The Secret of Movie Popcorn
Rick: Everyone who’s ever seen a movie with me knows what a popcorn fiend I am. Even if we’ve just had dinner, the buttery aroma of theatre popcorn is just too good to resist. Sometimes I’ve gone into the cinema just to get a bucket to take home instead of KFC.
Microwave popcorn has its place, especially the “Movie Theatre Butter” flavor offered by some brands. But it always seems to have an aftertaste that is uniquely ‘microwave’. So after years of research and experimentation, I’m eager to share with you the secret of making popcorn at home, the results of which are so comparable to the real thing that I actually find myself able to skip it on occasion, since I enjoy it at home on a very regular basis.
Start with the best popping corn you can find. Orville Redenbacher and Pop Secret are good choices. Store brands will do the trick but with name brands you’ll end up with fewer ‘old maids’, or unpopped kernels. That said, I should mention that Kroger does manage to make a very decent popping corn (I’m impressed with most Kroger products, for that matter).
The first real secret to making good movie popcorn at home is the oil you pop it in. You will get excellent, authentic results with coconut oil. It’s thick and orange and very bad for you. For that reason, I typically do a mixture of coconut oil and a healthier choice, such as olive oil. (BTW you’ll find coconut oil in the specialty cooking oil section of your grocery store, not by the popcorn.) A number of popcorn connoisseurs insist on peanut oil, but just be certain that none of your partakers are allergic to peanuts.
At this point, I must recommend a wonderful invention, the Whirley-Pop. This brilliant device does an amazing job, is fun to use and also makes a great gift for the popcorn lovers in your life (I know this because mine was a gift, and I love it). Alternately, you can use a regular pot with a lid but the Whirley-Pop allows you to keep the kernels in motion, which discourages any scorching.
To begin, turn your stove burner somewhere between medium and high (depending on the efficiency of your burner) and put three or four tablespoons of oil in the Whirley-Pop, along with several kernels of corn. Close the lid and in a few minutes you’ll hear the kernels pop.
Now you’re ready for the secret weapon: Flavacol. Flavacol is the magic ingredient that transforms home-popped blandness into the realm of true movie-goer’s paradise. You’re not likely to find Flavacol at your neighborhood store, but you can order it online in quantity here. (You’ll go through a lot of it, and you’ll be sharing it with your friends too.)
Open the lid, add a tablespoon of this specially formulated powder, pour in 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of popcorn kernels and close the lid. You can start turning the handle of your Whirley-Pop at this point, combining all of the ingredients.
When things get hot enough again, you’ll hear kernels start to pop. Keep turning; slowly is fine, or if you get excited by the sound of popping corn like I do, you may find yourself speeding up. When the popping becomes constant, reduce the heat to half and keep turning. Within a couple of minutes the popping will slow to about every second or two. Turn off your burner and pour the contents of your Whirley-Pop into a big bowl. You’ll be impressed by how this fluffy yellow food of the gods looks and smells as good as the $5 bucket from your local cineplex.
As a finishing touch you might add Orville Redenbacher’s Buttery Topping, melted butter and/or popcorn salt, or other specialty popcorn powders if desired. Personally, I find Flavacol popcorn to be quite flavorful just like it is.
You can of course do variations of this with other equipment, including the fancier popping machines used in some home theatres. But these are the ingredients you want to go with. Experiment with different quantities to suit your taste; it’s your popcorn. You can make it exactly the way you want it, and now you can have it at home anytime you like. Enjoy!