How-to-pop the perfect batch of popcorn:
Recommended oils: sunflower, safflower, coconut, canola, grape seed and vegetable
Note: “expeller pressed” oils are the healthiest and best quality.
- Heavy pot with lid + 2 to 3 tbsp oil + 3 test kernels + Med/High heat
- When you hear a test kernel pop, remove the pot from heat
- Add 2/3 cup kernels, shake to distribute evenly in the pot, and return to heat
- Leave untouched until popping vigorously (approx 2-3 min), then shake pot occasionally (every minute or so)
- When there are 2-3 seconds between pops, remove from heat and immediately pour into a bowl. Season with your favorite toppings and enjoy!
Watch Farmer Gene pop a batch in under 5 minutes:
Troubleshooting and the extra details behind our tips:
Sometimes customers tell us they have trouble popping. Maybe the popcorn is burning or the popcorn doesn’t seem to pop well or kernels are left unpopped. These problems are easy to fix and once you get the hang of it – you’ll never pop any other way!
Take a look below at our “way-too-much-detail” popping tips.
- Pick a “heavy” pot: What we mean by a heavy pot is something like cast iron, thick-walled aluminum, or stainless steal. Other pots will work just fine, but heavier pots do a much better job of retaining heat and eliminating hot spots. Surprisingly enough, when you put all the oil and kernels into the pot the temperature drops – and consistent heat is the key to getting the best popcorn explosion – so heavy pots help this process.
- What type of oil: Lots of different oils work for making popcorn and experimenting with oils is one of the best ways to create a wide variety of great, natural flavors in your popcorn batches. Some of our customers are completely off fats and they elect to use air poppers (see our comments on air poppers below), but most popcorn lovers are perfectly happy with a little (or a lot) of fat along with their popcorn. When you’re talking about 2-3 tablespoons of oil for a large batch of popcorn, most people will actually reduce their fat intake compared to the other snack alternatives that popcorn replaces in their diet. “Expeller pressed” oils are what we recommend. This process is the most natural way of extracting oil and eliminates the use of things like hexane in the oil making process. Any oil varieties with a “high smoke point” can be used for popping popcorn and we encourage you to ask your doctor or nutritionist if there are varieties they recommend. Some varieties that we really like include grape seed, sunflower, safflower, coconut, canola, vegetable, olive. Something very interesting to try is called “ghee” or clarified butter – essentially butter that is rendered so that it can be cooked at higher temperatures. Be creative and you’ll find the perfect mix of oil for health and flavor.
- How much oil: We admit that “2 tbsp of oil” is not a universal truth. Everyone’s pot will be sized differently so we can elaborate on how to determine exactly how much to use – and how much is too much. Our rule of thumb is that the oil should coat the bottom of the pot, but the oil should never be more than 1mm deep. If you use too much oil, this can easily lead to poor popping results. The problem with too much oil is that the kernels end up swimming in the oil and roasting slowly instead of exploding into fully popped kernels.
- Preheat the oil – medium/high heat is best: This is one of the most important tips and we can’t recommend it enough. Heating the oil in advance along with a few test kernels is the best way to make sure your oil is at the proper temperature when you add the remainder of your kernels. This all goes back to HEAT – when you add your kernels, you want the oil temperature to remain high so that the kernels can quickly get to their job of popping. If you add all the kernels right at the beginning, your whole batch will be fighting to get up to popping temperature and will often lead to batches that aren’t perfect. This is also why we recommend medium/high heat – anything lower will not provide enough heat and lead to kernels that slowly roast, rather than explode.
- Don’t add too many kernels: This topic again goes back to HEAT. In order to get a really good batch of popcorn, your goal is to heat the kernels evenly and immediately. A good amount to start with is 2/3 cup of kernels – this amount will work well in any size pot and you can always attempt larger batches once you are confident that your batches are popping well (no burning and very few unpopped kernels). The main problem that occurs when you add too much popcorn is that the kernels crowd each other and steal heat from each other. You want to make sure that when the kernels are added to the pot that they are not piled on top of each other – one single layer of kernels on the bottom of the pot ensures that they receive heat evenly.
