Daily Illuminator

March 11, 2024: Popcorn Secrets

I make a lot of popcorn in my household. It's a great snack: cheap, healthy, satisfying. It's also awesome at the gaming table; just make sure all players have napkins to keep their hands oil-free!

I'm going to share the three secrets that make all the difference to my popping prowess, resulting in a treat that makes my wonderful mother-in-law happy . . . one of my ongoing life goals, I assure you.

My secrets aren't really secrets if you poke around online, but lots of people are still surprised when I mention them, so I present them in case you're part of today's lucky 10,000.

Secret number one: Coconut oil. I've tried a lot of different oils to make popcorn, and they all pale in comparison to coconut oil. If you ever wanted to know the secret to movie-theater popcorn, this is it.

Secret number two: Popcorn salt. A light dusting of popcorn salt works wonders, and when sprinkled on just-popped popcorn, it almost "melts." Regular salt doesn't come close. (We actually use specialty salt called Flavacol; I'm not sure how much of a difference it makes, but it's also super-fine like "regular" popcorn salt.)

Secret number three: Preheat the oil. Turn the oil to the temp you're going to use. (I normally go a smidge above "medium," but it depends on your heating method.) Then toss three kernels into the cold oil as it heats. Eventually the oil will get hot enough that those kernels start popping; you want at least two of them to pop (think of it as a snack-based Minority Report), but most of the time, all three pop to let you know the oil is ready. As soon as possible after that second or third kernel pops, toss in the rest of your popcorn. "Preheating" the oil in this way keeps the kernels from getting dried out and tough by slowly heating oil.

I have one more secret to great popcorn, but it actually hits a bit closer to home – literally – so I'll share that one in its own Daily Illuminator down the road.

-- Steven Marsh

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