How to Make Perfect Homemade Popcorn

Perfect Homemade Popcorn

I have a serious infatuation with popcorn. Serious infatuation. I love settling into a dark movie theater with a tub of buttery popcorn between my Chief Culinary Consultant and I, and a Diet Coke on my other side. The smell is intoxicating, and we don’t make it more than a minute before we’re reaching for the kernels that leave our fingers with a thin film of butter and studded with salt. I know many in the foodie world would crinkle their nose at me diving head-first (well, not really, but close) into a tub of popcorn slathered in fake butter with a Diet Coke the size of my head sitting next to me. What can I say? I love going to the movies and the popcorn and fountain drink complete the experience!

Fluffy Homemade Popcorn

So what to do when you’re at home and you don’t have movie theater popcorn at the ready? Well, my Chief Culinary Consultant makes a mean bowl of popcorn that I can never seem to duplicate myself. He starts with a bag of light butter microwave popcorn and then performs some type of Harry Potter magic on it with additional butter and salt. It’s phenomenal! And I can never quite get it right 😉  Microwave popcorn has been popular for quite sometime, and I eat it often, but with the increased warnings about it giving off chemicals that will cause cancer (I tried researching to see if this was ever proven, but couldn’t find a definitive answer. Anyone know?), it’s not a bad idea to know how to make the perfect bowl of popcorn right on your stove. Plus, it doesn’t take any longer to make than microwaving a bag of popcorn, believe it or not. Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, the flavor possibilities are endless – sweet and savory alike!

Step 1: Gather your materials: heavy-bottomed pot (at least 5 qt.), oil, popping corn, salt (popcorn salt if you have it) and butter (of course!). I recently saw that Orville Redenbacher has a special popcorn oil for, well, popcorn. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have no doubt it’s delicious. Peanut oil would probably be preferred here, but I just use whatever I happen to have in the pantry. Today that was canola oil.

Homemade Popcorn: Step 1

Step 2: Add the oil, salt and popping corn to the pot. Place the pot over medium heat.

Step 3: Give the pot a little shake to make sure all of the kernels are coated with oil, and then put a lid on the pot, leaving it slightly ajar so that steam can escape.

Step 4: Text, Tweet or check your email for a few minutes. The kernels are popping and doing their thing!

Step 5: Once the popping has slowed to an almost stop (about 5 minutes), turn off the heat. (I would also recommend transferring the popcorn to a large serving bowl here as well.)

Step 6: Melt the butter and, while shaking the bowl or stirring with a big spoon, drizzle the melted butter into the popcorn. (You could also put some popcorn in the serving bowl, then drizzle some butter, add more popcorn, then more butter, and so on so that the butter gets evenly distributed.)

Give it another mix. Add more butter or salt if you prefer, and then grab a movie and hit the couch!

What’s your favorite popcorn flavor or topping?


Jazzed-Up Popcorn Recipes

Caramel Popcorn (La Fuji Mama)
Peanut Butter Popcorn (The Kitchn)
Popcorn with Brown Butter, Rosemary and Lemon (Andrea’s Recipes)
Popcorn with Parmesan and Truffle Oil (Steamy Kitchen)

Perfect Homemade Popcorn

Yield: 3 quarts

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes


3 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup popping corn
3 tablespoons butter, melted


1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the oil, salt and popping corn. Turn the heat to medium, cover the pot with a lid left slightly ajar, and shake once or twice.

2. The corn kernels will begin to pop within a minute or two. Once the popping slows to an almost stop, remove the pot from the heat.

3. Transfer the popcorn to a large serving bowl and drizzle with melted butter, tossing well to combine. Add more butter or salt, if preferred.


107 Responses to “How to Make Perfect Homemade Popcorn”

Comment Pages 1 2
  1. Leslie on August 3, 2010 at 12:53 am

    For Christmas last year, Jeff got me this pop corn popper. I eat like a bowl of popcorn a day. It has a stiff wire that twirls around the popcorn, so it is not sitting on the surface burrning. After it is done you unplug it and turn it upside down and the lid of the machine is the bowl!


    • Creatively Domestic on August 3rd, 2010 at 2:30 pm

      We do the exact same thing! There is nothing like popcorn at 9 PM in front of the TV watching House, Grey Anatomy, or whatever else is on.


      • Shah on January 7th, 2013 at 1:58 am

        Yeah, as a kid I love eating popcorn. my favourite snack.
        I used to watch my mum doing it. making popcorn on a big pan with a lid.
        Now with this recipe it’s just going down to memory lane!!


