Popping popcorn at home is an art form and perfecting it takes time, effort and experimentation. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that you’ll never actually attain perfection, but it’s fun to try – especially when the failures are so delicious.</br></br>There's nothing wrong with <a title="Popcorn Makers" href="http://www.atgstores.com/cooking/cooking-dining/small-appliances/specialty-appliances/attr_type/popcorn-makers/?linkloc=reCanonical" target="_blank">automatic poppers</a> (they're pretty awesome, really), but here we take a look at the “old-fashioned” way of popping popcorn: kernels in a pot with oil. It sounds easy enough, right?</br></br><strong>Perfect Popcorn Oil</strong></br></br>There is a heated debate (heh heh) among popcorn connoisseurs about the best oil for popping corn and it definitely does make a difference. Oil flavors the corn and some oils taste better than others.</br></br>This, however, is obviously a subjective factor and you’ll have to experiment to find your favorite. Just keep in mind that you have options: canola, peanut, olive, sesame, sunflower, coconut and soybean oils are all viable options.</br></br><em>With regard to portion, use just enough oil to cover the bottom of your pot.</em> This will vary depending on the size of your pot, but a good way to do it is to pour it in and swoosh it around. If it covers the bottom with a little extra layer to coat the kernels you’ve got it just right.</br></br>NOTE: You might hear some folks talk about “high smoke points” in popcorn discussions, but pay them no mind. If your oil is smoking, your heat is too high, anyway …</br></br><strong>Perfect Popcorn Cooking Temp</strong></br></br>Again, it’s hard to put a number on it, because popping corn is such a nuanced thing. A good rule of thumb is <em>use high heat to get the corn cooking as quickly as possible, and then turn it down a couple notches once you hear the first pop. </em></br></br><em></em>Also, make sure you cover the pot with a lid immediately after turning on the heat.</br></br>NOTE: Cooking at high heat means you have to keep a close eye on your corn. As it pops, shake the pot every 30 seconds or so to keep the already-popped kernels from burning and to expose more un-popped kernels to the heat.</br></br><strong>Perfect Popcorn Pot</strong></br></br><em>Any durable steel pot with a lid will do</em>, but those with thick bottoms are best. Avoid using pots that are easily damaged by high heat.</br></br>NOTE: For perfect popcorn, don’t eat it right out of the pot. If you’re like most people, you’ll want to season your popcorn with something and if you try to do it while the corn is still in the pot more seasoning will end up sticking to the hot pot than your popcorn.</br></br><strong>Perfect Popcorn Amount</strong></br></br>Again, we eschew measurements. You want to <em>add enough kernels to nearly cover the bottom of the pot without overlapping</em>. There should be a little space.</br></br>NOTE: Make sure you swirl the kernels around in the oil so they get a nice coat.</br></br><strong>Perfect Popcorn Butter</strong></br></br>Butter isn’t the only way to flavor popcorn, of course, but if you prefer it there’s a trick to getting it perfect and that’s to make clarified butter.</br></br>This is far easier than it sounds. All you need to do is heat up a stick of salted or unsalted butter in a pan or the microwave. Pour the melted contents into a measuring cup and set it aside. Soon enough, you’ll see the butter start to separate into three layers: foam, clarified butter and milk solids.</br></br>NOTE: Scrape off the top layer and, when pouring the butter on your corn, stop when you get to the end of the clarified portion and there are only milk solids left.</br></br><strong>Perfect Popcorn Add-Ons</strong></br></br>There are so many different things you can add! Candy, caramel and chocolate are very popular, but you can also go the spicy, savory route with chili sauce, hot sauce or nuts.</br></br>NOTE: If you haven’t tried popcorn with Sriracha sauce, you’re doing yourself a grave injustice.</br></br>We hope you enjoy your next popcorn popping adventure!