased to find your wonderful insights on popcorn! Thanks again.


  5. Started my working career as a jr. high student working at my uncles theatre. You got everything exactly right!
    We, of course, used a commercial popper, but the exact ingredients you listed, Regular salt though.
    Refreshing to see this article. I still have 5 gallon metal Lou anns buckets i use till this day for lugging stuff around. Blue Ribbon corn is the best. One more secret though! Refrigerated popcorn pops big round octopus kernals. A trick I learned by accident. Good work. You should consider yourself a professional!


  6. Using a paper sack (i.e., lunch bag) as a container:
    – Add 1/4 cup popcorn.
    – Fold over the top of the bad.
    – Attach a small strip of masking tape to ensure the bag stays closed.
    – Place bag in the microwave oven.
    – Press the ‘Popcorn’ option.
    – Season the popped corn and eat your snack from the bag.
    You control the cost, moisture, fat content, and salt for a healty, nutritous snack.


  7. I pretty much do the same thing, but I put the Flavacol in straight from the measuring spoon as soon as the coconut oil melts. This way my measuring cup is not dirtied and I can put it right back in the drawer without having to wash it since the popcorn does not leave a residue.

    I will try putting the corn in after the test kernals start popping. Now I just drop it all in after the Flavacol. I think having a set point where I drop the kernals in… which is determined by the time of the test pop will likely yield more consistent results.

    I use a radiant stove with a digital setting so I can get the same heat each time, but I have noticed I get varying results based on how much coconut oil I use. You will likely need to experiment a little with the heat and oil amounts. Don’t skimp on the oil.

    One other tip is that if you use an oven mitt with a thumb then you can hold the lid open and pour with one hand when the popcorn is done without risking burning yourself. Just hook your thumb over the top while you hold the handle with the rest of your hand.


  8. Thank you for an informative and entertaining essay. We just purchased a popcorn machine and are very dearly attempting to make the perfect bowl of popcorn.
    I believe that you have helped us in that goal.


  9. I appreciate all the advice given, but I am a kettle corn vendor and make sweet corn with sugar like what you get at local fairs and carnivals. I always thought cooking with salt in the kettle with the corn made the corn tough or chewy. Am I wrong?


  10. Thanks for the comment, David. That hasn’t been my experience at all. Chewy or tough corn tends to result from the corn getting too much steam, from corn that isn’t fresh, or from the kettle temperature being a little low. Mushroom corn, which you probably prefer for sweetened corn, is always a little chewier than butterfly. But since the salt isn’t oil-soluble, it pretty much stays out of the cooking equation. It just gets splashed around with the oil and costs the kernels a bit better.


  11. On LouAna website they are selling Pop-lite, have you used this oil?


  12. What a terrific writer you are. I was hunting around trying to find out if I could do anything to lessen the unfortunate moisture content of Stir Crazy popped popcorn and stumbled onto your gem of a report. You didn’t happen to cover my problem here (if you do have a hack, or even an idea, please share), but so what. You kept making me smile. Best fifteen minutes I’ve spent recently.


  13. Hello Scott J. I came across your website quite by accident and I’m glad I did. I’ve been looking for some kind of guidance on making good popcorn. I have an air popper that makes the toughest, chewiest popcorn I’ve ever attempted to eat (the birds and squirrels will eat anything). As an aside, the crows are smart. They soak it in the birdbath. Obviously they don’t like tough, chewy popcorn either.
    I get so hungry for the popcorn my family and I used to eat when I was a kid (about 10 years old) but that was 63 years ago. We used a popcorn popper that had its own heat source but also had a vented lid with a hand crank that stirred the popcorn around in the kettle so it wouldn’t burn. I am happy that there is a popper on the market . “Stir-Crazy” popper is sold on Amazon as well as EBay and I have ordered the one without the heat source, but can’t find a source for Ellis Blue Ribbon popcorn. When I click on the web address for Ellispopcorn.com I’m redirected to a website called “preferredpopcorn.com” Is their popcorn the same as Ellis Blue Ribbon popcorn? I did find a source for “Coco-pop” and also “Flavacol” though. So according to your expert knowledge about popcorn, would you say Orville Redenbacher popcorn sold in glass jars is second to Ellis popcorn? If you couldn’t buy Ellis would you use Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn?

