How To Make Popcorn On The Stove

by HexClad Cookware

popcorn made on the stove

Few smells are more enchanting than freshly popped popcorn. The toasty smell wafting through the kitchen, the movie already queued up for streaming, the bowl waiting to be settled on your lap. (Popcorn on the couch is good, but popcorn in bed might be even better.) There’s a reason this snack is an all-time favorite. While it may be tempting to use a bag of microwave popcorn for convenience, making popcorn on the stove is simple and yields even more delicious results. Not to mention, you won’t get nearly as many unpopped kernels when you make popcorn on the stove.

Though you can buy a dedicated stovetop popcorn maker—which has a nifty hand crank to help move the kernels around for even popping—it’s not necessary. A large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid (like our 5-quart Dutch oven) does just as well, plus, you won’t be cluttering your cupboards with a single-use tool.

It’s time to throw out the bagged popcorn once and for all, and to discover the magic of homemade stovetop popcorn. Once you get the hang of the method, it’s time to perfect your DIY seasonings. Check out 5 easy ideas below.

What kind of popcorn kernels should I use for homemade popcorn?

Popcorn is a relatively inexpensive whole grain that you can find in regular grocery store aisles. Yellow kernels are the kind you’ll find at most movie theaters, so pick these if you want to create the cinematic treat at home. While any kind you find will pop well, it’s worth seeking out heirloom varieties if you’re a total popcorn nut. The mushroom variety makes for great, coatable puffs, while blue or red varieties look extra pretty in the pot (though they puff into white clouds once popped).

A few tips for making the best homemade stovetop popcorn:

  1. Make sure the pot is completely dry before you begin. If there is any water in the pot, the oil will sputter.
  2. To ensure even distribution of toppings, get out your biggest bowl possible so that it’s easy to mix without spilling.
  3. Have your toppings handy so the popcorn doesn’t cool too much before tossing with seasonings.
  4. Shaking the pan during the popping process allows the kernels to mix, leading to fewer unpopped kernels.

Here’s what you’ll need to make popcorn for 2 to 4 people (or 1 very hungry popcorn lover):

  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil with a high smoke point (like coconut oil, avocado oil, or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 cup high-quality popcorn kernels
  • Butter or other seasonings (see below)
  • Salt, to taste

Here’s how to pop popcorn on the stove:

  1. In a 5-quart, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add a few popcorn kernels to the oil, and wait for them to pop. Once they pop, pour in the remaining kernels and shake the pot slightly so they are in an even layer.
  3. Cover the pot. Once the kernels begin popping regularly, begin gently shaking the pan and moving it back and forth.
  4. When the popping slows (around 3 or 4 seconds between pops) remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Dump into a bowl and season as you like.

5 Easy Homemade Popcorn Seasonings

We love to toss homemade popcorn with any of the tasty seasonings from our friends over at Spiceology. Try their pumpkin spice mix for an autumnal treat or their Tandoori Glory Masala Seasoning for a delightfully spicy twist on your next batch of popcorn. Here are some more seasoning ideas for stovetop popcorn to try at home:

  • Extra Umami: Whisk together a little anchovy paste (or finely chopped anchovy filets) and melted butter. Toss with freshly popped popcorn, then sprinkle with finely grated parmesan or nutritional yeast and toss to coat.
  • Old Bay Bonanza: Sizzle a few sliced garlic cloves in melted butter, then strain and toss with freshly popped popcorn. Top with a generous amount of Old Bay seasoning and some freshly chopped dill.
  • Brown Butter Supreme: Before popping your corn, make a batch of brown butter (we like this recipe from The Kitchn) and keep it covered in a small bowl while you pop the corn. Then, toss with the hot, popped kernels and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
  • Spice Lovers’: Go crazy with heat. Mix together melted butter and your favorite hot sauce, then toss with popcorn and top with a heavy-handed shake of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Greekish: Toss a batch of freshly popped popcorn with dried oregano, sesame seeds, and crumbled feta cheese. (Though the feta that comes in whole blocks in water is usually best, the already crumbled kind works better here, since it’s drier and won’t make the popcorn soggy.)
  • Read more