Sideband #21: Perfect Popcorn

For the record, here’s a way to make some very tasty popcorn:

First, start with good gourmet popcorn. Orville Redenbacker‘s is pretty decent, although I have noticed that it sometimes creates a bunch of smaller, broken pieces. You definitely don’t want the stuff that comes in a one-pound bag for 39 cents. The thing about good popcorn is that it all pops. When I cook up a batch of Orville’s, it’s usually the case that there’s only a few kernels that don’t pop.

And it’s not uncommon to find none!

Second, fry it in oil. Hot air poppers are only fit for making packing material. (On the other hand, they make excellent packing material.) You can, as I did for many years, just use a big pot (for instance, a large dutch oven). Or you can get a Whirley Popper. I use a Whirley popper now, and they are excellent!

As for the oil, now I prefer a good olive oil, although I used various canola oils for many years. I do not put butter on my popcorn, so the oil I use to pop it is the “grease” applied. I put just enough in the pot to wet the bottom third or so of a kernel.

For topping, I mix up a batch consisting of a good bit of Parmesan cheese with some Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb, red pepper, black pepper and garlic powder. You can invent your own; I’ve used the Parmesan cheese alone, the pepper alone and the Mrs. Dash alone.  All good!

So, in goes the oil and the traditional three kernels. Turn the heat up to max and as soon as the three kernels pop, dump in the rest of the corn. I’ve found that 1/2 cup of Orville’s in my Whirley popper is about the perfect amount.

As soon as the popping begins, or even after you dump in the kernels, I’ve found turning the heat down helps. (I’ve got an electric stove; not sure if this is important for gas.) I turn it down to 7.5 or 8 (assuming it goes to 10).

For a Whirley popper, crank the handle at a medium pace. It may all be in my head, but I reverse direction every 10 seconds or so. Once the popping begins, it tends to happen quickly, and at some point the whirley thingy will jam. I use the pop handle to jiggle the pot at that point.  If you’re using a dutch oven, agitating the popcorn is important; you want to keep it moving.

As soon as the popping stops, take it off the heat and dump it into a paper grocery bag. Paper, not plastic! I double-bag to eliminate leaks. Dump the topping into the bag and shake gently.

Decant into a big bowl and enjoy!

Microwave popcorn? I did go through a microwave popcorn phase—mostly out of sheer laziness. It’s okay if you really have no other choice, but that stuff is pretty awful. And it really stinks.  If you make it at work, you should be aware that it is very likely everyone around you hates you. I’ve heard that some work places have actually banned its use.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

One response to “Sideband #21: Perfect Popcorn

  • d.c.b.

    Microwave popcorn also can get stale. I bought a huge box of it when it was really really cheap and didn’t use it for a while. Now it’s not that great at all. But the kids still love it, they don’t know any better and will eat just about anything.

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