How to Make Popcorn From Butter Instead of Oil

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If you are adventurous, try popping popcorn with butter instead of oil.

Recipes for homemade popcorn typically instruct you to use oil to pop the kernels and then add butter to the popped popcorn for flavor. So, why not just pop the popcorn in butter and achieve that delicious buttery flavor with a single step? Well, butter burns in the temperature range required to pop popcorn, so using it as a substitute for oil results in a ruined snack.


Fortunately, there is an easy way to get around the problem and succeed in popping popcorn with butter instead of oil – simply use clarified butter, or ghee, which can withstand higher temperatures and still give your popcorn the buttery flavor you seek. It works with both the stove-top method and brown-bag microwave method.


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Buy or Make Clarified Butter

In the simplest terms, clarified butter is butter with its milk solids and water content removed, leaving just the fat. It's stable at higher temperatures unlike regular butter and can be heated to the ideal temperature for popping popcorn – approximately 380 degrees Fahrenheit, or a medium-high setting on a stove top – without smoking or burning. You can buy clarified butter from most supermarkets or alternatively buy ghee, a similar product used commonly in Indian cuisine. If you'd prefer to make your own clarified butter, it's quite easy to do.


To make clarified butter, melt one or more sticks of unsalted butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. The butter will start to separate, with foam rising to the top and milk solids sinking to the bottom of the pan. Skim off and discard the foam and then pour off the liquid butterfat so that the sunken solids stay in the pan. The liquid is the clarified butter; save what you don't use for the popcorn and use it in place of oil in other recipes.


Popping Popcorn With Butter Instead of Oil on the Stove Top

The classic stove-top method for popping popcorn with butter instead of oil will give you great results as long as it's clarified butter. You can use a large saucepan with a lid or a special popcorn pan. Add to the pan approximately 2 tablespoons of clarified butter per 2 ounces of kernels and set it over a medium-high heat. Add four or five popcorn kernels, place a lid on the pan, and wait until you hear the kernels pop.


The popping of the "test" kernels tells you that the pan and clarified butter have reached the right temperature, so add the rest of the popcorn kernels and replace the lid. Shake the pan frequently and vent the lid occasionally as the kernels pop and fill the pan. Take the pan off the heat when the popping has slowed down to one pop every 10 seconds or so. Transfer the popcorn to a bowl and season as desired.


Popping Popcorn With Butter Instead of Oil in the Microwave

The popular method for popping popcorn in a brown paper bag in the microwave can also be adapted to use clarified butter. Mix approximately 1/4 teaspoon of clarified butter and a pinch of salt with 1/4 cup of kernels, add the buttery kernels to a lunch-size brown paper bag and fold the open end over several times. Microwave the bag of popcorn on high for up to two minutes, stopping as soon as the popping has slowed down to one pop every three seconds or so. Note that it might take a few test runs to get the timing right with the microwave method.


Make It Extra Buttery

If you're interested in popping popcorn with butter instead of oil because you like your popcorn to taste extra buttery, as in movie-theater-style popcorn, there are two ways to achieve that. With the stove-top method, you can just pop the popcorn in a larger amount of clarified butter. Don't try adding extra oil with the paper bag method, though, as it might soak through the bag. Instead, drizzle additional clarified butter over the popcorn after it's popped, along with other seasonings.



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