Microwave popcorn might seem like an ultra-convenient option for making this tasty snack at home, but if you want a more authentic tasting popcorn, or a healthier popcorn, then cooking it on the stove is the best way to go.
Why Make Popcorn on the Stove?
Microwave popcorn or premade popcorn in bags will usually contain a host of added ingredients, including flavorings and colorings with health implications. These types of popcorn snacks are generally cooked in oils which are chosen for their cost-effectiveness rather than their nutritional benefits, and so when eating these, you are more likely to be consuming saturated fats and other unhealthy fats.
Popcorn is a whole grain, so when cooked in the right way, it can be a wholesome snack rather than an unhealthy treat, but microwave popcorn and bagged popcorn do not typically fall into the ‘healthy snack’ category.
Even if you buy plain microwave popcorn which doesn’t have added flavors, it can still pose health risks because the microwave bags are commonly coated with the same toxic substances that coat Teflon pans. This chemical coating called PFOA is linked to cancer and a range of other health risks.
By making popcorn on the stove, you can choose which fats and flavorings you use to customize the snack to your family’s needs. Use an oil low in saturated fat and avoid flavorings for a healthy snack, or add small amounts of butter or salt for a healthy version of a tasty treat. Adding just a tablespoon of butter to a batch of popcorn can result in a vastly improved flavor, and it will still be considerably more healthy compared with processed popcorn.
The taste of popcorn made on the stovetop is undeniably superior to popcorn cooked in the microwave. Microwave popcorn has a softer texture which isn’t as crisp and doesn’t offer the satisfactory bite of stovetop popcorn. With stovetop popcorn, you are also able to personalize the flavor to suit your tastes exactly, for example, by adding a specific amount of salt or a spice such as cinnamon.
Microwave popcorn and bagged popcorn from the chip aisle comes in pre-sized packages. This means that even if you just want a handful of popcorn as an afternoon snack, you have to use the whole bag. This can be very wasteful because microwave popcorn doesn’t keep once it’s been popped and will start to take on a cardboard-like texture after an hour or so.
With stovetop popcorn, you can customize your portion size to suit exactly what you need, meaning no waste and no mindlessly eating extra calories just because it’s there. You can make a small personal portion or a large party portion depending on your needs.
Making Electric Stove Popcorn
You will need:
- 2 tablespoons oil of your choice
- ½ cup of popcorn kernels
- Salt or flavorings
- Large stovetop pan with lid
- Serving bowl
- Set your stove to medium heat, place the oil and two of the kernels into the pan, and cover with a lid.
- Wait for a minute or so until the kernels start to pop. This is an indication that your pan has reached the optimum heat for cooking the remaining kernels.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the rest of the kernels. Give the pan a swift shimmy movement to spread the kernels around the pan and ensure the oil is evenly distributed.
- Move the pan back onto the heat and cover with the lid.
- Continue cooking over medium heat while shimmying the pan to ensure the kernels cook evenly.
- Once the kernels start to pop, adjust the lid slightly so that there is a small gap to allow air to escape. This will prevent the popcorn from being steamed, which would cause the corn to lose its crunch.
- The popping sound will get more frequent and then start to slow down again. When there is a few seconds gap between each popping sound, you can remove the pan from the heat.
- Empty the popped popcorn into a large serving bowl, and return any kernels which did not pop back to the pan.
- Repeat the cooking process with the remaining kernels and add to the serving bowl once complete.
- Season to taste, adding a little at a time because it is easier to add more rather than take away.
Oils to Use for Making Popcorn on the Stove
The type of oil or fat you use to make your popcorn will affect both its taste and nutritional value. Here we look at some of the best oils for making popcorn.
Canola oil is a good choice for making popcorn because it is widely available in grocery stores, is affordable, and is low in saturated fat. This oil has a mild flavor that will not affect the taste of the popcorn, making it suitable for adding other flavorings to or for plain popcorn. Some people prefer to avoid this oil because it is typically highly processed, making it a less wholesome choice.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This is one of the healthiest fats available, which is ideal for cooking popcorn if you want to keep a focus on good nutrition. Extra virgin is the healthiest type of olive oil because it is the least refined and therefore is higher in antioxidants. It is low in saturated fat, high in beneficial fatty acids, and contains small amounts of vitamins K and E. If you are using extra virgin olive oil for cooking popcorn, be sure to keep the stove at medium heat because it will burn at a fairly low temperature compared with other fats.
Coconut oil is a controversial oil that is revered by some as a healthy option, though others note that it contains too much-saturated fat to be considered as a healthy oil. Coconut oil is the fat that is most commonly used in movie theatre popcorn, so use this fat for an authentic popcorn taste, but choose virgin coconut oil, which will be better for you than the heavily refined version used by theatres.
Sunflower oil is low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fats, making it a good choice for maintaining a healthy cholesterol level. It has a mild flavor so will not alter the taste of popcorn and is widely available.
If you want a more nutty flavor for your popcorn, then peanut oil is a good, healthy choice. This oil contains antioxidants and vitamin E and is nice for cooking popcorn if you plan to season your snack with peanut butter afterward as it helps to build a depth of flavor.
Flavorings and Seasonings for Electric Stove Popcorn
The healthiest way to enjoy popcorn is without any additional flavorings or seasonings, but if you want to make your popcorn even more delicious, these ideas work great and are easy to make.
Salted popcorn is a classic cinema-style snack. Use finely ground sea salt as opposed to rock salt to avoid finding large chunks of salt on your popcorn.
Melted butter turns popcorn into a really indulgent treat. Melt butter in the microwave or over a warm stove and pour it directly over freshly cooked popcorn before stirring.
This savory style of popcorn makes for a delicious snack that is easy to make out of store cupboard ingredients. In a bowl, combine half a teaspoon of ground black pepper with one teaspoon of garlic powder and two teaspoons of grated parmesan. Spray your popcorn with olive oil, then pour on your garlic cheese mixture and evenly distribute it across the popcorn using a large spoon.
This sweet popcorn flavoring is made using cocoa powder, coconut oil, and cinnamon for a warm and comforting treat. Drizzle melted coconut oil over popcorn and then add a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon, half a teaspoon of sugar, and two teaspoons of cocoa powder. You can forgo the sugar if your cocoa powder is pre-sweetened or swap it out for melted honey for a healthier (and sticker!) option.
Add one teaspoon of vanilla essence, two teaspoons of honey, and two teaspoons of peanut butter to a bowl and combine. Melt the mixture in a bowl in the microwave for no more than 30 seconds, then drizzle it into the popcorn serving bowl and mix to ensure each kernel is coated. Spread the popcorn out onto a lined baking tray or serving dish, leaving a small space between each piece. Allow the popcorn coating to dry before eating. This last step is essential to avoid a sticky popcorn mess that all becomes molded together.
Combine a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon with four teaspoons of butter, honey, or maple syrup, and melt. Drizzle the melted mixture over the popcorn and spread it over a lined tray to cool and harden before eating.
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