Foolproof Stovetop Popcorn

I am in no position to dispense advice this week. I’m writing this to you with my right wrist in a brace because I typed at a dumb angle for two hours straight yesterday and now I have tennis elbow despite never ever having played “tennis” in my entire life. I don’t want to cook anything, cooking is dumb and for suckers. I can’t believe my flesh prison is doing this to me four months before I turn 30, existence is meaningless, etc.

When I’m in this mood, reclining on my divan (couch) in my satin smoking jacket (ancient robe) and slippers (slippers), I like to make myself what I call Snack Dinner, or Charcuterie for Bums.

Charcuterie for Bums is every snack food I can get my hands on that has some modicum of protein or nutritional value and doesn’t involve actual cooking. This includes but is not limited to: apples and peanut butter, cheese and crackers, carrots and ranch, slim jims, pretzels, salami, etc. The only thing I will turn the stove on for is popcorn.

Microwave popcorn is good. I can say nothing against it. Those intestine-coating plasticine fake-butter chemicals are delicious, and I would be eating them right now if I:

1. Owned a microwave and

B. Had not cursed myself with the knowledge of how to make really good stovetop popcorn and also

III. Didn’t realize that buying plain kernels is way cheaper.

Oscar Wilde didn’t give his life for you to NOT take the opportunity to be as dramatic as you need to be when you’re feeling Beset by Fate. Reaching into a greasy bag while stretched out on your fainting couch is just not going to cut it.

I like to convince myself stovetop popcorn is healthy because it is a Whole Grain, and I also like to eat it dramatically on the sofa like Olivia Pope. Her kernels are always perfectly crisp and fluffed, never burnt or stuck to each other or dried out and flavorless, so I assume she also knows how to make The Good Popcorn. Make it the centerpiece of your own Snack Dinner today.


  1. Get out a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Could be a Dutch oven or a stock pot, but it should have some headroom so the kernels can pop with abandon.
  2. Measure out ¼ cup of kernels – if you’re being circumspect. I usually go with 1/3 cup, make ½ cup if you’ll be sharing.
  3. Get some fine salt ready, and also a large bowl.
  4. Take 4 Sacrificial Kernels and put them in the cold pot with a glug of vegetable oil – not olive – probably about a tablespoon.
  5. Put the lid on the pot and turn the heat on to medium-high.
  6. Listen for the pops – should take about 3-4 minutes.
  7. Wait until all 4 kernels have popped, then take the pot immediately off the heat.
  8. Pour the rest of your kernels in, add about ½ tsp salt, and shake everything around so they get coated in the hot oil. You’ve gotta salt it now because if you don’t do it with the hot oil it won’t stick.
  9. Put the lid back on and hang out for 30 seconds while the kernels get up to temperature – they may start popping, which is fine.
  10. Put the whole covered pot back on the heat and hang out while everything pops, for about 5 minutes. Shake the pot around carefully from time to time so nothing has the chance to stick to the bottom and burn. This would be a very stupid time to walk away and check on something else (I speak from experience).
  11. When the popping has mostly stopped, you’re good to go. Apparently, you’re meant to wait until there’s 5 seconds between pops, but if you stick to that you might burn some innocent corns so I always take the pot off the heat on the early side rather than risking it.
  12. Did you know the corn kernels that stay unpopped are called old maids? That is fucked up.
  13. Pour out your popcorn into the large bowl and taste for seasonings. Popcorn is perfect with no toppings except salt. However, and here’s a phrase I never thought I’d write: I’m obsessed with nutritional yeast. I made fun of my vegan friends for using it instead of parmesan in college, but I am here to say My Bad because that stuff is delicious. It is irresistible, umami-crispy goodness and it sticks way better than cheese. I have never in my life gotten parmesan cheese to stick to popcorn, but NutriYeast gets the job done. Endorsed. Smoked paprika and garlic powder are also good – some people swear by dried dill. Go wild. Raid the spice cabinet.
  14. If you just want butter, you’ve got a very hot pot right there that you can use to melt a chunk of butter and pour over your bowl o’ corn. You can even put the corn back in the pot and shake it around with the lid on for even coverage. Just make sure you haven’t over-salted, because the butter will pick up all the extra salt left over in the pot.
  15. If you want to make pretend kettle corn, put a generous spoonful of honey in the hot pot with the butter and melt it together before pouring it on and shaking to coat. I cannot recommend this highly enough. This changed my whole life.

2 thoughts on “Foolproof Stovetop Popcorn”

  1. Thank you for explaining the perils of how to get the salt to stick without over salting! Of course there would be salt left in the pan – I just never thought about it before!

    Liked by 2 people

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