Popcorn is a healthful and inexpensive snack that can be prepared easily at home. There are a few different popcorn cooking methods that are simple to master and they all have their own benefits. Popcorn cooked on the stove yields a full-flavored snack, while popcorn cooked in an air popper uses no oil.
Popping popcorn on the stove the most traditional method of preparing this treat. Pour 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels, 2 to 3 tbsp. of oil and 1/2 tsp. salt into a thick metal pot with a lid. Cover the pot and place it on the stove over medium heat. Shake it constantly over the burner until all of the kernels have popped (about three minutes). Drizzle some melted butter over the popped corn, if desired.
If you don't have a pot with a lid, you can also pop corn on the stove using a metal, heatproof bowl or a wok. Simply put the corn kernels, oil and salt in the container and cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Use a knife to poke several slits in the foil to allow steam to escape. Pop the corn, shaking it over the burner; use a pair of tongs to grip the side of the container if it doesn't have handles.
Air poppers pop popcorn without fatty oils, which make them a health-conscious choice. To use an air popper, fit the plastic shield over the top of the machine and fill the kernel compartment with unpopped corn. Plug in the air popper, switch it on and position a bowl beneath the spout on the end of the machine opposite the kernel compartment. Allow the machine to run until all the corn is popped.
Air poppers work by using hot air to pop the corn. The unpopped kernels feed into a chamber in the center of the popper, into which hot air is blown. As the corn pops, it bursts out of the chamber and down a spout; it's caught by the bowl located at the mouth of the spout.
In the Microwave
Microwave popcorn is sold pre-packaged in stores, but it's also simple to make your own microwave-popcorn pouches. Pour about 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels into a brown lunch sack; add a tablespoon of oil and some salt, if desired. Fold over the top of the sack several times, then microwave it on high for about 2 minutes. Listen to the popping noises as the corn cooks; if the sound slows to several seconds between pops, the corn should be removed from the microwave. Microwave popcorn burns quickly, so stay by the microwave for the full cooking time.