Kettle corn is not something most people think to make at home. It seems we’ve decided that this sweet and salty little treat should only be consumed at fairs and other outdoor events like flea markets and festivals. I don’t know why I’ve never had homemade kettle corn. Maybe all of us just decided it is too hard to make. But it really isn’t, as I found out quite recently.
My elder granddaughter, Bella, turned four just two days after my birthday earlier this month. We celebrated her at a party the weekend before her birthday. On the actual day of her birthday, however, her parents were both working later shifts. So, I picked her up at daycare to stay with me until they came to get her. I do that from time to time, and she often walks in the door announcing that she wants a snack. Often, the snack she requests is popcorn.
Since I knew I would be picking Bella up on her birthday, I wanted to combine a tasty snack with a fun activity we could do together. I tried to come up with something new but kept coming back to popcorn. For her birthday? We had to do something better than just regular old popcorn! Then kettle corn came to mind. And as my readers can predict, that thought led me to do some research. Because I’m wired that way. Just pat me on my head and smile indulgently at my nerdiness. I’ve learned to own it.
Here’s what I found. Almost all the recipes I ran into were identical. Go figure. It’s kettle corn, not high-end French cuisine. So, what became the differentiating factor for me was the technique. And I decided that Natalie, at Tastes Lovely, is a woman after my own heart. Her recipe was EXACTLY like a half dozen or so others I looked up. But what she offered were some AMAZING helpful tips. Full credit to Natalie, and I will share her wisdom here with you.
Let’s get to kettle corn made at home
Does it get any simpler than this? I don’t think so.
I let Bella measure out the kernels and the sugar. She had a blast.
Then I let her mix the kernels and the sugar together.
When making this with Bella, I used a bigger bowl so she could mix without getting sugar and kernels everywhere. But a small bowl works just fine.
Then I poured the oil into the pan and dropped 3 kernels in. Thank you, Natalie for tips #1 and #2.
Tip #1 – use a non-stick pan. That makes clean up easier because it reduces the amount of caramelized sugar that might otherwise make a mess of a regular pan.
And Tip #2… sugar melts fast, burns quickly and destroys things when it is not cooked properly. Adding 3 kernels to the pan and then turning on the heat allows you to wait to add the mix of kernels and sugar ONLY after the first kernel pops in the oil. That way, the sugar does not sit at the bottom of an increasingly hot pan where it has the potential to create caramel cement around burnt popcorn.
And then there is Tip #3.
Using a sheet of parchment paper between the lid and the popping corn will keep that same potential for caramelization from happening to your lid, which is not non-stick.
Tip #4. From the moment you pour the sugar and kernel mixture into the pan and cover it, shake vigorously for about 3 seconds, cook for 10 seconds, shake for 3, cook for 10. Rinse and repeat until the kernels stop popping. This will keep your kettle corn beautifully white and loose, as opposed to clumped and burnt.
Immediately remove from the burner and turn the popcorn onto a length of parchment paper you set out before the popping began (Tip #5).
This step is important because the sugar coating the popcorn has the potential to do what heated sugar always does. Burn you badly!
Pour the popped corn immediately onto a long sheet of parchment paper, using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Spread to as much of a single layer as you can and allow it to cool enough to touch. Then sprinkle with salt to taste and toss.
And that’s all it takes, guys! Kettle corn made at home is not hard at all!
I took a picture of Bella with her kettle corn on the day of her birthday and posted it on social media. Her great grandfather, who is on my list of friends messaged me to say,
WOW….kettle corn….how do you make it….I only eat it when somewhere that is selling it…LOVE kettle corn….or any popcorn for that matter….
See? Once again, that mental block I had myself. So, I messaged him the recipe. He’s made it at least twice and just loves it!
So, why deny your craving by forcing yourself to wait for some event? If you want kettle corn, make it at home! It is so EASY and so very YUMMY! Just ask great grandpa Dave!
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup popcorn kernels
- Salt to taste
- Spread 2 lengths of parchment paper on your counter or onto a large baking sheet.
- Cut another length long enough to fit between the pan and the lid.
- Mix the kernels and the sugar in a bowl.
- Next, pour the oil into a non-stick pan, add 2-3 kernels to the pan, turn the heat to medium or medium-high (depending on your stove) and cover with the parchment paper and lid.
- When the first kernel pops, add the sugar and kernel mixture and again cover with the parchment paper and then the lid.
- Shake the pan vigorously for about 3 seconds, then cook for about 10 seconds. Repeat the cycle until you no longer hear kernels popping. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.
- Using a large spoon or spatula, pour the hot popcorn onto the lengths of parchment paper, spreading as close as possible into a single layer. DO NOT TOUCH THE HOT POPCORN OR YOU COULD BE BADLY BURNED.
- Once cool enough to touch, sprinkle with salt to taste and toss.