The Popcorn Guide


As any movie goer will tell you, not all popcorn is the same. Why is it that Movie Popcorn tastes better? Well, I found a few tips and tricks over the years.. Let me pass some on to you.

Air, Oil or Microwave?

  • Air popping is a healthier alternative and gives less clean up. But, I’ve found that air popping leads to dry.. tasteless pops that require more attention to seasoning in the long run.
  • Microwave popping, though i usually dont.. is fast and acceptable for single serve, but you have to watch it carefully.. very easy to burn the batch, and you do not want the smell of burned popcorn in your house, trust me.
  • Oil popping will always be #1 for quality and taste, although a little messier; you can control subtle favor enhancements depending on the type of oil you use.

How Much?

  • Popcorn is measured in Ounces of Un-Popped Kernels.
  • You should never over-fill your popper, you’ll just end up with kernel’s being thrown unpopped or burned. Always check the maximum volume recommended by the manufacturer.
  • My general rule is 1/2 cup of unpopped kernels per person.
  • In comparison to Regal Cinema Popcorn containers..
    • Small, 4oz is 1/2 Cup = 1 person (Air Popper/Whirley)
    • Medium, 6oz is 3/4 Cup = 2 people (Whirley/Kettle)
    • Large, 8oz is 1 Cup = 3 to 4 people (Kettle)

Recommended Machines:

  • Air: The Presto Air Popper (here) – Beginner’s level

    Beginner’s Level: Presto Pop-Lite

    • You can’t deny the legacy of Presto.. it was the brand my father used, and is still the standard in air popping today.
    • Presto comes with a cup on top of the air channel. Fill that with Kernels, and pour into the machine.
      • Instructions say that you can use the cup to melt butter while the kernels are popping.. It doesn’t work very well, and there’s the possibility of the air blowing the cup out and spilling the butter.
    • Place a bowl under the exit chute, and plug the machine in.
    • That’s all there is to it! Simple and right to the point.
    • Unplug machine when the corn is finished popping.
    • Discard any unpopped kernels.
    • When using a hot air popper, be wary of the size of the blower chamber, in comparison to the power of the blower. I had an instance where a popper was too small, and blower was too powerful, and it just blew kernels everywhere.
    • Clean Up: Minimal
  • Stove-Top: The Whirley Pop (Here) – Enthusiast level
    • When I was making popcorn on the stove-top, this was the best thing ever!
    • Pour in just enough oil to coat the bottom
    • Set stove top burner on medium/low ( #3 on my stove)
    • Toss in a few kernels, when they pop, the oil is ready.
    • Use 1/2 cup of kernels
      • Anymore than 1/2 cup, and you’ll be picking popcorn off your stovetop/floor
    • Stir, Stir, Stir!
      • Turning the crank keeps the kernels moving, which prevents burning and distributes the heat evenly.
    • Keep going until the popping winds down to one-per-second (it takes practice to know when)
    • Dump into large bowl and enjoy!
    • Clean Up: Wash with your regular dishes
  • Shallow Fry (added 6.19.24)
    • This is something I saw on Youtube Shorts, and it works rather well!
    • Same as the Whirly Pop instructions.. except, put down a good amount of oil/topping in the pot, mabey an inch or two, enough to cover a layer of kernels.
    • Put the burner on High.
    • Sacrifice a few kernels. When they pop, the oil is ready.
    • Toss in your kernels and get ready.. because they’re all going to pop very quick. I’ve found that some times I barely have any time to stir.
    • Once the popping winds down, take off the heat immediately, and dump into a large bowl.. dont keep them in the pot because they’ll burn.
    • The extra oil not only shallow-fries the kernels into popping quickly, it also coats the pops. You may not need to use extra.
    • *perhaps use a little Flavacol in the oil, if that’s your liking.
  • Kettle Popper: Great Northern Popcorn Machine (Here) – Master Level

