How to Make Popcorn at Home: Step-by-Step Guide

  • Author: Sue
  • Published: August 11, 2021
  • Time to read: 8 min.

People love to have fresh popcorn for a snack or during movie night at home. Besides a popcorn maker, you only need oil, kernels, and your favorite toppings to prepare this delicious snack in less than ten minutes.

The process is similar no matter how you make the popcorn, but it is important to know what kind of popcorn popper you plan to use. Continue reading to learn how to make popcorn at home.

Different Types of Popcorn Makers

The first thing you need to know is what kind of popcorn maker you plan to use. Although they work similarly, there are subtle differences between them. Take a look at some of the most popular types of popcorn makers.

1. Old-Fashioned Popcorn Machine

A freestanding old-fashioned popcorn machine is electric and it uses electricity to heat a kettle where the popcorn pops. They come with a cart or in a tabletop model, and they have an old-fashioned look that reminds people of Coney Island or the ballpark. Although they come in different colors and designs, they all work similarly.


They have a kettle made of metal with a stirring mechanism. They usually have a switch that operates the kettle and the stirring mechanism. You place the oil and the popcorn kernels in the kettle. When you turn it on, the kettle will heat the oil, which in turn heats the popcorn kernels until they burst.

The reason why they need the oil is that the kettle won’t heat the popcorn kernels evenly. Popcorn kernels have two layers.


The outer layer is the hull, which is very hard and doesn’t let moisture in or out of the kernel. The inside is an endosperm and some moisture. When the kernel is heated evenly, the moisture turns to steam and expands. It creates pressure inside of the kernel, and it continues until it ruptures the hull. This is how popcorn pops.
These popcorn machines have tempered glass walls and a warming deck that keeps popcorn fresh and warm. They are easy to use and they are usually easy to clean as well.

2. Electric Popcorn Machine

An electric popcorn machine works similarly to a freestanding old-fashioned model. You usually put oil and kernels inside and push a button to turn them on. They have a base and a plastic or glass top that can double as a bowl. Some models allow you to melt butter in a butter tray on the top. They are also easy to use.

make popcorn at home

3. Hot Air Popper

Hot air poppers are small, convenient, and easy to store. They heat the popcorn with hot air and they usually have a chute that lets the popcorn flow into a bowl. They are easy to use. You just add the kernels and push the button to turn it on.

4. Stovetop Popcorn Maker

The stovetop popcorn maker is the most complicated to use, but it is still rather easy. They are usually a metal pot with a stirring mechanism and a lid that tilts up so you can check inside. You sometimes need to preheat the oil and then you place the kernels inside when it is hot enough. You have to listen to find out when the popcorn popping slows down to a minute or two between pops.

Some models require that you empty some of the cooked popcorn as you are popping, while others will hold all of it inside. If you are a novice, this kind is the most difficult to learn how to use.

5. Microwave Popcorn Maker

The microwave popcorn maker is pretty easy to use. They are usually a bowl and a lid, and they are often collapsable for easy storage. They come in different colors. You simply place the popcorn and oil inside and set your microwave.

If it is your first time using your microwave popcorn maker, you need to figure out how long it takes. It will be different in different popcorn machines, but once you know how long it takes, it will be about the same each time. You can coat your kernels in oil and place them in the bowl. Then you set your microwave for four minutes. Stay close by and listen. When you hear a minute or two between pops, you will know that it is time.

What Kind of Oil Should You Use?

When you are cooking popcorn, you only need a few things. You need a popcorn maker, popcorn kernels, and oil. You can also add toppings once it is ready. You have choices in terms of what type of oil you want to use. You can’t really use butter because it has a low smoke point and it is heavier than oil so it sinks to the bottom of the popcorn machine. Your popcorn kernels might burn as well.

Different types of oil will change the flavor and the toppings you can add. If you want to add butter, you should use an oil with a high smoke point, such as grapeseed oil. Some of the most popular oils include the following:

Learn more about the perfect oils here.

What to Consider When You Are Buying a Popcorn Machine

how to make popcorn at home

When you are choosing your popcorn machine, you need to look at some of the common features. Some people want an affordable machine, while others want options for dripping butter or other accessories.

Take a look at some of the features that you should consider:

Capacity

The capacity is one of the first things that you should consider when you are looking for a popcorn machine. If you plan to use it for your family on movie nights, you can get a smaller popcorn machine with a lower capacity. However, if you want to use it for larger gatherings, you might want one that makes more popcorn in each batch.

Time to Pop

Another thing to consider is how long the machine takes to pop your popcorn. Some machines take only a few minutes, while others require preheating the oil and take longer. It is convenient to have a popcorn machine that makes your popcorn quickly.