    • AndrewR on April 26th, 2012 at 9:52 am

      Leslie, what is the brand name & model of your popcorn maker? I am on a quest to buy the best popcorn maker available!


  2. meagan on August 3, 2010 at 3:02 am

    Good olive oil is the best topping. with a little salt and pepper. Every butter fan who I’ve introduced olive oil popcorn to has converted.


    • Lisa Rice on August 8th, 2010 at 11:35 pm

      Do you pop the popcorn in the olive oil over the stove in the method mentioned above or do you just poor it over the popcorn life if you have used an air popper?


  3. Jessica @ Jessiker Bakes on August 3, 2010 at 3:16 am

    Very cool!


  4. Amy K on August 3, 2010 at 7:13 am

    This looks yummy! Our family loves any kind of popcorn (buttered, salted, cheese, caramel, ANY). On occasion, popcorn….it’s what’s for dinner!


  5. Eliana on August 3, 2010 at 7:28 am

    My husband is obsesses with popcorn and we make it at home all the time. Love how easy it is to make and made from scratch tastes much better than microwave to us.

    Thanks for your lovely comment on my fundraising post and for your support. I will think of you and your family when my training gets tougher and I need that extra push to get me through the last few miles of the race.


  6. Tami on August 3, 2010 at 8:20 am

    add some of this to your popcorn and it tastes much better than Smartfood


  7. Michelle on August 3, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I am obsessed with making my own popcorn. The bagged stuff from the grocery store just doesn’t compare, plus who needs all those mystery ingredients in the store-bought version?

    I haven’t done the stovetop method in a long time but I find it pretty easy (and less stuff to clean) when I put 2 T of kernels in a small brown lunch bag, fold the top closed, then put it on the “popcorn” setting on my microwave.

    And my favorite popcorn topping/flavoring by far? Nutritional yeast – healthy, tastes like cheese, and so delicious!


    • kathy on January 14th, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      I just put some popcorn into a brown paper-bag and put it in the microwave. Since I don’t have a popcorn setting on my microwave, I turned the microwave on high for 3 minutes. Only 1/3 of the popcorn popped. Therefore, after eating the popped kernels, I put the un-popped kernels back into the microwave for an additional 2 minutes. After 30 seconds of popping, the bag caught fire, engulfing most of the interior microwave, damaging the microwave’s plastic interior. It was scary.


  8. April on August 3, 2010 at 9:08 am

    My family has an old air popper that is awesome. :) Watching it pop out of the popper was always just as fun as eating it! Maybe I’ll try the old-fashioned way just for fun.


  9. Tina from PA on August 3, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Love some good popcorn!! Remember the T.V Time popcorn (you may be too young ) it had popcorn on one side and a buttery oil on the other , it was made on the stove ,a blast from my past!


  10. Sarah on August 3, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Brought to you by ConAgra foods, lol.


  11. Krystle Thorn on August 3, 2010 at 10:19 am

    How fun! I havent ever made popcorn this way! But looks so easy and delicious!


  12. Kate on August 3, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Don’t you have to shake the pan continually while the kernels heat up? Wouldn’t they scorch and burn if you don’t? I make popcorn on the stove all the time and if I don’t shake the pan, I get burnt popcorn. I am a popcorn fanatic also, and can polish off an entire bowl by myself at any time.


    • Shirley on August 3rd, 2010 at 5:58 pm

      Maybe it depends on the type of pan/pot you use? I use a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot and never bother shaking it when I’m popping corn. No burning.


      • Diane on August 4th, 2010 at 12:18 pm

        Yes, it’s the heavy-bottomed pan that’s the secret. I’ve done it both ways, and was delighted to find that if I use the right pan, I don’t need to shake it at all. I don’t know exactly how thick it is, but if you pick it up and feel lots of weight in the bottom, it’s probably fine.


  13. Lacey - A Sweet Pea Chef on August 3, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I love popcorn too but I always pass it up at the movies cuz it’s so expensive. I haven’t made popcorn on the stove in years. Thanks for the remixer for how to make it! Sounds yummy!


  14. Kim (Liv Life) on August 3, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I am not a popcorn fan… that being said, my family loves it! With a microwave on the fritz, we purchased my husband something called a “Whirly Pop” from Amazon last Christmas and it has been used almost daily since! We found Orville’s popcorn to be stale 3 times and have stuck with the regular ole cheaper bag of store brand!


