It’s Almost Too Easy to Make Your Own Kettle Corn

It’s Almost Too Easy to Make Your Own Kettle Corn
Photo: Chauzova Irina, Shutterstock

Movie snacks are a rare source of conflict in my household. My boyfriend is motivated by an insatiable sweet tooth, while I’m a bottomless pit for what I call “salty crunchies,” and in the context of movie-watching, that always means popcorn. Kettle corn is the perfect compromise: It’s sweet, it’s salty, and it’s popcorn — check, check, and check.

As I recently learned, kettle corn is also very easy to make. I don’t know why, but it hadn’t even occurred to me that this was possible, let alone no big deal. Maybe I assumed that the “kettle” part of the name referred to a special popcorn kettle, one that was beefy enough to stand up to hot oil, molten sugar, and exploding corn kernels. It turns out that making kettle corn is exactly like making stovetop popcorn with about half an extra step. All you have to do is add sugar to the oil and pay a little more attention to the heat level.

How to make kettle corn on your stove

To make your own bowl of kettle corn, you will need:

  • A high-sided, 3-5 litre saucepan with a tight lid
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Coconut, canola, or vegetable oil (I use refined coconut)
  • Granulated sugar
  • Salt

Don’t let the lack of quantities freak you out — we’re dealing with that first. The basic ratio is 2 parts kernels to 1 part each oil and sugar, but to avoid a potential overflow scenario, you should customise the measurements to fit your specific pot. To do it, add popcorn kernels to the pot with a tablespoon measure until they cover the bottom in a loose, single layer. Keep track of how many tablespoons you added, then divide that number in half to get measurements for the oil and sugar. For example, if you used 6 tablespoons of kernels, that means you need 3 tablespoons of oil and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Measure the oil and sugar into the pot, stir everything together with a heatproof spatula, put on the lid, and heat over medium-high. When the kernels start popping, reduce the heat to medium and shake the pot every few seconds until the popping subsides. Immediately pour the kettle corn into a heatproof bowl, season aggressively with salt, and enjoy. (To make the pot easier to clean, fill it with cold water and let it sit until everything dissolves.)

The first batch or two will probably need some tweaking to suit your stove, which is to be expected whenever you’re melting sugar. Electric ranges are trickier than gas and induction because they hold onto so much heat, which ups the risk of burning. It won’t take long to figure out which adjustments work best for your setup, though — and once you’ve done that, you’ll never be more than 5 minutes away from the perfect sweet-and-salty snack.

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