- Resist the urge to shake obsessively! We understand… everyone HATES the smell of burnt microwave popcorn. Stovetop popping is a much different process than a microwave and burning kernels will become a thing of the past if you use the proper amount of (preheated) oil, don’t add too many kernels, and use medium/high heat. One thing to keep in mind is that the unpopped kernels won’t burn, so shaking them like crazy is only fighting against their goal of getting the heat. What does have the potential to burn is the popped popcorn – but unlike a microwave (where everything inside is getting heated intensely and relentlessly) the stovetop batch of popped popcorn is only taking heat from the metal, and very few pieces of popped popcorn are actually touching the bottom of the pot (the rest of them pop up into the center and have almost no risk of burning). Our recommendation is that once you add the bulk of your kernels (after preheating the oil) you allow the pot to sit on the burner untouched. The batch needs around 2-3 minutes (depending on strength of stove and type of pan) to get all the kernels up to popping temperature. We promise that during this period the unpopped kernels will not burn, but they will be disrupted if you continuously shake the pot – all that does is interrupt the heating process and that’s not good either.
- Once popping vigorously… a little bit of shaking is OK: After allowing the batch to heat untouched for 2-3 minutes, the kernels should begin to pop really quickly. When you get to the point where the kernels are popping vigorously, you know you’re on track for a perfect batch (you preheated the proper amount of oil, didn’t add too many kernels, and resisted the urge to shake the pot). What’s happening at this point is the popped popcorn starts to fill the pot and all the commotion inside the pot will trap some of the unpopped kernels up and away from the bottom of the pot (and the heat they need). So rather than shaking continuously to prevent burning, you actually want to briefly shake the pot (maybe every 45 to 60 seconds) and help those unpopped kernels return to the bottom of the pot so they can pop.
- Reducing heat and when to pull the pot off the stove: Depending on the type of pot you’re using (and after you master the popping basics), you might get benefit by experimenting with reducing or turning off the heat completely once the popping starts to slow down. Everyone loves to try to pop every last kernel and roll the dice by leaving the pot on the heat as long as possible. One trick can help. After your batch has been popping really vigorously for about minute or so, there is enough residual heat in the pot (especially heavy pots like cast iron that hold the heat very well) to pop all the remaining kernels. By reducing the heat or turning it off, you’ll still have plenty of heat to pop the last kernels but will also help avoid the possibility of burnt popcorn when trying to push the popping limit. Generally you want to remove the pot once popping slows down (2-3 seconds between pops). If you do end up with some burnt popcorn, next time try adding a little bit more oil, reducing heat towards the end, and giving the pot a few more shakes in the last minute of popping.
- Air popping comments: We have many longtime customers who only use air poppers. Our popcorn will certainly pop in an air popper, but depending on the air popper you’ll definitely encounter some amount of flying kernels. This has always been a problem for air popping and most people have come up with their own methods to combat the flying kernels so that they fall back into the chamber and eventually pop. Since Tiny But Mighty kernels are very very small (that’s what makes them so tasty!) you’ll likely encounter more flying kernels than usual. Apparently some poppers work better than others, but none of them advertise based on “size of fan” so we don’t have any recommendation at this point as to which variety will work best. The unanimous response from all of our air pop customers is that they’ve found great methods to fight the problem. The best method we’ve heard of is using an oven mitt to cover the popping chamber. Once the kernels start to pop there will be enough popped kernels to hold down the other unpopped kernels in the chamber so they don’t fly out.
- Can Tiny But Mighty be microwaved? We sometimes get questions about Tiny But Mighty in the microwave. The short answer is that it can be done, but we don’t recommend it. We’ve tried all varieties of reusable microwave poppers with little success. The two biggest problems are unpopped kernels and burnt popcorn – really really bad burnt popcorn. Like we mentioned above, the microwave produces relentless heat to everything inside and this means there is no place to hide for the already popped popcorn. The one method that we (and several of our longtime fans) have had some success with: just a plain paper bag like you used for lunch as a kid. You can put a few tablespoons of kernels into the bag by themselves or add a little oil to the kernels beforehand – then fold the end over making sure to leave room for the popped corn to expand. You’ll want to use high heat (or the popcorn button) on your microwave and pop just like normal. The aspect of microwave popcorn that’s very frustrating (and different from the stovetop process) is that there is a very fine line between burnt and no burnt – once you cross the magical burning threshold, a lot of the kernels will burn quickly and badly.