  15. Robyn on August 3, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    i agree that fountain drinks and popcorn complete the movie-going experience. at the movie theatres here (toronto) they also sell little packets of seasonings you can sprinkle on top – my favourite is white cheddar. but i have to say i hate microwave popcorn after eating so much of it in university. so obviously now i have to try this method!


    • osaz on March 27th, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      good Robyn,like your comment on the topic.Like to meet you


  16. Sues on August 3, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    So simple and perfect! I have a movie popcorn obsession too :)

    I love sprinkling parmesan cheese and garlic salt on my popcorn!


  17. Megan on August 3, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I have a Whirley-Pop that I use to make popcorn alllll of the time. I can’t remember the last time I had microwave popcorn. Also, try popping the corn in 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil instead of vegetable oil. The flavor is lovely and no butter is needed! (And as my husband says, I am at total butterton!)


  18. Breck on August 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    My family ONLY makes popcorn on the stove… the microwave stuff doesn’t seem to have much flavor to me. The best toppings are brewer’s yeast (I know it’s weird, but trust me) and garlic salt. Sooooo good–I could eat a whole bowl for dinner.


    • Me on November 29th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

      You probably meant nutritional yeast.


  19. Deb on August 3, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    We are big popcorn fanatics at our house. We have a Whirley pop which makes great popcorn and kettle corn too. Although I am still trying to get my kettle corn to taste like fair kettle corn-that cast iron pot must be the difference.
    We also have a Nordicware microwave popcorn bowl. There is a 3-4 minute pop time and the popcorn is ready in the bowl for the toppings. You can make it air pop or with oil.


  20. Heather I. on August 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Definitely a sweet topping, like cinnamon & sugar. But, cheese or just good ol’ butter sounds good, too!
    Popcorn on the stove is a lost treasure…thanks for bringing it back!


  21. Camila on August 3, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Oh, you use a regular pan…interesting. Do you know how to make sweet popcorn?


    • Diane on August 4th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

      It’s not hard…just Google “homemade kettle corn” and you will soon be popping!


    • Michelle on August 5th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

      Hi Camila,

      I have never made sweet popcorn, but there were a couple of commenters who left “recipes” for sweet or kettle corn, be sure to check them out!


  22. bridget {bake at 350} on August 3, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    You are SO right! Stove-popped popcorn is the BEST! My dad used to make popcorn almost every night…and still does. He would get the BIG bowl and he’d scoop out a small bowl or two for us! 😉

    I’ve never added salt to my oil, so I’ll have to try that. I always throw 2 kernels in with the oil, when those pop, I throw in the rest and cover with the “vented” lid and start shaking. I read to do that somewhere and now I can’t remember the reason why! LOL!

    Thanks for posting about popcorn!!! I’m thinking it will be our afternoon snack!


  23. Maggie on August 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Funny, it never occurred to me to add the salt to the oil. I always wait until it’s popped. And Kate, I agree with you! I have to shake my pan too.

    And the best way to add the butter and salt is:

    1 – Put the popcorn in a really large bowl (I use a large wooden salad bowl)
    2 – Pour about 1/2 of the butter, sprinkle some salt, then TOSS it like you’re flipping a pancake
    3 – Then pour the rest of the butter, salt it some more, then do another toss.

    Add more butter if necessary, which is always good.


  24. MH on August 3, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    My family owns a microwave popcorn manufacturing company. The chemicals in the microwave popcorn do not cause cancer as some suspect. Flavor companies used to make their “butter flavors” more buttery by adding diacetyl, which is a natural component of real butter. Diacetyl maybe harmful to lungs a very high levels, like if you worked around this flavor everyday without sufficent ventilation. Flavor companies are going away from adding diacetyl to their flavors, to ensure consumer safety. Microwave popcorn is moving toward what consumers really want, which is a healthy & natural snack. :)

    Also, I do love popcorn made the old-fashioned way. Try corn oil or coconut oil for a yummy pop too.


  25. Shirley on August 3, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    We don’t even eat microwave popcorn anymore, this way tastes much better! And I think your choice of canola oil over peanut is healthier anyway. :)


  26. Foodlvr on August 3, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    I make it a bit diifferent. Put a fire under a heavy pot. Once it is hot, add 1 kernel, cover. When it pops, add the remaining 1/4 cup of kernels. Cover, remove from heat for 30 seconds exactly, then put it back on the heat and start shaking the pot. Then the kernels pop all by themselves. Make sure the cover is on. Stay right there (no testing or emailing) and when it stops, or sounds like it is, add the butter and cover. Take off the heat. Shake the pot (holding the cover), and when it stops popping remove the cover, pour into a big bowl and attack. Works every time and almost all the kernels will pop. I also add the salt in with the oil in the beginning.