    Your thoughts?


  14. Love your passion for popcorn! My family’s fav snack is popcorn in the whirly-pop. We have been using olive oil, white kernels and topping with 1 T melted butter, salt, dill, cracked pepper and occasionally garam masala in place of the dill. I just bought a 4oz gold medal popcorn cart and am planning on following your recommendations to create a popcorn masterpiece! Thank you.


  15. I remember as a kid Jolly Time was the go to popcorn. Any comments?


  16. Love it. But there is a reason why Scotch is blended. Single Malts taste awful


  17. Thanks for this awesome write up.

    After reading this blog, I went on a hunt for the Whirley Pop popcorn popper (I live in Vancouver, BC Canada). Stupid expensive here… Until Walmart was selling it for $25. Bought one online. ETA in a week. Next day, saw one in a neighborhood garage sale and bought one for $5! Score!!
    Just popped a batch; best popcorn ever! My 3 kids LOVE their popcorn and they all agreed it was the best they’ve had.

    Now, we didn’t have coconut oil (bought some online from Walmart so still waiting for it) so I used vegetable shortening, table salt and margarine… Yes you can kill me late. Nevertheless if this substitute recipe was so good, I can’t wait to try it with coconut oil, flavacol and butter!!


  18. If you are in the vancouver BC area, you can buy flavacol at cash ‘n carry in bellingham! Just picked it up and even the check out clerk raved about it. (I had no luck finding it anywhere near vancouver, not even the specialty shops had it….actually they had no clue what i was talking about)


  19. Great tip, Liz! Jolly Time is a bulk popcorn product, Dennis. Not bad on its own merits but it pales by comparison to the good stuff.


  20. Thanks for all the tips Scott! Another benefit of working with you is that you are a wealth of knowledge in the cooking as well as the performing arts. I am getting a whirly pop tomorrow. FYI Bed Bath and Beyond has them for $19.99. Cannot wait to replace my air-popper with the whirly -popper. You have broadened my horizon in the realm of perfect popcorn.


  21. We just purchased Coco-Pop at Smart & Final. it comes in boxes with four sticks each.


  22. “Popcorn is pure carbohydrate, has a very high glycemic index, is loaded with the worst kind of fat you can possibly eat, and is also uproariously high in sodium due to the salt we use to flavor it.”

    This isn’t necessarily true.

    http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=22719


  23. Popcorn is one of my favorite snacks. I agree with the point that mentioned salt is a necessity for good popcorn. For popcorn lovers, I think that it is a good idea to buy it in bulk when it is on sale to have a good stalk.


  24. Sorry I missed this. It’s 3/4 carbohydrate, 1/8 fat, and 1/8 fiber. Not exactly a nutritional bonanza.

    And the low fat percentage assumes it’s popped without oil, and as I stated earlier, popcorn popped without oil is an abomination. 🙂


  25. Hi there Scott!

    About 5 years ago I found this post on a Google search (to this date it still sits on my bookmarks) and ever since that time I’ve made my popcorn the right way! Just came by to say that I’ve been using Golden Barrel Butter Flavored Coconut Oil for the past 3 years and it helps immensely enhancing the butter flavor from the Flavacol. Anyway thanks for all the tips and it is really nice to see this post/blog refreshed and alive!


  26. This is awesome info!! I have called myself a ” popcorn whore” on more than one occasion, but you’re right it has to be GOOD popcorn!!! I will try your slightly different techniques and products and see what I come up with. My popcorn is preeeeetty darn amazing, but I’m up for better anytime! Thanx, from one popcorn enthusiast to another!


  27. What a find?
    Happy accident.
    Such wonderful information! Thank you for sharing your love and extensive research with us. Wonderful to see that after 5 years this page is still full of life and appreciation. I am planning to share this with some fellow enthusiasts.

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