Make Your Popcorn With Too Much Oil

Make Your Popcorn With Too Much Oil
Photo: Claire Lower

With the exception of my weekly Bake Off viewing, I don’t spend my free time watching very much food content, and I usually avoid any sort of celebrity cooking video. Having a lot of money is the ultimate hack, so — unless they’re the Barefoot Contessa or some other rich food personality — they rarely have any reason to come up with cheaper, faster, or easier ways to cook and eat. That being said, Cameron Diaz is pretty good at making popcorn, which is something I would never have known if Lifehacker’s video producer, Joel Kahn, hadn’t sent me this delightful little clip.

Diaz’s sweatshirt prepared me for the worst, but my fears were quickly assuaged when I saw her add a fuck-ton of oil to her popcorn pot, which is exactly how I do it. If you have never popped your corn in what society tells you is “too much oil,” I suggest you try it with your next batch. I usually use Jessica Koslow’s ratio of 1/2 a cup of oil for 1/3 cup of unpopped kernels, but Cameron’s eyeball-and-go approach works just as well. She pours oil into a pot until it comes up “around the curve of the pot” (which looks like it translates to about a cup), then adds enough popcorn until the oil barely covers the kernels. She puts the lid on the pan, turns the on the heat (I recommend a medium heat here), and lets it pop without shaking.

Then, things get a little exciting, the popcorn pops so well and so vigorously that it pushes the lid off the pot, but Cameron keeps it together with brute force. Could she just use a bigger pot? Yes, but it wouldn’t look as cool.

Screenshot: Claire Lower Screenshot: Claire Lower

Cameron then finishes her popcorn with crushed Maldon salt (eh) and nutritional yeast (good), before transferring it to bowl that has been lovingly lined with hot sauce (excellent).

Overall, her method is pretty solid. I particularly like how she doesn’t measure, doesn’t shake the pan, and sauces the bowl before adding the popcorn, which ensures everyone gets a nice bit of heat, not just the top kernels. I could, of course, find things to quibble with. Maldon, for example, is a terrible popcorn salt. Salt needs to be pulverised into near oblivion to properly stick to popcorn, and the whole point of Maldon is the crunchy, pyramid shaped crystals.

Also, a bigger pot would eliminate the need to hold the popcorn in place with the pot lid as it rises up out of the pot, but I popped some in a similarly-sized pot and nothing tragic happened. It was very easy to keep the popcorn from spilling, and it kind of forced me to pay attention to the popping corn, ensuring it didn’t burn.

Now, about all that oil. Cameron claims that it gives the popcorn a kind of “buttery” quality, and that is simply not true. Butter will make the popcorn taste buttery, not olive oil. In fact, I found Cameron’s eyeball-it measuring system resulted in very little oily residue and virtually none pooling (in the bottom of the pot). You may be worried about olive oil’s smoke point, but don’t — as long as you keep the heat around medium, there is no danger of burning your oil.

The main thing that so much oil contributes is texture — the popcorn I made using the Cameron Method came out super crunchy and fluffy (because it is basically fried in oil), which was able to hold its own and keep some of its texture even when doused with hot sauce. I also didn’t have to shake the pot (because the kernels were submerged in oil) or measure a damn thing, which I love. Not measuring is one of my favourite activities, and I’m excited to never measure any popcorn ever again.

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