I have a kettle-corn popcorn recipe that I have to pop on the stove as I don't have a popcorn maker and I wouldn't want to add the sugar to the popcorn maker. This makes me wonder what the best way to pop popcorn, in a pot with a lid, over the stove is?
Use a carbon-steel wok! The shape works very well to keep the unpopped kernels in the hot oil, while the popped kernels end up on the cooler sides. I usually use about 2 T of oil and 1/3 c of popcorn to make enough for two people.
If you want to keep with the Chinese theme, Szechuan peppercorn-salt goes extremely well on popcorn! To make it, grind Szechuan peppercorns and kosher salt in a spice grinder.
Use a large heavy-bottomed pot (idealy 3-4 quart size) and place it over medium to medium-high heat until you can hold your hand about 6 inches above the bottom surface and feel the heat radiating off it. At that point add about 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan, tilting to coat the bottom evenly. Drop in a kernel or two and cover. When the kernels pop, quickly add in the remaining, cover and shake the pan on the heat to keep the unpopped kernels on the bottom where they'll heat the best. Cook and shake until the popping stops.
In order to have enough volume for the popped corn, you'll need to do it in batches of about 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels at a time if you're doing a large amount.
All these answers are basically correct. Something to add. I have found that covering the bottom of whatever pan you are using (except the wok or other round bottoms) with kernels (so that the kernels are evenly distributed and there are no kernels on top of one another) just so it is covered, but no more, the volume of corn, once popped, is close to the top.
Also, a neat change of pace for a topping: nutritional yeast ;--)
Put the oil and one or two kernels over medium heat and wait for them to pop. Then add the rest of the kernels and shake the pot back and forth until the popcorn popping slows or stops. You can use a wide range of oils to have different tastes.
Soak the popcorn in water for about 10 minutes, drain, pop - this will help to pop all of the kernels and should make them more fluffy...
1.) I would also suggest using a Whirley Pop Popper on the stove over a standard pot always. The concept of if is exactly the same as what you'd find in a Movie theater. The Whirley Popper gives you the advantage of keeping the kernels moving around so that they can all cook evenly and eliminating the chance of burning them. It takes about 2 minutes from start to finish. Close to the same amount of time for microwave popcorn but better for you and much, much better flavor.
2.) The right kind of kernels are very important. I have found that white popcorn kernels tend to have the most flavor once it has been popped. And the one's I've purchased tend to be larger kernels than most of the yellow kernel corn. Keep in mind, that cheaper is never better when it comes to corn kernels.
3.) The most flavorful and best kind of oil to use is coconut oil, hands down. Why waste your time on vegetable or canola oil when the flavorful essence of the coconut oil truly enhances the flavor of your popped corn? The flavor that it creates even eliminates the need for butter! It actually tastes so good without it.
4.) Last thing is the salt. The right type of salt is paramount to taking your popcorn flavor to the next level. I highly suggest FINE grain popcorn salt, specifically. It will spread more evenly, giving you a higher rate of coverage on your pieces.
I use a very large stainless steel bowl, with a flat bottom placed directly on the burner. Add a tablespoon or so (I don't measure) of your favorite high temp oil (corn and safflower come to mind) along with your popping corn (I think I use between 75 and 100 grams).
Cover the lid with a piece of aluminum foil, poke a bunch of vents in it with a knife, and place over medium high heat. You will need to shake it as it pops so make sure you have some high temp gloves or the like.
Warning: My bowl has been difficult to get totally clean after this... treat those burnt looking scuffs as a badge of honor!
I am making popcorn that is better than popcorn at the movie theater.
Buy a Whirly-pop popcorn popper. It cost me about $15 at Bed Bath and beyond with a coupon. It has an arm that you crank to move the kernels around. It also has vent holes in the lid to let the steam out. Steam will cause the popcorn to get tough and chewy.
My oil is from Sam's Club. It is a butter flavored popcorn oil. About $9 for a gallon.
The salt also comes from Sam's Club. You'll get two containers... enough to last a couple of years for $4.
Use regular old yellow popcorn from the grocery.
Need to butter your popcorn? You'll get some butter flavor from the butter flavored oil? Want more? Put in more oil.
Want real butter on your popcorn without it getting soggy? Then you need to clarify your butter before adding it to your popcorn.
To clarify your butter: 1. Melt it. 2. Put it in the fridge. It will solify again, but separated from whatever water was in there. 3. Drain off the water. 4. You now have clarified butter.
Melt the clarified butter and drizzle on your popcorn. Drizzle, mix, drizzle, mix, drizzle, mix.