Use a good, heavy-bottomed pot.Cheap pots don’t distribute heat evenly, and you can end up with hot spots that burn the popcorn.
Don’t crank the heat up too high.It’s too easy to burn oil at temperature higher than medium heat, and if you catch even a whiff of smoke coming from the pot, your popcorn is going to taste burnt.
Start with two popcorn kernels to gauge the temperature.Once those pop, your oil is hot enough. Add the remaining kernels and remove the pot from the heat for 1 minute. This primes the popcorn to pop without burning the oil.
Tip the lid ever-so-slightly while the popcorn is popping.That way, the popcorn doesn’t steam itself in the pot and lose crispness. (See photo above.)
If the popcorn starts overflowing the pot:Simply remove the lid and tip the excess popcorn into a bowl. Return the lid and return the popcorn to the heat until popping slows.
Season with salt carefully.You can always add more, but you can’t take away too much.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the oil and 2 popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and wait for the kernels to pop, which might take a few minutes. In the meantime, place a large serving bowl near the stove so it’s ready when you need it.
Once the kernels pop, turn off the burner, remove the pot from the heat and pour in the remaining popcorn kernels. Cover the pot again, and give the pot a little shimmy to distribute the kernels evenly. Let the pot rest for 60 seconds to make sure the oil doesn’t get too hot before the kernels are ready to pop.
Turn the heat back up to medium, put the pot back onto the burner and continue cooking the popcorn, carefully shimmying the pot occasionally to cook the kernels evenly. Once the kernels start popping, tip the lid just a touch to allow steam to escape (see photo).
Continue cooking until the popping sound slows to about one pop per every few seconds. (If the popcorn tries to overflow the pot, just tip the upper portion of popcorn into your bowl and return it to the heat.)
Black pepper and good olive oil
Cinnamon honey butter: This popcorn is a little sticky, but irresistible. Whisk 2 tablespoons melted butter with 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
Spice it up: Sprinkle with cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes or white pepper.
Nutritional yeast: This is a healthy vegan alternative that offers butter flavor.