How to Make Healthy Air Popped Popcorn on the Stove

Making Popcorn for Movies

Buying popcorn in a theater to enhance a good movie is a favorite common practice. However, complaining about the taste or lack of it is also common. You can fix that by making your own at home—making it taste much better than the stuff you get at the theater—and watching a movie of your choice in comfortable surroundings while saving money too. You can even match the recipes below with the type of movie you watch to have a more fulfilling and fun experience.

  • For example, make or go out to an Italian dinner. Then come home, make the Italian popcorn, and watch a European home movie or Italian opera on YouTube.
  • Or you could eat sushi for dinner, make an Asian version, and watch a kung fu movie or an Internet documentary on the history of martial arts or Asian sects of Buddhism.
  • Or you could eat a vegetarian dinner, make the hippy kind, and watch a light love movie or a YouTube rock concert of your choice.

This all sounds like so much fun, I think I'll do it myself!

Tip: If you are watching a documentary online and it keeps stopping and starting in order to load up, try putting it on pause while you go into the kitchen to pop your popcorn. The video will continue to load on pause. By the time you start it up again, it will play smoothly.


Stovetop Air-Popped Popcorn

Serving Size: 1-2 people


  • Popping Corn, depending on pot size:
    • ¼ cup for 1.5 qts pan
    • ½ cup for 3 qts pan
  • (optional) Seasonings.


Step 1: Pre-heat your non-stick, covered pot over high heat.

Step 2: Flick a few drops of water into the pot. W

Step 2: Flick a few drops of water into the pot. When the water sizzles, you’re ready to add your popcorn kernels.

Step 3: Remove the pot lid, add kernels into the p

Step 3: Remove the pot lid, add kernels into the pot, and cover the pot once more.

Step 4: Reduce heat to medium-low.

Step 4: Reduce heat to medium-low.

Step 5: To prevent burnt kernels, shake the pot ev

Step 5: To prevent burnt kernels, shake the pot every six or so seconds.

Step 6: After 2-3 minutes, the kernels should star

Step 6: After 2-3 minutes, the kernels should start to shift in color, and smell like popcorn!

Step 7: After 3 – 4 minutes, the kernels sho

Step 7: After 3 – 4 minutes, the kernels should start popping.

Step 8: If you do not hear a pop for more than 5 o

Step 8: If you do not hear a pop for more than 5 or 6 seconds, remove pot from heat.

Step 9: Pour hot popcorn into your favorite serving bowl!

Tip: Do not pour hot popcorn into a plastic bag or

Tip: Do not pour hot popcorn into a plastic bag or another thin plastic storage item. The hot, exposed kernels can melt through plastic.

Other Benefits

  • There is a higher ratio of popped kernels with this method, as compared with others. If you find a number of unpopped ones, try different types of popcorn before blaming the air popper.
  • The kernels are generally lighter and fluffier than either the pan-cooked or micro-waved methods. If you microwave it, it also carries a health risk from the coating inside the bag and another from the fake butter flavoring.
  • You can choose whatever oils or flavorings you want to add. This allows you to make your own more flavorful and/or as healthy as you want it.
  • No risk of burning the popcorn or drying it out. Make sure you store the kernels in the freezer to preserve their moisture. No need to unfreeze—just pop them right into the popper when needed.
  • Not much cleanup is required. I just pour out the few unpopped kernels and wash the little butter tray with soap and hot water. That's it.
  • Takes only 15 minutes from beginning to end (including cleanup).

Susette Horspool, CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Testing

I popped three batches of popcorn using each of the four methods. For the stovetop method, I added one-third of a cup of safflower oil, staying true to Chef Koslow’s style of starting out with more oil than kernels. In the Whirley Pop, I included two tablespoons of oil, for a more traditional ratio. The microwave and air-popped popcorn remained fat-free.

For each round, I popped two ounces of kernels following the best practices for each method:

  • For both the stovetop and the Whirley-Popped corn, I first preheated the oil over medium-high heat with just a couple kernels. Because popcorn acts as its own thermometer, once those test kernels popped, I knew the oil was at the ideal temperature. After removing the tester kernels, I poured in the rest of the corn. After I'd added the kernels, I kept them in motion over medium-high heat until the popping settled down to just one every 10 seconds.
  • For the microwave popcorn, following the manufacturer’s instructions, I added the corn to the bowl and secured the vented lid. I popped the corn on high until the popping subsided to one kernel every 10 seconds. In our 900-watt microwave, this took about three minutes.
  • The air popper works by circulating the un-popped kernels with hot air. Once the kernels pop, their increased surface area allows them to be easily blown through a chute by the air. I popped the corn in the air popper until the last kernels stopped popping, which took an average of six minutes per batch.

The team blind-tasted the popcorn with no seasonings added, to avoid adding more variables to the mix. I also counted how many un-popped kernels remained in each batch.

Can you spray Pam on popcorn?

Make better popcorn

For perfect popcorn, spray the popcorn with cooking spray (butter flavored, if you want) to get an even coat on the kernels. The cooking spray helps the Parmesan cheese stick to the kernels instead of just falling to bottom of the bowl.

