How To: Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

Internet, listen up!  I’m about to teach you something really important.  Something, that if you don’t already know how to do, will completely change your life.  I’m going to teach you how to make the world’s best popcorn – on the stove top!


I learned this method from my parents, who have made popcorn this way ever since I can remember.  In fact, I dont think I had microwaved popcorn before the third grade or so.  It’s very simple, requires very few ingredients & equipment, and will always please a crowd.  Let’s get started!

First, you’ll need a pot with a lid – about this big:


A pot with a heavy base will work best.  You’ll want something that conducts and retains an even heat well. It doesn’t need to be expensive like All-Clad or Le Creuset, though those are certainly good options.  The pot pictured above came from a restaurant supply store. I got it for Christmas 7 years ago and it still looks good as new.  I will probably have it forever.  The other important factor about the pot you choose is that it should have relatively high sides to allow plenty or room for the corn to pop up.

Put the heat on high, then coat the bottom of the pot with a very thin layer of vegetable oil.  Just enough to coat the entire surface (I’ve never measured how much this is, and it will vary depending on your pot).  Then pour enough popcorn kernels to cover the bottom in one even layer.  Like so:


Next up, put the lid on.  Don’t walk away at this point… because within 20 seconds or so the corn should start popping.  {Excitement!}  Listen to it pop, and occasionally give the pot a forceful jiggle to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.  The popping will start off slow, just a few kernels every few seconds.  But after a bit, the popping will get very fast and the majority of the popcorn will pop at once.  Don’t freak – it’s all good!  {But do keep an eye on the lid, sometimes I find I’ve put in too much popcorn and once it pops it can start to push up on the lid.  If this happens to you, just keep a hand (use a kitchen towel if you think the lid’s handle might be hot) on the lid and be ready to pull the pot of the heat if starts to overflow.}

After about a minute and a half (this will vary depending on your pot and how much popcorn you put in), the popping will slow way down and then rather abruptly stop.  Just like in the microwave, once one or two seconds pass in between pops – your popcorn is done and you should remove it from the heat.

You don’t have to worry too much about pulling it off the heat too early, you’ll just have more unpopped kernels.  But if you let it go too long, it will burn.  To try and help out, I recorded the very end of the popping process so you can listen to the popping slow down. (It ends rather abruptly because I quit filming and moved the pot off of the heat).

As quickly as possible once you remove the pot from the heat, pour the popped corn into a big bowl.  Then place the hot pot on an inactive burner on your stove and place the lid aside. Allow the pot to cool down for around 90 seconds, then toss in 2 Tbsp salted butter and 1 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh rosemary (do not use dried, it is not the same.  If you must, acquire some fresh rosemary from your neighbor’s front yard.  I did).

The remaining heat from the pot will melt the butter and the rosemary will give off the most amazing fragrance.  The rosemary sort of fries in the butter, and infuses it with yummy flavor.  If the pot is too hot, the butter might brown a bit.  This is fine.  Swirl it around to keep the butter moving and prevent it from burning.  Browned butter tastes wonderfully nutty, burned butter just tastes gross.  Here’s a video of the rosemary and butter melting.  {Yum!}

Once the butter is completely melted, pour it all over the popped popcorn.  Season to your preference with table salt (don’t bother with kosher, sea salt or silly finely ground “popcorn” salt.  Table salt is best).  Toss the popcorn in the bowl to evenly coat with the butter & rosemary mixture.  Divide into serving bowls and enjoy!

When I was growing up, we made this popcorn (minus the rosemary, which is my own addition) for family movie nights, or for when the weather was all snowy & yucky outside.  Popcorn is great for a special occasion, or no occasion at all. It is definitely my favorite junk food.

Making the perfect stove top popcorn is an art and not a science.  It may take a few attempts for you to get it down perfectly.  Once you do have the method down and you know when it’s the perfect amount of popped, you’ll be glad to have this technique in your repertoire.

17 thoughts on “How To: Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

  1. How did you know I came home from the store with fresh kernels this weekend? We’re microwave-free over here… and happen to have a rosemary bush in the yard.

    1. Great minds think alike! Be sure to let me know if you try the rosemary butter. Rosemary can be such a powerful flavor, but it’s not too overwhelming in this dish. I think the frying mellows it.

  2. I’ll admit the only time I make stovetop popcorn is when I’m making a chocolate or caramel corn, but i need to stop making the microwave version. And adding rosemary? brilliant. It looks so good in all that melted butter…

  3. I have never tried this before – I’ve always been afraid I’d burn the house down. However with the addition of rosemary and REAL butter I might have to make an exception (and have my fire extinguished close by). Seriously this looks so so good!

  4. One of my pregnancy aversions is the pre-packaged microwave popcorn. I have to confess, I have one of those Power Pops from the late 90s (might have had it when we lived together) and I use it religiously, but the replacement cups are hard to find sometimes. I’ll try this out next time I’m out of the popper refills.

    1. I had a power pop in middle school! I begged for one for Christmas, even though my parents were skeptical about it (being stovetop popcorn purists). I didn’t use it very much. I preferred the kind my folks made. Though I do appreciate that the powerpop is probably lower cal.

  5. I am a complete and total popcorn addict! I always pop it on the stove too, and I can’t live without it. Adding rosemary is delightful–it’s great with some grated parm sprinkled on with the rosemary too! Love this.

  6. Ooh, I never thought about infusing the butter with herbs and other things…definitely gonna try that out! I haven’t made stovetop popcorn since I was a kid…sigh. Good stuff.

  7. Im 14 and this is some gooooooooood corn, tho i suggest instead of using the veg oil use butter heat it up until its melted then put the corn

  8. Now I know what I’m making for my New Year’s Eve miniature food party – this popcorn! I plan on putting it in little plastic cups, which people can grab when they walk in the door.

    Thanks for sharing – this looks amazing! And great blog, by the way.

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