Stella, May I know how you make kettle popcorn?

10:06 AM Stella May 0 Comments

Happy National Popcorn Day! As promised for today's Tutorial Tuesday, I present Mister's signature kettle popcorn recipe. Now I must tell you, this is not a simple stick-it-in-the-microwave popcorn. It will involve some exercise and patience. However it is well worth it. It's way better than the stuff you find at fairs! (I think I am just realizing how much fair food I like. Corn dogs, kettle corn, funnel cakes...) This popcorn is coated with a thin layer of sugar, so if you leave it out it won't go stale that quickly. It'll be good for a few days, before it starts going stale. I seem to always finish it so I can't tell you exactly how many days. The sugary coating also makes it more crunchy! I have always liked kettle popcorn, but I didn't know how to make it. I used to always get the packaged stuff from the store or the overpriced ones at the fair. I even resorted to sprinkling powdered sugar on top of microwave popcorn! That was not successful at all. The powdered sugar ended up all sinking to the bottom of the bowl. When Mister found this out, he set out to make it for me. He thought it was a little silly that I bake and cook, but I can't make kettle popcorn. After a lot of testing, he presented me with the best tasting kettle popcorn I ever had. Now we make it for movie nights! 
On to the recipe: you will need
Half cup of popcorn kernels
Half cup of plain ol' white sugar. I haven't played around with other types of sugar, but I imagine brown sugar or coconut sugar won't melt at just the right time or won't be able to coat the popcorn as they pop. 
 4 tablespoons of oil. This might sound like a lot and it is if you think about it. It's half the amount of sugar! But you will need this much oil to allow the sugar to melt more consistently and help coat the popcorn more evenly . If not, the sugar will caramelize and burn quicker. Also without enough oil, Mister thinks the sugar moves around in clumps and will not coat the popcorn evenly.
 Pour the oil in a large pot. This is a stock pot. It will look like a good coating at the bottom of the pot.
Add in three kernels and turn on the stove to a medium high heat. Cover the pot. When you hear three little pots, it's time to add the rest of the ingredients.
You will also want to add 1 teaspoon of salt. Balance out the sweet with some saltiness! Mix the salt to the sugar, not the popcorn like in the picture. Mixing the sugar and salt together prior to pouring it in the pot ensures that you won't have surprise salty bites.
As you can see, I added the sugar first in the picture above. But after more trials after this picture was taken, Mister has found that adding the popcorn first is better. Throughout the entire process, the popcorn popping is what takes the longest. Adding the popcorn first allows it to cook at a slight head start before the sugar. The absolute worst part about making kettle popcorn is if you burn the sugar. It will ruin your entire batch with a horrible bitter taste and then you will have to start from the beginning. So when Mister was testing different variations of the recipe, he took extra measures to preventing the sugar from being burnt. (extra oil, popcorn in first, lots of shaking...)
This is picture was also taken before we took that extra step by adding the popcorn first. You want to add the popcorn in, then add the sugar and salt mixture in. Cover the pot and thus begins your exercise portion.
With some oven mitts, shake the pot. Side to side, back and forth. and swirl it all around. The point is to prevent the sugar and popcorn from staying in one place. Mister has found that keeping the pot on the fire for four seconds, then off for two seconds of shaking is the ideal rhythm. You want to continue this on and off motion until the popcorn has finished popping. It's like the microwave kind: wait until the popping slows down to 1-2 seconds between each pop, then it's done! This process should take about 7-8 minutes. (It's about how long the sugar can be under that heat before it starts to burn. So you should take it off by the 8 minute mark.) Remember it's best to not have burnt sugar, so if you can still hear a few kernels at the bottom, but the sugar has coated the popcorn and it is about to be burnt (you can smell it) then take it off the heat. Don't wait until for the last few kernels. It's better to have less popcorn at the end then ruin an entire batch.
 In the picture, we were seconds away from burning and ruining the entire batch. It should not come out this dark. As you can see at the bottom of the pot, those bits will just continue to burn and start sticking to your popcorn. Then there will be no coming back from that. When the popcorn is done, dump it out into a bowl and let it cool. Mister likes to break it up in the serving bowl, but you can also dump it out on a cookie sheet, cool it, break it up and then put it in your serving bowl. It's just one more thing to wash afterwards. I, however, like to break off the pieces as I eat them!
 Voila! This is a better picture from a different batch.
Kettle Popcorn Recipe
yields a generous 1 person serving or 2 if you share
  • ½ cup popcorn kernels 
  • ½ cup white sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 4 tablespoons oil 
In a large stock pot, pour in 4 tablespoons of oil and 3 popcorn kernels. Turn on the heat to medium high and wait for the 3 popping sounds. It will be about 2 minutes. After the 3 kernels of popcorn have popped, pour in the rest of the kernels. Then pour in the sugar and salt. Cover immediately and start shaking the pot. Shake for 2-3 seconds then back on the heat for 4 seconds. Then shake the pot and back on the heat until the kernels have popped or the sugar has caramelized. It will be about 7-8 minutes. After 8 minutes of shaking, take the pot off the heat and pour out the popcorn. Cool and enjoy!

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