Popcorn: the quintessential cinema snack. Whether you like it buttery and sweet or crunchy and salty, most people couldn’t imagine sitting down to the latest blockbuster with anything else. Increasingly, however, it’s been finding its way into our homes too; sales of domestic popcorn grew to a staggering £129 million last year, while sales of crisps fell during the same period. This can easily be seen through the huge number of new brands and flavours of puffed corn stacked onto supermarket shelves – from the relatively sane Chocolate and Marshmallow offering from Butterkist, right through to Strawberry and Cream flavoured (what I believe to be monstrosity) from Tyrrells.
If you’re one of the growing number of Britons choosing popcorn over crisps then I don’t need to tell you how good it is. But rather than simply buying a pre-made packet, have you ever considered making your own? Here’s three reasons why you ought to ditch the packet and get popping.
1. It’s cheaper
A lot cheaper; gram-for-gram comparisons on kernels and ready puffed corn reveal the kernels are roughly nine times more cost-effective. Getting the same great end-product vastly cheaper – simply by applying a little knowledge and planning – has to be a no-brainer.
2. It’s healthier (if you want it to be)
The health benefits of popcorn are already well documented: it’s a great source of dietary fibre, it’s low in fat, and it contains high levels of antioxidants which are useful for fighting a wide range of cell damaging molecules. While it’s true that these healthy compounds are present in commercially made – as well as homemade corn – you don’t need to add the sugars, salts and butter present in shop-bought corn which is great for those who want greater control over the calories in their snacks.
3. It’s just as convenient
There seems to be a myth that making popcorn is somehow hard or requires expensive equipment, but this just isn’t the case. All you need is a pan and some oil; you can even cook it in your microwave using a paper bag, and it takes around the same time as you’d wait for commercial microwave popcorn. The kernels themselves are readily available to purchase from most supermarkets or health food shops (or a huge range can be just as easily ordered online).
Cheaper than bagged, healthier than microwaved (and homemade is always going to win out in the flavour front) there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t make the switch to making popcorn yourself. Therefore, here are a few recipes and tips for home-made popcorn: so get cracking! (Or should that be popping?)
- Popcorn kernels , I find that 4tbsp kernels is a good amount to begin with.
- Oil, use 1tsp oil to 2tbsp popcorn kernels
Top Tip: While almost any cooking oil will work fine, your choice of oil can vastly affect the end flavour. I use groundnut oil for salted popcorn; vegetable would work fine too, but if you’re making sweet popcorn butter would be a good bet, or experiment with coconut oil for an added flavour.
- Put the kernels and oil into a pan, cover with a lid, and place over a medium to medium-high heat.
- Agitate the pan occasionally to coat the kernels with the oil as it heats up. When you begin to hear the corn popping, continuously shake/agitate the pan over the heat to prevent the corn sticking and burning on the bottom.
- Once the pops have mostly stopped (none for 2–3 seconds) pour the corn into a bowl.
Top Tip: If you’re finding some kernels are starting to burn before the rest have even popped, try adding your oil and just 3 kernels to start with. Once they have all popped (meaning the oil is up to a good temperature) add the rest of your corn and proceed as above.
- Cook the corn as above, allow to cool slightly, then add around a quarter to half a tsp of sea salt to taste.
Top Tip: I suggest grinding the salt down to a fine powder (think icing sugar levels of fineness) as it helps it stick to the popcorn better, resulting in less salt used and a healthier snack.
- Follow the above recipe, and while the corn is still warm add around half tsp of icing sugar, sprinkling from a height to get a nice even distribution.
- If you want to add butter to your popcorn, melt some in a pan over a low heat and drizzle over; adding some sugar in with the butter will result in a crisp, crunchy glaze on the corn.
Why not try other flavours and spices? Experiment with cinnamon, pepper or chilli, and let us know in the comments below how you get on!