With all the brands of microwave popcorn available at the market, many people eschew making this beloved movie theater staple the old-fashioned way in favor of the convenience of the bag. But for a while now, the bag’s been getting a bad rap and lots of ink stating that microwave popcorn’s handiness comes at a health risk due to a toxin that’s emitted in the popcorn vapors (a Colorado man with a two bag-a-day habit was recently awarded seven million dollars for his claim that microwave popcorn caused his lung cancer, a.k.a. popcorn lung).

That’s enough to put me off even organic microwave popcorn. However, according to David Michaels, PhD, an expert on popcorn fumes (seriously?), although there are a few steps that you can take to play it safer with microwave popcorn, his professional advice? Make popcorn the traditional way: on the stove top.

It’s almost just as quick and easy as the microwave kind – and bonus…no chemistry!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • melted butter, to taste

In a heavy-bottomed pot (I use my Dutch oven) over medium-high, heat the oil until it starts to move easily around the pot. Add the popcorn, shake the pot to coat the kernels. Cover the pot with its lid and cook, shaking the pot several more times until the popping starts to slow (almost to a stop), about 2 minutes or so. Quickly remove the pot from the heat; season to taste with salt and melted butter. Makes about 5 cups.

Kick up your snack with one of these savory add-ins:

freshly grated Parmesan
a sprinkling of garlic powder, paprika or cumin
a hit of red cayenne pepper

Ever wonder why movie theater popcorn doesn’t turn soggy? It’s because they use a butter-flavored oil, which has a lower water content than butter (and heck, you know it’s a lot cheaper, too).  So, how do you get butter on your popcorn with less sogginess? Make clarified butter, which is butter that has had its water and milk solids removed (also known as ghee but ghee is cooked a little longer so it has more of a nutty flavor).

Here’s how to make Clarified Butter for Movie Theater-Style Popcorn:

Melt 2 sticks of unsalted butter in a microwave-proof measuring cup. Skim off the foam and let the butter sit for a few minutes to allow the milk solids settle to the bottom. Slowly pour the clarified butter (the clear yellow liquid) into a heatproof container, discarding the bottom layer of milk solids.

This will yield about 3/4 cup of clarified butter. Drizzle a few tablespoons over your popped corn for movie theater-style popcorn and refrigerate the remaining clarified butter to use in many different ways – sautéing, a sauce for cooked lobster, super smooth hollandaise sauces or as a baking ingredient.

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