Alton Brown's Secret For Perfect Popcorn

Making popcorn — and no, we're not talking about the microwave kind — isn't the most difficult thing in the world. After all, how hard is it to pop a few corn kernels? Throw some salt and butter in and that's pretty much it, right? Nope. Food science nerd Alton Brown is all about finding the absolute best way to cook food that on the surface might seem easy, but far too often people get wrong. Whether it's how to boil pasta or in this case, make popcorn, Brown only takes shortcuts when they result in a better product. 

The good news is that to make a really tasty bowl of popcorn, the only tools you need are a metal bowl and some aluminum foil — that's it. You can return the fancy popcorn maker you picked up from Amazon, because it's not needed here. Brown recommends using 100 grams of popcorn kernels, which equates to roughly 3.5 ounces, for a shareable bowl of popcorn (via YouTube). 

Alton Brown swaps out the butter for ghee instead

Butter might seem like a reasonable choice for helping those kernels pop, but Brown advises against it as it's likely to just burn to the bottom of the bowl. He says that peanut oil is perfectly fine to use, but for something a lot more flavorful, go with ghee. Technically, ghee is butter but it's been clarified, which means that it's been strained to remove all the water and simmered to give it a sweet and nutty flavor (via Bon Appétit). 

Brown adds 38 grams or "roughly 3 tablespoons" of ghee to the kernels and admits that it might seem like a bit much, but there's a reason for such a healthy amount. "I know that looks like a lot of fat, but I'd rather pop in the fat and not add any later," Brown explained. 

Next, add your salt to the kernels. That's right, before they've even been hit with heat, salt those puppies down as this will help to more evenly disperse the salt than if you wait until after they've popped. Some popcorn experts disagree, however, and say pre-salting is a popcorn mistake, so perhaps try it out for yourself.

It's time to get those kernels poppin' perfectly

Now tightly wrap a piece of aluminum foil over the top of your metal bowl and punch a few holes in it with a fork or knife. This will let the steam vent out. "If the steam stays in there it's going to make the popcorn salty," Brown said. 

Place the bowl over medium heat and when you start to hear the butter melting shake it around a bit. You'll probably want to use some kitchen towels or oven mitts because that bowl will become hot. Technically, you could use a pot, but the curve of the bowl will allow the popped kernels to better rise up the sides while the unpopped kernels stay closer to the heat at the bottom. 

Once the popping starts to die down, you're ready to remove it from the heat and add any extra seasonings — Brown prefers the Japanese rice seasoning furikake — for added flavor before digging in.