  27. marla {family fresh cooking} on August 3, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    This is exactly how my folks used to make popcorn when I was a kid. This beats the heck out of overly processed microwave popcorn.


  28. Ad K. on August 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    We make popcorn on the stovetop or with our hot air popper. When we use the hot air popper we let it go straight into a paper bag then pour melted butter over it and while shaking the bag we salt it. YUM! The perfect movie snack.


  29. Belinda @zomppa on August 3, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Just pop in to the movie!


  30. Sarah on August 3, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    The ‘popcorn’ oil is pretty good (we combine the oil with a ranch packet and tumble pretzels in it-delish!) But I’ve heard that coconut oil is really the key to over the top popcorn…let me know if anyone else has heard/tried this.


    • Suzanne on March 25th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

      I use coconut oil to pop on the stove. My son is allergic to milk so no butter – this tastes great! I never have added the salt while popping I have to try that. I use to have microwave popcorn all the time until I started reading about the dangers of it so we have stopped.


    • Christine on August 4th, 2012 at 8:10 pm

      I have been using coconut oil also for popping popcorn. I also use WHITE Popcorn mixed with the Yellow Popcorn which makes a nice crunchier mix because of the WHITE Popcorn! WinCo carries the White in the bulk section and you can find a jar or bag of JollyTime White Popcorn in the grocery stores! You’ll never want to be without it once you try it! Keep the kernels in the freezer to preserve the moisture in the kernel which makes it “Pop”! That’s why “Old” popcorn won’t pop, the moisture is gone!! Happy Popping!


  31. on August 3, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Don’t you just LOVE popcorn! I agree with you on the cancerous cehmicals in the microwave stuff. Supposedly there’s something in the lining of the bags. Funny you’ve also made popcorn this week. I made some caramel honeycomb popcorn last week (you can see it here: ) and I’ve seen a few other bloggers do popcorn recently as well. It’s very popular at the moment! Hmm, now I’m hungry!


  32. Lynn on August 3, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Yum! There is a movie theater near my house that has a self serve butter dispenser. Let me tell you I have gone seriously overboard on the butter!


  33. Kristen on August 3, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Someone asked about sweet popcorn here is what we do (too regularly!)

    1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
    1/4 cup sugar
    1/3 cup unpopped popcorn

    Place oil and 3 kernels of popcorn into a large covered pan. Heat on medium-high heat until the 3 kernels pop. When the 3 kernels pop place sugar and popcorn into the pan. Stir quickly and return cover to pan. Alternate between setting on the burner and shaking for 3 seconds until popping slows. Pour into large bowl and salt to taste.

    YUM! We love kettle corn in our house! I think each of us could easily go through a batch!


    • Linda on January 2nd, 2014 at 11:55 am

      I haven’t made the Kettle Corn, but this is how I have made my regular popcorn for years… putting the oil in the heavy pan along with 3-4 kernel of corn. When they pop then add the rest of the popcorn. I have a good heavy pan, so I seldom shake the corn. As long as you pour our out the popped corn when it stops popping you will never have burned corn. I then sprinkle salt and melted butter on it…stir and add more and stir again. I will try your Kettle Corn.


  34. Betty on August 4, 2010 at 1:19 am

    We eschew microwave popcorn as well- just as easy to make it on the stove. (Except you have to wash the pot.) Our housekeeper at the school where I teach used to make us popcorn every day at 10:30, our morning break time. The smell would waft through the school and anyone that didn’t have recess duty would be drawn to the lounge for their daily “fix.” Ever since she retired, others have tried but have never matched her delicious popcorn. (It could be because she wasn’t afraid to use lots of butter and salt.)


  35. Jean on August 4, 2010 at 2:07 am

    My husband LOVES popcorn. I think it’s the single biggest reason we go to the movies so much. We have to use an air popper at home to make it ourselves but I bet your method eliminates the problem of unpopped kernels. I’ll only eat popcorn with a brewers yeast/garlic/paprika topping but with that, I could eat tons!

