Of all the snacks, popcorn is about as close to perfect as it gets, in our humble opinion. It’s salty, crunchy, buttery — perfect for eating by the handful while watching your favorite movie. You can share popcorn with friends or keep it all to yourself. There’s even kettle corn for anyone who prefers their popcorn sweet! This snack can also be convenient — just follow the directions, pop the bag in the microwave, you have a steaming bag of buttery goodness. But what if we told you that you can make popcorn that tastes better and will have you abandoning the microwave forever?
Making your popcorn on the stovetop predates the microwave method and was, ultimately, replaced because of the microwave’s convenience. Well, despite convenience, sometimes the old ways are best. So, why have we backed stovetop popcorn so strongly? The big reason for this comes down to one word — control. It’s what you sacrifice when you microwave your popcorn, and what you take back by making it on the stovetop. The control you get over the popcorn influences every aspect and is a fair trade-off, considering it isn’t more difficult to make than in the microwave.
When you make popcorn on the stovetop, you can more easily manage the amount of popcorn you make by adding fewer or more kernels to the pot. Whether you’re making popcorn for a crowd or just yourself, the method of cooking doesn’t change.
Popcorn can be a healthy snack with numerous health benefits. The problems arise when you add other stuff to it. Sadly, this means the buttery oil used in many packaged popcorn bags isn’t always the healthiest for you. You can avoid this by making it on the stovetop. Using a little bit of a healthy oil and sprinkle of salt can be enough to add a lot of flavor without compromising the healthiness of your snack.
Speaking of flavor, stovetop popcorn doesn’t have to be buttery and salty. As we mentioned before, kettle corn exists for the sweet tooths out there, but you can go much, much deeper than that. Some popcorn flavors to try include brown butter and sage, rosemary and truffle oil, Old Bay, Cajun seasoning, and spicy red pepper flakes. You can also try sweeter seasonings like cinnamon sugar, chocolate, and caramel. The list goes on. You can also take a shortcut and buy popcorn seasonings to make it even easier.
As mentioned, classic microwavable popcorn lacks control, and this presents some issues to you. With microwavable popcorn, you can’t manage the sodium and unhealthy fats that are used to flavor the popcorn. Most microwavable popcorns are loaded with saturated fat from palm oil. The average bag of popcorn can contain around 65 percent of your daily recommended value of saturated fats and 28 percent of your daily recommended value of sodium. Some brands of popcorn have a healthier version of their popcorn, but these are often small bags of popcorn or lack most of the flavor.
While the risks of cancer or “popcorn lung” were quite low, both were reportedly removed from microwavable popcorn.
You may have seen some reports linking chemicals that were used in microwavable popcorn flavoring and packaging to serious health issues. Chemicals in the packaging, perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, were linked with cancer. These chemicals were used to prevent grease from the oils in the bag from leaking and prevent the bag from burning but would break down under heat. The other chemical, diacetyl, was used to create the buttery flavor and smell in microwavable popcorn but could cause severe lung damage when inhaled. While the risks of cancer or “popcorn lung” were quite low, both were reportedly removed from microwavable popcorn. Despite this, U.S. News reports that the most recent testing found that most or all popcorns still have over the acceptable limit of PFCs.
If you’re convinced by the benefits of making your own popcorn or are concerned about the negatives of microwavable popcorn, we’re happy to report that it can be easy to make it on your stovetop. All you need for a basic popcorn is an oil of your choice, your seasoning, your popcorn kernels, and a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Depending on how hungry you are, 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup of kernels is a large serving for one person or a smaller sharable portion. For the oil, you usually only need enough to cover the bottom of the pot, about two tablespoons.
The process is simple.
● ● ●
And there you have it! Fresh stovetop popcorn made how you like it. As you continue to make this snack yourself, you can tweak the recipe to fit your personal likes. Ultimately, that’s the best part of stovetop popcorn — you control the cooking, making a better tasting and potentially healthier popcorn that is absolutely worth it.