How to Make the Best Skillet Popcorn Ever

Dad’s Frying Pan Popcorn

It is not an exaggeration to say that I had a bowl of microwave popcorn almost every single day of my life from about my sophomore year of high school (1989) until a few years after I graduated college in 1996. I’d come home from school (or work), make a bowl, and read a book for an hour or so. Since then I’ve probably cut down to only two or three times each week, but I doubt I’ve ever gone a whole week without having some. That’s an incredible amount of popcorn to have consumed, I’ll admit. But it’s a relatively healthy snack, a great source of fiber, and fairly inexpensive.

At some point in the middle of 2001 I discovered the joy of making popcorn on the stove top using a skillet and so now I do that a few times each week instead of microwaving. It’s even less expensive and the popcorn tastes better. And my son loves the experience, so it’s even more fun.

skilletThere are dozens of different kinds of loose kernels you can get at the store. Pop-Secret and Orville Redenbacher are the premier name brands, but to be honest I’ve never noticed any significant difference between them and the generic store versions. I also think that there’s no difference between yellow and white kernels that I can tell.

Take a decent-sized covered non-stick skillet – mine is 2” deep – and coat the bottom with extra virgin olive oil, about 1&½ tablespoons and add four or five kernels. Set the heat to medium-high and wait for those guys to pop.

Now here’s the trick to getting it just right: Remove the skillet from the heat and pour in enough popcorn to almost cover the bottom of the pan. I usually don’t bother to measure, but about 2/3 of a cup is a good estimate. Put the cover back on the pan and shake it so that all the kernals get some oil. While you’re doing this, count aloud to thirty, “One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand,” etc. Then put the pan back on the burner and set it to high.

Once the kernels start popping, shake the pan constantly so none get burned until either the lid starts coming off or until the popping slows to the point where you can tell you’re done. (This is not rocket science.)

Dump in a giant bowl, salt and butter to your liking, and enjoy. I’m a big fan of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray, but you’re welcome to butter it however you want.

PS: I have a nasty habit of chewing on the unpopped kernals, which has been horrible for my teeth, sadly. But otherwise I’m fine.

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