    Thanks for sharing the way you make yours. :-)


  36. Heather on August 4, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Interesting. My method is put 3 tbsp of oil in pan and 2 kernels of popcorn. Heat on high until the 2 kernels pop, then add the 1/2 cup of popcorn, cook etc. I find if you don’t heat the oil up first the kernels don’t pop correctly as the oil need to be hot, hot, hot to pop the kernels.


  37. Lisa @ 14 months to 50 on August 4, 2010 at 9:28 am

    I agree with Heather, and this is from my childhood: You can use any size pan, just put in enough oil to just cover the bottom. Put in two kernels and wait for them to pop, then pour in just enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan in one layer. It starts to pop almost immediately. Occasionally pick up the pan from the flame and shake it to move uncooked kernels to the bottom. Keeps the popped popcorn from burning and sticking. Voila!

    If you aren’t vegan, I’ve used real shredded parmesan for a topping. It’s decadent.
    I’ve popped mine in olive oil, too.


  38. Lisa Rice on August 4, 2010 at 9:32 am

    We too are popcorn fanatics at our house. We do not do the microwave stuff. We are also so snobby about our popcorn (ha!) that we prefer white popcorn over yellow. We have several seasonings that we do for popcorn but the most requested is a cajun seasoning. We add 1 t. crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 t. garlic powder, 1/2 t. paprika, 1/4 t. onion powder and 1/4 t. thyme to 3 T. butter, oh and couple of shots of hot sauce to the mixture as well. My boys love this! I just prefer fresh minced garlic simmered in a little butter myself – sometimes adding freshly grated parmesan cheese.


  39. Maria on August 4, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Looks perfect to me! Great snack!


  40. Jenny Flake on August 4, 2010 at 10:04 am

    LOVE homemade popcorn! Great step by step :)


  41. Ebony on August 4, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I love these type of posts that show how easy it is to make things at home. Most packaged popcorn are covered in a bunch of chemicals to mimic good old fashioned butter and salt. But nothing is better than the real thing. Thanks for this post, and for the pretty pics of popcorn.


  42. Tracy on August 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    This does look perfect! I am all about popcorn when I’m craving something salty.


  43. Sugar Mama on August 4, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    In our house white kernels are the key… we are white popcorn lovers vs the yellow popcorn. Also, like someone else suggested, I love it popped with good extra virgin olive oil and a tad of Kosher salt.

    We have a local popcorn store that sells salt & vinegar popcorn. AMAZING!

    Also, I like to eat peanut butter m&m’s with my popcorn. Can’t wait for our next movie night!


  44. Mary on August 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I use 3 TBLS coconut oil to 1/2 C popcorn kernals and it taste exactly like movie thater popcorn. Not the healthiest treat but it is great for family night. Just makes sure you use real butter for the popped popcorn, margine contains water and will ruin the popcorn. ENJOY!


  45. life and kitchen on August 4, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Love popcorn. The only thing better than popcorn is popcorn treats with some sort of sweet gooey mess all over it. Sweet and salty is the best!


  46. katie on August 4, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    This all sounds great but I’m wondering if you have to have a gas stove to make stovetop popcorn? I have an electric stove and I’d love to try this if possible. Anyone know??


    • Michelle on August 5th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

      Hi Katie, Yep! You can make it on an electric stove!


  47. Fuji Mama on August 4, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    LOVE this post! I’m a huge popcorn lover. I got in the habit of making air popped popcorn as a snack every afternoon during law school so that I would have something to sit and mindlessly snack on. Now a day doesn’t feel complete without popcorn in the afternoon. :) I’ve never tried making it in a pot like this (except for in one of those specialty whirlygig popcorn popping pot thingies). I’ll have to try! Thanks for the shoutout!


  48. Heidi's Recipes on August 4, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Old Bay! Yummy! Plus it reminds me of Maryland!


    • which.chick on August 4th, 2010 at 11:23 pm

      I’m an Old Bay popcorn person, too. The microwave stuff tastes plastic to me and I don’t have a microwave at home anyway (would take up valuable countertop space plus also not sure what I’d use it for) so I make stovetop popcorn. I use lard for the oil part.


  49. Cookin' Canuck on August 4, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    I never think to make popcorn on the stove – what a fun activity this would be with the kids.


  50. sana on August 5, 2010 at 12:47 am

    This is how my mom has been making popcorn for us for years! I just take easier route and do the microwave thing :) I too love popcorn at the movies and my fav combo is a big tub of cheese and caramel mixed!! Caramel popcorn is to die for!!!


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