Cooking Tips

This Stovetop Popcorn Technique Leaves No Unpopped Kernels Behind

This method produces perfect popcorn, every time.

Published June 4, 2021.

When I think of stovetop popcorn, one of the first things I think of is Jiffy Pop. It’s fun and nostalgic to watch the popcorn pop and expand under that classic foil cover as you shake it over the burner.

However, Jiffy Pop—and other stovetop popcorn methods—are often more fun to make than to eat. Either the popcorn tastes slightly stale and has an underwhelming flavor or you end up with a mixture of half-popped, unpopped, and barely edible burnt kernels.

Fortunately, the test kitchen’s stovetop popcorn recipe avoids all those pitfalls. It requires no shaking at all, and every kernel pops (but doesn’t burn). It’s perfect. Here’s how to do it.

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

The first step is to add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and three popcorn kernels to the saucepan and then wait for all three to pop. This is so that you know when the oil is hot enough to add the rest of the kernels.

Next, remove the saucepan from the heat, add ½ cup of popcorn kernels, cover the saucepan, and let the kernels sit for 30 seconds. This step is essential because it heats up the kernels evenly. Since all the kernels are now evenly heated, there’s no shaking required. So no burnt pieces and no unpopped kernels.

Finally, return the saucepan to medium-high heat, leave the lid slightly ajar, and do not shake the saucepan. This lid position allows for the steam to escape as the corn pops and ensures that no pieces of popcorn start flying around your kitchen. You’ll know your popcorn is done once there’s 2 seconds between pops.

Boom. Perfect popcorn. Next, you can add the classic melted butter or any other seasoning you want. Some of our favorites include buttermilk ranch, Parmesan-pepper, sriracha-lime, or even cinnamon-malt for a sweet twist.

Want to learn these six recipes, our all-time reader favorites? Start a free trial to access all these plus our other home kitchen–tested, foolproof recipes.

This is a members' feature.