Curling up on the sofa with a bowl of freshly popped popcorn, your favorite soda, and a four-star movie turns any night into a winner. Americans love popcorn so much that, according to the Popcorn Board, we consume 51 quarts annually per person. In addition to being great comfort food, popcorn is a whole grain product that contains about 1 gram of fiber in every cup. It's also lower in calories and fat than many other snack foods: air-popped popcorn has about 30 calories per cup, while popcorn popped in oil has about 55 calories per cup.
In case you've always wondered, the Popcorn Board offers the science behind how popcorn pops. Popcorn is different from other types of corn in that its hull has just the right thickness to allow it to burst open when heated. Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. The soft starch is surrounded by the kernel's hard outer surface. As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand. Around 212°F, the water turns into steam and makes the starch inside each kernel superhot and gelatinous. The kernel continues to heat, and the pressure inside the grain builds until it finally bursts the hull open. As it explodes, steam inside the kernel is released. The soft starch inside the popcorn becomes inflated and spills out, cooling immediately and forming into the odd shapes we know and love. A kernel will swell 40–50 times its original size!
Skip the microwave popcorn for today and learn how to pop popcorn on the stove! Unlike the packages from the store, this easy method lets you control how much popcorn you make and how much oil or butter you add.
Tip: Use an oil that can withstand high temperatures without smoking or breaking down, such as canola oil, peanut oil, or an oil specifically designed for popcorn popping. Do not use olive oil or butter.
You can also make popcorn in the microwave by using a special bowl designed for this purpose. These microwavable bowls are available in stores that carry kitchen and cooking supplies. Simply add kernels to the bowl (no oil required), cover, and heat according to the recommended time for your microwave wattage. You may have to experiment a few times to get the timing right.
Caution: Do not use a brown paper bag to microwave popcorn, as these are not designed for microwaving.
In addition to butter and salt, you can top your popcorn with any of the following: garlic salt, Parmesan cheese, dried thyme, ground cumin, dried oregano, dry taco or ranch-style seasoning mix, lemon pepper, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, or brown sugar.
Learning how to make kettle popcorn is easier than you might think. Like any homemade popcorn, you can dress it up exactly how you like it while it's cooking!
Caramel popcorn is another classic popcorn dress-up. Here's how to make caramel popcorn so you can enjoy this sweet and salty snack whenever you want!