How to make stovetop popcorn with water instead of oil

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Hardcore popcorn lovers know: Making popcorn on the stove with a generous splash of oil is the best way to make a perfectly light, crisp snack.

If you’re watching your fat intake, using an air popper is acceptable as well. Just don’t serve us popped-in-a-bag microwave popcorn and expect a rave review.

But there’s another, more obscure (and healthier) popcorn-popping technique — popping corn in water.

Sounds bizarre, right? But according to the folks at Cooking Light, it’s an effective method for cooking popcorn — and, as writer Kat Kinsman notes, it allows the corn’s inner deliciousness to truly shine.

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Kinsman writes that she encountered a recipe for water-popped popcorn in an “America’s Test Kitchen” cookbook, then tested and re-tested it in her own kitchen. Along the way, she developed a detailed description of her process.

First — and perhaps most important — select the right cooking vessel. A large saucepan with a heavy bottom and a lid is the best choice to prevent scorching. (I like to use an enameled cast iron pot.)

Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of kernels. Then cover the layer of corn with water — but not enough to make the kernels float.

Put the lid on and heat the pan on medium-high. Give it a shake now and then. Once the water is mostly evaporated, but the kernels haven’t yet popped, brace yourself. This is where it gets wild.

Lift the lid and carefully — but quickly — add a splash more water. Replace the lid and scram, because steam will start blasting out.

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It calms down quickly, so don’t run too far away. Shake the pan periodically. When the kernels start popping briskly, turn the heat to low and shake the pan every 10 to 20 seconds.

Wait until you don’t hear any more pops, then remove the lid. It’s done!

I’ve made hundreds of batches of stovetop popcorn, so I just had to give this method a try. Sadly, the results were disappointing for me. I didn’t pop a single kernel.

It may have something to do with altitude — I live more than a mile above sea level, and water boils at a lower temp up here. Maybe my kernels couldn’t get hot enough?

In any case, if you’re able to make it work, congratulations! Tell me your secrets.

Click here to read the full set of instructions.

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About the Author
Kathleen St. John
Kathleen St. John is a freelance journalist. She lives in Denver with her husband, two kids and a fiercely protective Chihuahua. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kathleen's work.

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