How do you add salt to air popped popcorn?

You take regular salt and put it in a blender/chopper until it’s a fine mist then it will stick fine. You take regular salt and put it in a blender/chopper until it’s a fine mist then it will stick fine. Agree with this. Putting salt on dry popcorn in a powdered form helps it stick much better than the salt crystals.

Step 2

Add the popcorn kernels into the bowl and stir them so that the kernels get completely covered in the oil and salt mixture. Make sure to even them out in the bottom of the bowl so that the mixture coats each kernel.

Popcorn Stovetop Directions

If you prefer to use the stovetop to make your popcorn or do not have a microwave, I’ve included the directions for that as well.

To start, heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high. Add 1-3 tablespoons oil and 2-3 corn kernels to the pan. Cover with a lid. Once the kernels pop, add the remaining popcorn and shake the pan to coat with oil. Cover the pan with a lid, slightly ajar, to allow steam to escape. Shake the pan during the cooking process to prevent kernels from burning on the bottom of the pot. When popping slows to about 2-3 seconds apart, remove the pan from heat. Pour into a large bowl and top with the desired amount of melted butter or oil and seasoning. Toss to coat popcorn evenly.

What Is Popcorn, and Why Does It Pop?

Photograph: Shutterstock

Popcorn is one of several types of corn grown and harvested throughout the world. Although other varieties of corn, such as flint and dent, can pop into a crunchy puff, nothing becomes a fluffy snack quite like proper popping corn. This is due to its unique combination of a tough exterior, a densely packed and starchy interior, and 14 to 20% moisture by weight.

Underneath the hull of any kernel of corn, regardless of type, are the corn germ and endosperm. Endosperm is the collection of mostly starch and some proteins that exists inside a seed.* It provides the nutrients and energy for germination.

*Guess what? Corn is considered a seed, a grain, a vegetable, and a fruit!

The endosperm in each variety of corn has a particular ratio of two different forms of starch—amylose and amylopectin—and protein. It’s this ratio that determines the qualities of the corn and, most importantly for our purposes, whether or not it’ll pop.

Amylose is a molecule made up of a long and straight chain of sugars that easily pack into dense and tight configurations, while amylopectin molecules are branched and form weaker clusters. Because popcorn contains a high percentage of amylose relative to other types of corn, it is more densely packed and harder.

When a kernel of popcorn is heated up, the moisture inside it quickly transforms to steam, exerting pressure on the seed from the inside out. Luckily, the tough outer hull is so strong that it can withstand forces up to seven times that of the atmosphere before bursting, giving the dense collection of starches inside plenty of time to soften and hydrate.

Once the hull finally breaks, the tightly packed slurry of high-amylose starch and protein quickly expands due to the dramatic change in pressure, much like whipped cream being ejected out of a pressurized canister. The starch then immediately cools into the crisp, crunchy, and light foam that has us coming back for more.

According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, the ideal temperature for popping corn is around 380°F (190°C). What we need for the best results is a method that gets as many of the kernels as possible to that ideal temp, as evenly as possible. If the popcorn is unevenly heated, any kernels that pop early are likely to burn before the whole batch pops, while also leaving behind too many tooth-cracking un-popped or semi-popped suckers.

Because the outer hull isn’t completely impermeable, timing is also of vital importance. Heating up the kernels too slowly can result in the moisture escaping, leaving behind a surplus of un-popped kernels; heating too quickly means the starch inside won't have a chance to hydrate, resulting in less fluffy popcorn.

Step 8: Startr Up

THIS ancient thing-a-ma-jig is an air popper. plug it in, start it up, wait a half a minute… with the top off (or you’ll be sorry…)

How to Make Air-Popped Popcorn in the Microwave

You’ll need ¼ cup popcorn kernels to start. Add the kernels to the bowl and cover it with a lid. Place in the microwave and set for 6 minutes. Cook until the popping slows to 2-3 seconds between pops. Stop the microwave. The popcorn usually takes around 4-5 minutes to cook, but the time could vary with different microwaves. Listening to the popping is the easiest way to know when your popcorn is finished.

Sidenote – there will still be unpopped kernels in the bowl. If you cook for too long, the popcorn will start to burn, and your house will smell like burnt popcorn.

Once finished, remove the popcorn from the microwave using potholders or a kitchen towel. The bowl will be very hot. Carefully remove the lid and drizzle with olive oil or melted butter. Season with salt or your favorite seasoning blend.

Tip 2: The right amount of kernels

The great thing about the paper bag method over an air popper is the amount! You don’t need that much popcorn, so the brown bag is great for 1 serving.  Tip #2 though, is don’t overfill the bag. It will lead to burned kernels or kernels that are stuck too close to each other and can’t pop properly.  For the perfect amount of air popped popcorn, we use 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup at the most. No more than 1/2 cup of kernels.

Step 11: Its a Twister

behold the action. i have to jiggle it a little to coax them into the bag, which probably recirculates airflow…. using a bowl is better but try shaking a buttered bowl full of popcorn… floor corn is, well, not my favorite.


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