Popcorn is easily one of my favorite snacks — it's high in fiber and I love that if I munch on it one piece at a time, it takes a while to eat so that I can stretch out snack time. Sweet or savory? Doesn't matter to me since I love it all.
Making popcorn doesn't have to involve buying a box of microwave popcorn that has a lot of artificial flavorings and weird chemicals in it. Just buy a bag of plain kernels or pick some up in the bulk section at the grocery store and follow our tips for making a perfect batch of tasty popcorn each time!
What is popcorn?
Popcorn does not come from the sweet, fresh corn that we feast on in the summer. It's made from other varieties of corn grown specifically to make popcorn, also called pearl and rice corn, that have a tough outer hull and hard endosperm, which is the layer just beneath the hull.
If you can get your hands on one of the heirloom varieties of popcorn, you'll find that they can actually have a variety of flavors and textures, not to mention fun colors (although the colors aren't apparent anymore after popping).
What Makes Popcorn Pop?
Basically, the application of heat makes popcorn kernels pop open. The proteins and starch in the hard endosperm soften and start to expand with steam. The tough hull, which can withstand more pressure than other types of corn, gives the endosperm more time to soften up and create more moisture and steam inside so that the popped corn is fluffy and crunchy. The hull eventually breaks, the soft mixture inside bursts out and voilà, you have popcorn!
How to Pop Popcorn
While air poppers or other popcorn machines are appliances that make popping corn almost foolproof, you don't need these special machines to make good popcorn at home. You can do it on the stove in a pot (or even a wok!) or just use the microwave without needing those pre-filled bags that can contain a lot of weird chemicals. Here are some of our favorite methods of popping corn:
Popcorn Popping Tips
Popping corn may be a bit scary at first (flying popping little objects!), but here are a few tips that will help you make the perfect batch of fluffy, crispy popcorn, including the fact that you can re-pop unpopped popcorn!
Other Popcorn Tips
If you're making caramel corn or popcorn balls, here's a tip on the best way to separate those pesky unpopped kernels from the stuff you want to use. Oh, and don't forget that popped popcorn makes great packaging material!
Ways to Flavor Popcorn
By itself, popcorn can be pretty bland, but lucky for us, it's easy to flavor and jazz up. Look to your spice or cheese drawer for inspiration and your popcorn will never be boring again.
(Image credits: tanjichica/Shutterstock; Diana Taliun/Shutterstock; Faith Durand; Anjali Prasertong)