Popcorn may just be the perfect snack. In fact it probably deserves to be a food group on its own. No matter what your preference, salty or sweet, there is some way to prepare popcorn which will satisfy anyone.
I've been a popcorn fan as long as I can remember. It was a great snack after school while watching Doctor Who, and mandatory while watching a movie. I've had popcorn of all kinds, and they are not created equal. Here are my recommendations on how to make the perfect batch of popcorn.
First off, let's talk about the corn. There are two primary types of popping corn, yellow and white. Yellow is what you'll find in movies theatres and commercial popcorn products. It's cheap, and pops to a large volume. White corn is more difficult to find, and doesn't pop to the same volume as yellow. However, white corn is sweeter, more tender, and produces fewer of the husks which get caught in your teeth. If you're making this for yourself at home, don't bother with the yellow. Here in Ontario it is easy to find white popcorn at the Bulk Barn. I've tried some of the "premium" brands, and the bulk white is just as good.
Next comes your popping method. I don't think it's possible to make good popcorn without oil. Air popping just isn't an option for good popcorn. The best popper I've found on the market is the Whirley-Pop. It allows you to make up to 1/2 cup of white popcorn easily on a stove. I've used a few other stove top poppers, but I think this one has the best features, and is a reasonable price (as a bonus, it works well over a camp stove, so you can bring it along when you go camping).
Now for your popping technique. Use whatever oil you prefer. I know some people like coconut oil, I prefer canola. You need an appropriate amount of oil for the amount of popcorn you're making, but not too much. Put your Whirley-Pop on the stove at medium heat. Do not use high heat! If you use high heat you will get tough popcorn, and damage your popper. The heat should be just high enough to get the oil to popping temperature.
You are going to pre-heat the oil. Put a few kernels in the oil while its heating. Once they have all popped, wait another 30 seconds before adding the rest of the popcorn. If you like salt on your popcorn, add it to the oil while its heating. You should use a fine ground salt. I add 1/8 teaspoon for 1/3 cup of popcorn. Adding the salt to the oil will evenly salt the popcorn, and allow easy control over how much salt you use. The popcorn needs to be constantly stirred while heating to get tender popcorn. A gentle stirring is fine, no need to go crazy.
Once the popcorn is nearly finished popping, give the popper a few shakes to settle any unpopped kernels to the bottom. Put it back on the heat and let the rest pop. Remember to keep stirring. Once its finished, dump out into an appropriate bowl, and apply whatever butter or seasoning you prefer.
A few years ago we started making a sweet kettle corn on occasion. It's a cinnamon flavour, and is always a hit at parties. It does take more time to clean up the popper after, but it's worth it. Follow the same instructions as above, but add the following to your oil while pre-heating: 2 tablespoon sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon
It is critical you don't overheat this. The amounts are appropriate for 1/3 cup of popcorn. Once it has finished popping, empty the popcorn onto a cooking sheet and allow it to cool. It will want to stick together, so break it apart before putting it in a container.
Now, enough talk about popcorn. Go off and make some of this perfect snack.