The Perfect Pop

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The Perfect Pop

By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

“The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.”
W.C. Fields

Popcorn is an old fashioned comfort food. There is something about the smell, taste and sound of popcorn popping that evokes a warm sense of comfort and love. Popcorn is a friend, it never travels alone, it is an “and” food. Popcorn and a movie. Popcorn and a coke. Popcorn and butter. Popcorn and a huge piece of chocolate that you won’t share with anyone. 

When microwave popcorn hit the shelves in the 1980’s something changed. What was once a special lovingly prepared stove top snack became a 2 to 3 minute meal….with a certain coating left in your mouth that you could never quite identify as natural. The taste of microwave popcorn has come a long way in 20 years. Some brands are actually very tasty and there is something to be said for it’s expedience, but nothing beats the old fashioned way Paula has been making popcorn for years. In South Carolina, they call it “skillet fried”.  Here in Georgia, we just call it friend!

Stove Top Popcorn
Yields:  2 quarts
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels, high quality
2 tablespoons butter
salt to taste

Place oil in a 3 quart saucepan over medium high heat. Put 2 kernels of popcorn in the oil and cover with a tight fitting lid.  When “test kernels” pop, the oil is at the perfect temperature (between 400º-460º F) and it is time to add the remaining popcorn kernels in an even layer.

Replace lid and remove from the heat for 30 seconds. By removing the pan from the heat and waiting 30 seconds, you are allowing the kernels to reach a near popping temperature so when returned to the heat they will all pop at about the same time. 

Return the pan to the heat and begin gently shaking the pan back and forth over the heat. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to allow the steam from the popcorn to release. Once the popping slows down to few seconds between pops it is time to remove the pan from the heat and carefully dump the popcorn into a large bowl. 

If you are adding butter. Place the butter in the empty hot pan off the burner and allow butter to melt.  Pour over your popcorn and salt to taste.

Why does popcorn pop?
The secret: water.
Each popcorn kernel contains a hard outer shell and a starchy inside surrounding a dab of water. When the kernels are heated to about 400º-460º F, the pocket of water turns into steam and expands within the tough casing. Just like blowing up a balloon, as more and more steam forms, the pressure against the outer shell increases. Eventually, this hard shell can no longer contain the pressure and the shell gives way causing the kernel to explode. That’s when you hear the POP!  When it pops, the kernel turns inside out revealing the soft starch that makes the white fluffy part of your popcorn.

Paula’s Tip:
Kernels that don’t pop are known as “old maids”. They have lost some of the moisture needed within the starch to create the build up of pressure to pop the kernel.
Rejuvenate popcorn by filling a 1 quart jar ¾ full with popcorn kernels. Add one tablespoon of water.  Cover and shake every 5 minutes until all the water is absorbed. In three to four days it should be ready for popping!

More perfectly popped recipes!
Chocolate Popcorn
Paula’s Popcorn Nut Balls
Paula’s Party Popcorn
Popcorn Balls
Grandma Paul’s Caramel Corn

Read More From Holidays and Entertaining.

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Reader Comments:


That is good advice about pop-corn am going to try it the very next time!!

By nancynewberg on January 26, 2013

Hey Paula love you all!!! Happy Holidays. I wanted to let you know I have those bowls and three sets like them I have my kitchen done in the 50’s look so they were great finds for me.. Although one set I must say I have had since 1972 when I got it as a wedding gift..  Hugs

By Shirley Barrie on December 03, 2010

Thought you might could use this!!!

By Sharon on November 23, 2010

Paula - you are my mentor!  I love your cookbooks and have all of them.  One of our customers, who also loves to cook, calls me Kathy Deen, and says I remind him of you, puffy hair, I guess. HA!  My other knickname is “Butta”, as in butter, since I cook with butter, the way you do.  Thanks for being there for all of us.  You’re great!

By Kathy Parker on October 12, 2010

Paula, I was so excited to see that you make your popcorn exactly how I make mine. Every afternoon about 2pm I pop a big ole pan full, and watch soap operas with my husband. I dip my popcorn in my diet coke! My husband says I’m weird, but its good!

By Dolly Carter on October 06, 2010

I bought 10 of the Cookbooks that your sons wrote.
The Dean Brothers Cookbook.  We love it.  For about a month, my married kids and myself tried new recipes. We loved every one we tried.
Thanks for being such a loving family.  It comes out on your shows.
I love you, and hope someday to visit your Restaurant in Georgia.

By LINDA NORSWORTHY on October 05, 2010

Paula,  I still love having good popcorn, and that is the popcorn we pop.  I love the sound and the smell. It brings back so many memories of my family having popcorn for every occasion especially at Christmas, when we would string it and put it on the tree.

By Ann Hoover on October 05, 2010

      I know you hear this alot,but Im you biggest fan.Im not a girl who follows people around on t.v and books and thingss,but you got me hooked girl!Im a wonderful cook thanks to you.Everybody wants to come to my house to eat,and ask me to cook all the time.I have learned alot from you.You have made me a real good cook thanks to your shwos and all the cook books of yours.I came to your restarant on mothers day.I was like a kid in disney land.I loved it!!!!!You and you boys are the coolest and I dont tell many people that you earn that with me.Thanks for all you do in shareing you talents with the public.The deens rock and so does michael!Cant forget michael!:)  Lisa

By Lisa Covington on June 13, 2010

If anyone deserves success…it is definitely you.  You overcame so much in your life and the grace that you show in your books, on TV and in your movie debut…WOW!  You are wonderful.  Keep up the good work for all of us “Paula Want-a-be’s” and continue sharing your love of food with us for many years to come.

By Sherrie Voegele on May 25, 2010

I would love to see a cookbook by Bobby Dean of
his lighter recipes….I would defintely buy it as
soon as it would come out.

Love, Paula, Bobby, & Jamie.

I buy ever cookbook that comes out by each of you.

By Cornelia Motsinger on May 21, 2010

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