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My Love Affair with Popcorn

Everyone loves popcorn, right? Well I do anyway and here I'm telling you all about how I popped my way to many great bowls of popcorn.

By: Haley J. Wilson

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Photo: Getty Images

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Is Popcorn America's Favorite Snack Food?

Popcorn has got to be one of the top snacks, right? I mean, it’s everywhere. From having a variety of flavored popcorns and popcorn kernels in the grocery store aisles, to vendors selling bags of freshly popped corn at sporting events, state fairs, and movie theaters popcorn has got to be a favorite. OK, so I don’t actually have any stats to back this up, but my claims are pretty vague.

Fact: Popcorn is one of MY all-time favorite snacks. It’s crunchy, salty, and downright addicting. I don’t think there has ever been a time I’ve turned down popcorn. I like it as a snack, I eat it as a meal, and when I was pregnant, I would drive to my local theater, buy a giant bag of popcorn (buttered, obviously), then leave with my snack in tow; I couldn’t get enough of it!

So, you might want to know, if I’m not hitting up the movies to get my popcorn fix (which was only a 9-month thing), how do I make it at home? Well let’s start at the beginning. I have distinct memories from my childhood of using our air popping machine. I loved using it! Especially watching the butter melt in the cool cup that sat over the hot air! And since the kernels weren’t popped in oil, they got plenty of melted butter drizzled over at the end. I loved this as a kid, but now this style of popcorn seems a bit dry to me, despite the butter. After a while my family transitioned to microwave popcorn. Very cool. The microwave does all the work, and it’s so savory, you just have to listen to it carefully at the end to make sure it doesn’t scorch. But now when I eat microwave popcorn it tastes kind of artificial and leaves a greasy feeling in my mouth. It wasn’t until I started working at Cuisine that I fell in love with the Whirley-Pop. My friend and former colleague gifted me a Whirley-Pop and I’ve never looked back! It’s one of those stove-top hand-cranked poppers. It’s fun to use and the popcorn is quick to make – just 3 minutes on medium heat.

How Many Ways Could There Be To Make Popcorn?

Through the years I’ve experimented with a variety of fats and salts to make the best bowl of popcorn. I started with vegetable oil, then doctored the popcorn with melted butter for more flavor - it’s good and I wouldn’t turn it down, but it’s not my fave. Olive, and other more flavorful oils came next (avocado and macadamia were unique, delicious oils I had on hand). And you can skip the butter since it already has plenty of flavor. But have you ever tried bacon drippings to pop your corn? It’s amazing (and who doesn’t always have bacon drippings on hand?). Then there was that period of time I really craved that movie theater flavor, so my popcorn-loving colleagues and I ordered Flavacol, a superfine, and very yellow, popcorn salt. Popping corn in coconut oil and Flavacol was a favorite of mine for quite some time, though my husband wasn’t a fan…a bit too artificial for his taste…though I loved it and it was a great way to get the bowl to myself. Once I ran out of Flavacol, I stuck with the coconut oil but switched to kosher salt (Diamond Crystal is my favorite) mostly for convenience, since I always have it on hand. I add the salt right to the popper with the oil and popcorn kernels. It could definitely adhere to the popcorn a bit better, but I just add a bit more than I need, knowing some of it will remain in the popper. And sometimes, when I’m in the mood for butter but don’t want to mess around with melting and tossing it in, I pop my kernels in vegetable oil and when the kernels begin to pop, I add a couple tablespoons of butter to the popper. It slows the popping while it melts, but it also ends up browning a bit in the process giving the popcorn a buttery, nutty taste that’s pretty freakin’ heavenly.

So, what’s my ratio of ingredients? To my Whirley-Pop I add my fat - this I never measure. I just eyeball it, though it’s probably in the ¼-⅓ cup range. Next I add a level ½ cup popcorn kernels and ½ tsp. kosher salt (or ¼ tsp. Flavacol if you want to go that route).

I hope that my adventures in popcorn making has inspired you to try a new way to pop your corn, or at the very least, bust out of your usual popcorn rut. Want to check out some fun recipes for popcorn, or recipes using popcorn? See the links, below.
Modern Popcorn
Sweet Christmas Corn
Cheddar-Caramel Popcorn Bars
Couch Potato Soup

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