How to Make Popcorn Without a Popcorn Machine

A Step by Step Guide to Making Perfect Popcorn Without a Popcorn Maker

Did you know that it's possible to make delicious and healthy popcorn at home without a popcorn maker?

If you didn't, you're not alone. A select group of people know all about this method, while the majority of the population think you need a great popcorn machine to enjoy it at home. Well, today we'll induct you into the popcorn-at-home club! We've been experimenting with ways to make popcorn without a popcorn maker, and we've put together an easy guide so you can become a popcorn guru in the comfort of your home - without specialist equipment.

You also get the luxury of adding whatever seasonings you want, and the combinations are limitless! From savory and sweet to salty and buttery, you can do it all.

It's also healthier because traditional microwave popcorn is packed with chemicals and preservatives that can even lead to a serious health condition known as bronchiolitis obliteran or 'popcorn lung'.

This is enough to scare anyone away from eating popcorn, but with your homemade treats, you can still enjoy the salty and buttery goodness without the nasty additives.

Things You'll Need

  • Stovetop 
  • Saucepan with a lid
  • Measuring tools
  • Bowl for your finished popcorn
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil for popping (vegetable, canola, coconut, or olive oil work well - here's our guide to the best popcorn oils
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup of popcorn kernels 
  • Seasoning (butter, salt, cheese, whatever you want)

Step One

To start, you want to put your saucepan on your stovetop and measure out enough oil of your choice to coat the bottom of the pan. Add your oil a little at a time until the pan is coated. Your popcorn kernels shouldn't float in the oil, but a thin layer will work well.

Step Two

Turn on your burner and heat up your pan and your oil over medium-high heat. You'll also want to add three or four popcorn kernels so you can tell when the oil is hot enough to pop your popcorn. When these few kernels pop, remove them and place your lid on the pan while making sure you allow enough room for the steam to escape.

Step Three

Combine your seasonings and popcorn kernels in a bowl and toss them together. Once the oil is hot enough, add this mixture into the hot oil and quickly replace the lid. If you don't have a lid, you can use aluminum foil with three slits cut in the top for ventilation.

Step Four

When the lid is in place, you can turn your burner up slightly, but you'll have to watch it closer if you do to prevent burning. You also don't want to burn the oil as this will contaminate your popcorn's taste. Give your pan an occasional shake to make sure that nothing is burning to the bottom and to shift the popcorn around while it pops.

(The best stainless steel popcorn makers have arms that turn the corn and prevent them sticking - you want to try to replicate that by shaking the pan.)

Step Five

When your popcorn switches from rapidly popping to just a few stray pops, remove your pan from the heat and shake it slightly. You want your popcorn to stop popping completely before you open the lid. Pour your finished popcorn into your bowl and add additional seasoning if you want.

Popcorn Making Tips

  • Leaving the lid slightly ajar allows steam to escape and gives you crunchy popcorn.
  • If your oil isn't hot enough, you'll get oily popcorn.
  • If you use high heat, your oil can scorch and ruin your popcorn.
  • You can wait to add your seasoning until the popcorn is finished. 
  • For an even coating, pour your butter in with the oil so the popcorn pops in it

Popcorn Topping Combinations

  • Sugar and Cinnamon
  • Butter and Salt
  • Garlic Powder and Parmesan Cheese
  • Honey Butter and Salt
  • Butter and Sriracha
  • Ranch Seasoning
  • Sea Salt and Vinegar
  • Cajun Seasoning

No matter what combinations you decide on, you'll end up with popcorn that is chemical and preservative-free. We encourage you to experiment with different flavors and oils to find your favorite popcorn combination. You should also try different popcorn brands to find the right one for you.

The possibilities are virtually limitless, and you can experiment in the comfort of your own home.