Tuesday Tools | The Popcorn Series (part 3)
The first thing to go in the popper is the oil.
I have three favorites.
The first is a popcorn classic...coconut oil. It is unquestionably the best oil for popcorn. How do we know? It was the go-to oil of movie theaters for years, and who knows popcorn better than the movies?
The ding on coconut oil is that is it not very healthy. Every once in a while I actually take those warnings seriously. I eat popcorn often enough that I do not want it to become my personal health hazard. For a long time it was only sold in specialty stores, and it's typically not cheap. One good source? Rental shops...the ones that rent popcorn machines. They sell popcorn that look like my old favorite TV Time Popcorn (plastic package...seeds on one side and corn on the other). The oil can be stretched for several batches. I don't use the seeds. The squirrels like them.
I have a favorite seed...tell you next week.
My coconut oil replacement is made by Orville Redenbacher (Popping and Topping Buttery Flavored Popcorn Oil). Now I will admit that I have not looked at the label to see if it is any better than coconut oil. Probably not. I'm usually not crazy about anything with the word "flavored" in the title. The flavoring too often tastes fake. This does not, and it does adds a classic movie theater flavor to the batch. It also pops well...gets hot enough without burning. Downside? Again it is a little pricey for the size of the container.
I cannot bring myself to use it as a topping. Drinking flavored grease? Ick.
Typically, I use Olive Oil. I was out of Orville Oil once, and did not want to use Canola, so I tried Olive Oil. I really like the flavor. Olive Oil is supposed to be healthier than other oils, so this is a plus. For me, the decision is about the way it pops and the flavor. The oil has to get hot enough to pop well and yet not burn. It passes the test.
I've not tried flavored Olive Oil, but I'll bet it would be good.
Two things on oil, no three:
- Too much of my cooking is by feel, so I cannot tell you exactly how much oil I use, but I can say this...I don't put in too much and I don't put in too little. All the seeds need to get coated, but should not need to be thrown little life preservers to keep from drowning. Too much oil makes a bad batch....greasy and the kernels pop small. I put in enough to coat the bottom, but not too much.
- Heat the oil to the point that it smells hot...just prior to smoke. Hot enough is right on the edge of smoking. Once it starts to smoke, the oil breaks down and pops funny.
- The oil stage is a great time to add some salt. There. I said it. Salt. I admit it...I'm a saltoholic. I've learned great restraint and moderation over the past few years. Popcorn is one area that I still use salt without apology. Saltless popcorn is like chocolate milk with too little chocolate.
If you have a favorite oil, I'd like to hear about it.
Next week we'll talk seeds.