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?

  • Just want to add a suggestion that will work with almost any stove-top method. If you preheat the kernels in the microwave, they will tend to pop a LOT better. This works really well for me with my Whirley Pop popper, which usually does a good job, but can sometimes turn out bad batches if the kernels are old. Note you want to pre-heat them just short of any of them actually popping -- 2/3 cup kernels for 35 seconds works in my 1100 w microwave. Experiment. Jan 18, 2016 at 22:30

8 Answers 8


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.

  • Do you use a high temp oil (corn and safflower) like jwleblan said or can you use another oil? I already have canola and extra virgin olive oil.
    – Kyra
    Jul 21, 2010 at 16:48
  • 2
    I've had success with canola oil.
    – Eclipse
    Jul 21, 2010 at 17:15
  • I second the use of a wok, for the reasons laid out. I always end up with no scorched popcorn and fewer than 10 unpopped kernels. Regular vegetable oil will suffice, and heat it before adding your popcorn.
    – Sean Hart
    Feb 5, 2012 at 19:34

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.

  • Should you have a lid on during the popping process? Jul 24, 2010 at 2:10
  • @Justrightmenus: Yes, I said "cover" in my post but didn't specifically say "cover with a lid". You'll want to keep it covered. Jul 24, 2010 at 3:42
  • Oops... missed that entirely; I read it a couple times and didn't see "cover" - sorry! Jul 24, 2010 at 3:55
  • No problem....at first I thought maybe I had neglected to say cover but then realized it was kind of buried in there. Jul 24, 2010 at 4:00

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 ;--)

  • That is a very good suggestion...to just cover the bottom of the pan with kernels. I haven't popped popcorn in a pan in ages but now that you mention it that's what I think I did. Jul 24, 2010 at 3:44

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
    Wouldn't all the moisture just boil off right away?
    – zanlok
    Jun 1, 2011 at 22:37

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.

  • 2
    This question is asking about making popcorn on the stove. Suggesting a popcorn popper is not helpful, and discussion of flavoring is beside the point.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 4, 2012 at 7:34
  • 1
    The Whirly-pop popcorn popper is intended to be used on the stove. I found this to be a useful answer and intend to buy one, after reading the glowing reviews. So I up-voted this answer. Mar 10, 2012 at 6:23

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