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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)