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optimal popcorn in a cast iron skillet

paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 17402
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
Last night was my second and third attempt at popcorn in a cast iron skillet.

My first attempt was about a year ago.  There was lots of smoke, a lot of unpopped kernals, and some of the popcorn was burnt.  I put "air popper" on my list for when I stop by the second hand stores.  I never did find an air popper.

Then I read something somewhere about how popcorn is sooooo good when popped in a cast iron pan with bacon squeezins (bacon grease kept after cooking bacon). 

Time passes. 

And last night I had a hankering for something sweet and salty.  So I decided to make some kettle corn (popcorn with salt and sugar).

For the first batch, I couldn't decide if I should turn the heat off after the popping started.  I kept turning the heat on and off.  It turned out great!  The house smelled of bacon and the popcorn was excellent!  So good, I decided to make more. 

For the second batch, I left the heat on and some of the popcorn got burnt.

So now I'm thinking that maybe the thing to do is once the first kernal pops, turn the heat to low, and then when it is almost done turn it off.  But this is just a guess.

Anybody have more experience with this and can give a more definitive word?

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Charley Hoke

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 66
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains
Man you bring back some memories, I had totally forgotten about popcorn in cast iron. That was how we did it when I was a young boy 40 some years ago. I haven't tried it since.

This is what I remember and really applies to just about any stove top method.

preheat oil on medium to medium high till you see the first whiffs of smoke

alternatively, drop a couple kernels into the oil, when they pop it is ready

add the remaining kernels and when they begin popping, vigorously shake the pan back and forth on the burner

when the popping slows to a pop, pop, pop, remove from the heat and let it sit till the popping stops. 

As I said it has been years but I am going to try it and I'll let you know how it turns out.
Ben Souther

Joined: May 08, 2008
Posts: 32
That's how I season mine.

I have a SS strainer that fits perfectly on top of the frying pan.
I put the flame on medium, add popcorn and olive oil.
I never need to adjust the flame.  I shut it off a little while before the popping is done.

I like a few burnt kernels so I leave it a little longer than I need to.

Anytime, someone leaves it in a sink with soapy water or doesn't clean it out, making scouring necessary, I cook popcorn in it and can then cook eggs without them sticking.
Susan Hoke

Joined: Jun 27, 2008
Posts: 36
Location: Western NC
I'd like to add that popcorn pops best when it's cold. I keep mine in the freezer.

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Charley Hoke

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 66
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains
So tonight I had a hankering for popcorn, I pulled out the 9" skillet and followed the process I described in my previous post. I used about a table spoon of oil and a 1/4 cup of corn. Man! I had forgotten what good popcorn tasted like, crunchy and dry.

I like the glass lid so I can watch the kernels pop 

I had about as many unpopped kernels in the bowl as is in the pan, not too bad for my first attempt. It's cast iron popcorn from now on.

[Thumbnail for Popcorn.jpg]

Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I like the pictorial! Especially that last pic demonstrating the end empty skillet I have never tried popcorn made  in a cast iron skillet. Next time I get a hankering I will give it a shot.


"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 17402
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
I did this again.  I think this might be the best form of pan seasoning yet.

Joined: Apr 25, 2009
Posts: 20
Location: Northern Calif.
Ok.... now I have to try this again...... a year ago or there abouts I tried popcorn on the stove in my CI Dutch Oven..... and I burned it so badly I never tried it again....... I have never taken any temp readings but at least with mine , with the lid on the temps go up dramatically and at that time I had not yet figured out the relationship..... now after useing the DO dozens of times I'm getting a much better feel for it...... but I think temps would have to be reduced a bunch..... your turn on / turn off just might do the trick in the DO.
paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 17402
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
I think the thing to do is to not put any popcorn in until the bacon squeezins start to smoke.  Then, you set it to medium heat and you need to shake things up once in a while. 

At the sound of the first pop, turn the heat to low. 

At least, this is my best guess at the moment ...

gary gregory

Joined: Apr 09, 2009
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
Unlike 007 I like mine stirred not shaken.  I stir the kernels rapidly with a spoon until the first one pops, then put on the lid.  I think I get the kernels evenly heated that way, more popped at the same time and less burned.

paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 17402
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
Not a bad idea ...  I'll try that!
jeremiah bailey

Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
I've not yet tried popping corn in CI ware. I have found a successful formula for stainless pots though. It is like Paul suggested. Get the pan hot first. Then add oil or grease. Once the fat is hot and gets its first wisps of smoke, add the popcorn and drop the heat to low/med-low at the first pop. Once the popping gets to a second or three inbetween, remove from heat. I also toss the kernels ala stir fry a couple times until the first pop. Top with salt, pepper and an Italian seasoning blend. mmm...

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller
Jeremiah Bailey
Central Indiana

Joined: Jan 10, 2010
Posts: 10
Location: Southern New Hampshire
While it has been months since you posted this, I have to add my 2 cents...when I was a kid my Father used to make popcorn every night for me and my brother - if I was in trouble it was "2 weeks, no popcorn".  The popcorn was always cooked in  heavy bottomed pot in olive oil.  You would coat the bottom with olive oil, add kernals to cover bottom, turn on heat and put on the lid.  When the popping started to slow down a lot you would turn off heat and take off stove .  Salt it.  I still make it this way - will try it in a CI skillet and bet it will be great!

Joined: Jan 28, 2010
Posts: 175
I make popcorn in a cast iron skillet if I am going to watch a movie -- usually a couple of times of week.  This is the method I came up with but Im still working on it.