    • This was the greatest Christmas Gift my wife ever got for me.
    • Pour in enough oil to coat the bottle of the kettle
    • Toss in a couple of kernels
    • Turn on the machine, it takes approximately 3 minutes to heat up.
      • Individual switches for Light, Stirrer, Kettle
    • When the test kernels pop, you’re ready to go.
    • Use 1/2 cup to 1 cup of kernels, depending on desired volume (1 cup max)
    • Close the lid, make sure the stirrer is on.
    • Let it go until the popping winds down to one-per-second (it takes practice to know when)
    • Using the handle, dump popcorn out into the holding chamber.
    • Scoop out and enjoy!
    • If you have company, the holding bin on this particular machine will hold up to 16oz (2 cups unpopped)
      • Keep the heating lamp on to keep it warm.
    • Clean Up:
      • NEVER submerge the kettle in water, the kettle contains an electric heating element.
      • Wipe out hull pieces, etc, with a cloth or sponge, there’s very little kettle clean up.
      • The machine itself can be cleaned using light soap and water
      • The pull-out kernel catcher tray can be dumped and washed out as needed
      • Pull out the bottom tray and use a vacuum to get rid of rogue kernels from the bottom of the machine.

The Corn

Keep it Fresh. You can buy 50lb bags of popcorn kernels at restaurant supply stores, for $25, if you really need that much.. but keep in mind that you should only buy what you’re going to use in a month’s time. The quality of your pop depends on, not only brand – but storage conditions as well.. popcorn kernels go stale, and the longer you keep it, the smaller the pop is going to be. So, if you only pop on the weekends, don’t go for that 50lb bag.

Quality is #1. Usually, I’m not big on name brands, but after years of trying different kernels, I can tell you that Orville Redenbacher’ is my favorite. Or, if you’re looking for a big bag, I can recommend a 12.5lb bag of Snappy Kernels. Of course if you’re gonna go big.. Locate a Restaurant supply store in  your area. you could pick up bulk kernels relatively cheap.

The Oil

You really shouldn’t use Vegetable Oils, it requires a lot of attention, has a problem with smoke, and really doesn’t taste great with Popcorn. The preferred oils are usually Canola or Coconut. Right now, You could use Snappy’s White Coconut Oil, and it has a very clean taste, not oily at all. – but only for popping. It’s fine as a topping as well, but I found something better (see below)

Regal Cinemas uses their own popping oil which is a Coconut/Canola blend, I found Snappy’s Buttery Topping to be very similar

The Topping

For flavor, you just can’t beat clarified butter. The problem with this is, it’s costly in comparison to bottled toppings, so, fantastic if you have the time and money.

As stated in the following video.. 1 pound of butter will yeild 3/4 cup of clarified butter. So it would actually take 21 pounds of butter to make a gallon of clarified. Which would run you approximately $60-%100+ depending on brand.

  • To clarify butter: (Watch this instructional video)
    1. Melt butter in a saucepan, under low heat.. dont let it brown.
    2. Pour into a glass measuring cup
    3. Allow the butter to settle into it’s separate parts
      • Foam, Butter (golden) & Milk (white)
    4. Skim the foam off the top
    5. SLOWLY pour the golden layer into another container. This is your clarified butter.
    6. You do not want the white layer, discard it.
  • That’s it! The golden layer is your delicious topping.

If you don’t have that kind of time… I would recommend Snappy Butter-Burst Popcorn Topping. It’s the closest thing I’ve found to Regal Cinema’s Topping. It’s buttery and yummy! You may want to invest in a Pump for that bottle.. it helps a lot, trust me.


  • Salt is the traditional seasoning for popcorn, I usually go pretty light on the salt.
  • The #1 popcorn flavoring on the market is Flavacol, which is a popcorn butter/salt.
    • This is the yellow powder you see being sprinkled on popcorn at carnivals, hardware stores, etc.. this saves bulk popcorn from using real butter. It’s fine, but definitely not what I would have for home use.
  • White Cheddar is the favorite in my house. If you’ve ever tried “Smart Food” bagged popcorn, this is the one for you.
  • Kettle Corn – is sweet and tasty, but I’ll let you in on a secret.. it’s just sugar and salt.
  • Parmesan & Garlic – My wife is a big fan of this one. Me, not so much..
  • If you’re not sure what you’d like (if any) you can always pick up a Variety Pack and try them all out.