How Easy it Is to Use and Clean

The convenience of having a popcorn machine that is easy to use and clean will make you more likely to get more use out of it. Some machines only require that you put the oil and kernels in the kettle and push the button, while others have a more complex process. For cleaning, you want a machine that is easy to wash the heating element and that is easy to wipe down when you finish.

Steam Vent

When popcorn makers heat your popcorn kernels, they create steam. If the steam is able to vent, you will have crispier popcorn. Most people prefer this.

Warranty

Most popcorn makers come with some kind of warranty. Make sure that you know how long it lasts and what it covers. It is important to make sure that your popcorn machine is protected in case it is defective or breaks sooner than it should.

Price

Price is always a consideration when you are making a purchase. Some popcorn makers cost as little as $25, while others cost as much as $500 for commercial popcorn machines. Set your budget and then look at popcorn machines that fall in that range. You have a lot of different choices, so you will not have trouble finding a popcorn machine that works for you.

home microwave popcorn

How to Make Popcorn in an Electric Popcorn Machine Step by Step

If you are making popcorn in a popcorn machine, you can follow these steps.

  1. Plug in the popcorn machine.
  2. Open the kettle lid and push to top. Often, there will be a magnet to hold it out of the way.
  3. Turn the heat and light switches on.
  4. Wait three or four minutes for the kettle to heat up.
  5. Turn the kettle motor switch on to start the motor.
  6. Pour the oil in the kettle.
  7. Add the popcorn kernels.
  8. Lower the lid to cover the kettle.
  9. Wait for the popping to stop and turn the kettle and motor off.
  10. Lift the lid and dump the popcorn by pulling the handle.
  11. Enjoy your fresh popcorn.

Once your popcorn is ready, you can turn on the warming deck to keep it fresh and warm. It is not difficult to use this type of machine and most of them have removable kettles that are easy to clean.

How to Make Popcorn in an Air Popper Step by Step

If you plan on buying an air popper, follow this process to make popcorn:

  1. Remove the cover from the base of the hot air popper.
  2. Pour the popcorn kernels in the popping chamber.
  3. Replace the cover.
  4. Add butter to the butter melter (if it has this option).
  5. Place a bowl under the chute.
  6. Plug the hot air popper in.
  7. Wait two to three minutes.
  8. Drip the butter onto the popcorn.
  9. Unplug the popcorn popper.

An air popper is easy to use. You can wipe it out to clean it and it is small enough to store or leave on your countertop. This type comes in different colors and it is an affordable option.

popcorn popped

How to Make Popcorn on a Stovetop Step by Step

When you make popcorn in a stovetop popper, you should follow these steps.

  1. Before you put the popper on the stove, add popcorn kernels and oil.
  2. Place popper with ingredients in it on the stove and turn the burner to medium heat.
  3. Use the stirrer to stir the popcorn as it heats.
  4. Continue stirring until there are one or two minutes between pops.
  5. Once it is finished popping, remove the pot from the heat.
  6. Place the popcorn in a serving bowl.
  7. Add butter or your favorite toppings.

How to Make Popcorn in the Microwave Step by Step

You can make popcorn in the microwave with a microwave popcorn maker or with just a brown paper bag. Follow these steps:

  1. Place the popcorn kernels in the brown paper bag or in the microwave popcorn maker.
  2. Set the microwave for four minutes.
  3. Listen for the popping to slow to one or two minutes between pops.
  4. Turn the microwave off and remove the popcorn.
  5. Add toppings or butter and serve.

How to Add Toppings to Your Popcorn

popcorn seasoning

Once you make your popcorn, you can add all kinds of flavors. Some are messier than others, but they are delicious. When you practice adding these toppings, it will become easier to make them. Take a look at some delicious toppings you can add to your popcorn:

Chocolate

You can add mini chocolate chips to your hot popcorn. Make sure that you put a lid on the bowl and shake it to cover the popcorn. You can also melt the chocolate chips and drizzle them on the popcorn. You can use any kind of chips such as peanut butter, butterscotch, or anything you can find.

Cinnamon and Sugar

Once your popcorn is ready, you need a teaspoon of butter, a teaspoon of sugar, and cinnamon to taste. Put the melted butter on the popcorn and sprinkle the sugar over it. Then add the cinnamon.

Butter and Syrup

Drizzle melted butter on your popcorn and then stir in one teaspoon of maple syrup.

Seasonings

Some great options include:

  • Italian seasoning
  • Curry powder
  • Lemon pepper and butter
  • Garlic powder and olive oil
  • Rosemary, thyme, and sage with olive oil
  • Tarragon, dried mustard, and butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Flavored salt

There are many different ways to add toppings to your popcorn and you can try different things until you find your favorite.

Final Words

If you want to make popcorn at home, it is easy to do. There are different types of popcorn machines and you will need to choose one if you don’t already have one. Once you do, follow the steps above to make delicious popcorn. You can add your favorite toppings and sit back and enjoy.

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