Cast iron 'chicken baker' is a good utensil to use with a glass lid.  Heat the pan over high flame.  Add oil when the pan is hot and tip to cover the bottom with oil.  (About 1T oil)  Heat the oil, you will see it go "wavy".  Drop in one kernal of popcorn to test if it is hot enough.  Don't add too much popcorn -- about 1/2 cup.  After the popcorn is added, hold the lid a little askew to let in air, but still contain the popcorn.  (Or the dog can eat the one's that pop out on the floor).  Make another batch if you need more.  It should be popping like crazy -- turn the flame to low but still maintain the rate of popping.  As the pan fills with pop corn -- sneak a wooded spoon under the lid and give it a stir to let the "old maids" settle to the bottom.  Turn down the flame and keep popping until you can count to ten with no pops.

Pour into a big dish and season with sea salt, dash, japones peppers, and/or herbs (thyme, oregano, Italian seasoning).

The trick is to get all of the kernals to pop but not burn any of them.

Joined: Sep 13, 2010
Posts: 2
I cooked mine in my 5 quart dutch oven...

Joined: Sep 10, 2010
Posts: 5
Oh my! Charlie Hoke is the popcorn king! I just tried his method with the 9" skillet, 1 Tbsp bacon grease, 1/4 cup popcorn and I have to say it is hands down the best popcorn I've ever made. And I'm a popcorn freak. I love popcorn, I have a popcorn cookbook. I even use air-popped corn for packing material when I send packages. Thank you for sharing your technique!
Dw Cress

Joined: May 25, 2010
Posts: 24
Has anyone ever watched that Good Eats episode about popcorn?

Good Eats Season 10 Ep10 (1/2)

Good Eats Season 10 Ep10 (2/2)

1. Savory Herb Popcorn
2. Perfect Popcorn
3. Slacker Jacks

Joined: Aug 07, 2010
Posts: 62
Location: Bozeman, MT
For those of you that like carmel popcorn, I came up with a recipe that we love.

Pop your corn in advance and have ready in a large bowl (I use stainless steel). I take 6-8 tbs of butter and start melting it in the skillet. Add 1/2 cp of Edens organic Barley Malt, a little bit less than 1/2 cup, but more than a 1/4 of honey and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup (depends on how much sugar you like) organic brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir thoroughly and constantly, letting it boil and bubble quite a bit.

Here is the tricky part, deciding when enough is enough. If you boil it too long, it becomes very hard and crunchy on your popcorn. If not long enough, it is too soft. Humidity is also a factor. If it is very humid, you need to boil a wee bit longer to get more of the moisture out. I generally boil for at least a couple minutes, until it looks very light and frothy. Then take that (with or without any nuts added) and spoon it over the popcorn, mixing it up to disperse the carmel mixture well. You will need to let this cool a bit before serving. Since it is so cool here in Montana in the evenings, I just set it outside for a few minutes and then it is ready to serve.

Joined: Nov 10, 2011
Posts: 2
paul wheaton wrote:
I did this again.  I think this might be the best form of pan seasoning yet.

Good one. I think so too. I tried it a long time ago and got a lot of burned pops.  Haven't tried it since.  I do have a question, though, just in case.  What do you do about the "keep it moving" part of popping corn? I take it from those I read that you just leave it and don't shake it.  Is that right?
Anna Carter

Joined: Feb 11, 2011
Posts: 66
Location: Lacey, Wa
I just tried this..... and made 4 batches. Thank you guys! I did the add the oil and popcorn all at once while the pan is cool method. I had only 4 old maids in the last bunch. So yummy.

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Jordan Lowery

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
ive been doing this since i saw this thread, i also use rendered chicken lard and "bacon squeezins". both turn out great.

i preheat the pan

add the lard

add salt

add 5 kernals

when 2 of them pop i add the rest. when they start to pop like crazy i turn it off.

i never get burnt ones, very few leftovers.

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Mike Hamilton

Joined: Mar 29, 2014
Posts: 80
Location: north end of the Keweenaw Mi.
I realize this is a very old thread but its too good to let lay at the bottom of the heap

we stumbled on to cast for popcorn this winter and use a cast iron Wok that we bought for stir fry [use it for deep fry too]
the oil and corn stay's in the middle over the heat and the popped corn ends up around the edges and kept warm
100% poped corn,not browned or tough

the bacon grease sounds great and we will try it tonight

Zach Muller

Joined: Dec 07, 2013
Posts: 671
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
I looove popcorn with an iron skillet. One of my favorite recipes is to throw some jalapeños into the butter/oil and let it simmer for a bit before adding the corn. A little salt and sugar and your there! Delicious
Ryan Jones

Joined: Jun 03, 2014
Posts: 1
Sweet mother of all that is holy! Popcorn, bacon, and a cast iron skillet. I think this is as close to heaven as I have been in a long time. I had just picked up a well taken care of skillet that was without probably ten years without seasoning. So I christened her with popcorn. First, I used coconut oil,per my normal recipe.(awesome) The kids hoovered it down like it was their job. Then, after I had put them to bed, I went with the bacon grease. I almost cried. This skillet and I are gonna have a long, passionate relationship. And I haven't even tried her for breakfast yet!
Allison Gessner

Joined: Jul 12, 2014
Posts: 21
Location: Dallas, TX
How to minimize old maids without burning your popcorn... Step 4 is the difference from previous posts...Saw this on
1) heat 3 T oil/grease in pot over medium-high
2) add 3-4 kernels, cover
3) when they pop, add 1/3 C kernels in an even layer
4) cover, remove from heat & count to 30 seconds (this brings all kernels to near-popping temp so that when returned to heat they will all pop at about same time)
5) return to heat & when popping starts in earnest, shake pan with tilted lid until popping slows to a few seconds between pops
6) dump popcorn immediately into wide bowl, season to taste

The best popcorn ever!
subject: optimal popcorn in a cast iron skillet