There are times for moderation, and then there are times to just come out and say “my stovetop brown butter method is the best popcorn recipe anywhere.” The only way to improve upon it is to add more butter. A bold claim, so please let me explain. Try it, test me, and may the best method win.
Ultimate Reason 1: Stovetop
For all its healthy perfection, air-popped corn can’t quite compete with the stove on flavor. Stovetop methods raise the bar by browning the corn before and after popping, and coating it with a light even layer of oil or butter as it pops. Microwave popcorn barely deserves a mention. There. We’ve used each method a ton over the years, but after I rediscovered the stove method, I’m here to stay. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Ultimate Reason 2: Brown Butter
When browned, butter about doubles in flavor, while adding a nutty complexity and even a hint of sweetness. Of the few popcorn recipes I’ve found which use brown butter, none pop in the butter like this method. Separating the butter once browned, allows the clarified portion (which is mostly pure butterfat) to cook the kernels at hot temperatures without burning the proteins in the browned portion which settles to the bottom.
Ultimate Reason 3: No Overkill
With all due respect to other recipes I have seen, popcorn does not need elaborate embellishments like Bourbon and Bacon (though someone will go try this now, I know). Proper popcorn can be pretty surreal all by itself. Caramel and Cheese corn are separate categories, they’re not part of this.
The Ultimate Bottom Line
To summarize, you get a delicious whole grain snack in minutes, practice useful techniques, and celebrate a food that’s uniquely American in both culture and origin.
Try it, love the flavor, hate the extra step, search for something better like I have, whatever. Just tell me why it does and doesn’t work for you. The only problem I’ve had here is the family fighting over the last helping.
Last note: drink pairing, very important. Serve with juice for the kids, Mike’s Hard Lemonade for adults. That ought to get some debate going…
Recipe: Ultimate Brown Butter Stovetop Popcorn
Summary: Once practiced, this recipe should go very quickly despite the step of separating the butter. And I sincerely hope it is the best basic popcorn method you ever taste.
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- additional salt to taste
- Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until foaming has subsided and the butter separates and turns a medium brown (tilt the pan occasionally to check color). Remove from heat, and pour into a small heat-proof pitcher, scraping the pot with a rubber spatula.
- Return the pan to the stove, reducing heat to medium, and slowly pour the clear top layer of the butter back into the pan, stopping when the browned bits start to enter the stream. NOTE: This is not an exact science, you don’t have to pour in every bit of the clarified portion, and you shouldn’t have to wait first for the layers to separate.
- Immediately add the popcorn kernels to the pan, sprinkle the salt over, and cover with the lid slightly ajar.
- Continue cooking, shaking almost constantly, until most all of the kernels have popped. Pour the popcorn immediately into a large bowl and set the hot pan aside.
- Stir the brown butter which remains in the pitcher, then drizzle it over the top of the popcorn. Stir with the spatula, add additional salt to taste, and serve.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 10 minute(s)
Diet tags: Gluten free
Number of servings (yield): 4
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
Ryan, thanks for sharing your brown butter popcorn the other night while watching the movie “moneyball”. excellent stuff. my wife has this love for popcorn mixed with brewer’s yeast. like the cheese and caramel – i think this belongs in a separate category – though in my opinion a sub-par category. was wondering if you heard of that combo before. . . not that i would recommend it.
Never tried – sounds healthy though!
This looks divine. Why have I been melting plain old butter on my popcorn all these years? I’ve been making ghee lately and now must try it in our popper next time.
So glad to know about your site!
Thanks Jenni! Enjoy!
Love sitting at home and eating popcorn. I have always thought the stove top version has more flavor. Excited to try this one:)
I love peanut butter popcorn!!
Thanks Sheila, let me know what you think!
I usually don’t add any butter at all to my popcorn. But browned butter? Now that’s an entirely different tub of corn… Thanks for the idea!
I, too, make browned butter for popcorn. My process is different. I always deeply brown the kernels, like movie popcorn is made. They have machines that constantly move the kernels so they get nice and crunchy without those killer kernels that kill your teeth because they’re kind of raw still.
I use white popcorn with canola oil. I cook the kernels in a pot on medium high heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until one pops, then take it off the heat, let it cool a bit, and spoon off the early bloomers. Then I do it again. These steps are taken to make the kernel browner, which tastes great, and more brittle, which means you’re way less likely to hurt your teeth!
I then heat up the kernels one more time on high heat, stirring constantly, until they start to pop. Then I quick throw the lid on there and let it all pop away, shaking the pan to sink the kernels down to where the heat is. I pick up the lid a few times to let steam out (so important!). Once the pot’s about half full of popped corn, I take the lids off. The kernels won’t come out if you’ve let it fill enough. Then I dump the popcorn into a big metal bowl and toss it in the air over and over to let the steam dissipate into the air. Makes it fluffier.
In the same pot, I then brown butter on high heat (takes a little while to learn how to not let it burn, but you can always brown the butter more slowly). Then I spin the bowl on the counter and drizzle the browned butter on it slowly. Then I toss the popcorn in the bowl and dump about half of it back into the pan. I put the lid on and shake the bejesus out of it to evenly distribute the butter. (My husband loves this part.)
I then salt it and it is truly amazing. I always take the first bowl without butter and salt, and this popcorn is really great just plain, no lie! This is why I go to such lengths to get a great tasting kernel. Then I happily launch into a second portion, this time fully buttered and salted bowl. It’s super yummy.
Well done, Ryan! Always been a fan of the stovetop…this just pushes it into another place. Excellent flavor. Looking forward to finding more gems in your little recipe book here…
Thanks Robb! This is one of my favorites. Glad you liked!