Friday, November 25, 2016

Popping Corn on a Woodstove (or Induction Cooker)

We've been enjoying popcorn quite a bit lately.  I have been experimenting with some of those "Kernels" flavours you can purchase at the store, and have actually found my favourite to be just something called "butter salt" or "popcorn salt" from the local bulk store.  It makes my popcorn taste just like theatre popcorn...  A guilty treat.

I flirted briefly with popping the corn in our microwave this summer, just using a paper bag, but didn't really feel any love for the results.

So we've been making lots of popcorn on the butane stove, or lately, the woodstove, just in a saucepan with a lid and some oil, and lots of shaking.

Unfortunately, on the butane I always feel precarious - I don't want to knock the stove itself onto the floor with all the vigorous shaking required.  I also noticed that now that the colder weather has begun and we are making it on the woodstove, my shaking has put loads of scratches into our stainless steel stovetop.  Another detraction.

I noticed that there are several companies that sell popcorn poppers with an agitator on a crank mechanism that stirs it while on the stovetop.  Again, they are mostly aluminium, but I realized that there are a few that are stainless steel and include some sort of magnetic plate to allow them to be used on an induction stove.  This would let us continue making our treat throughout the summer too.  I didn't for a second consider making anything on our glasstop induction cooker that required much shaking!

I did some checking of Amazon reviews, and finally decided on the "Home N Cook 6.5Quart" popcorn maker (this is an affiliate link, FYI), and in a moment of weakness and commitment to substitute popcorn for my normal potato chips, I ordered one up.

After a couple days, it duly arrived in the city, and Kenny and I picked it up after one of our coding sessions at the Waverley Library Auditorium (Thursdays from 1 to 3pm - all are welcome to come out and play or make computer games and apps!).

I unboxed it, washed it up, and gave it a try.

Ready for the grand unveiling!

Hmmm, a big hole in the side of the box, luckily no damage to be seen inside.
Nice clean bowl!
And the agitator.

A kernel in the oil waiting for it all to heat up.

And the unit assembled and ready to crank.
Some of the hulls look a little too toasty here.
I was less than impressed.  Many unpopped kernals, and the ones that did pop were getting close to being overdone.  The husks were a dark, dark brown.  Of course, the popcorn salt covered up any dodgy flavours, so it wasn't a complete loss.

After sinking in the $50 though, I wasn't prepared to give up.

Since then, I've learned a few things to improve the experience.  First off - a good amount of oil helps greatly.  Don't be stingy.

Also, for the first batch, put in the oil with maybe three or four kernels.  Once they pop, THEN it is warm enough to put in about a quarter cup more.  I make small batches - I think that if you put in too many, you lower the temperature of the oil too much, and in bringing it back up to popping temperature, that's when you can scorch things.

I turn the crank a few times to coat the kernels, and then when it is popping, I turn it one rotation, wait to hear pops, and if I hear some within about four or five seconds, I crank another rotation, until I no longer hear pops...  That usually does a good job of ensuring that they all get popped, without burning anything.

So for the three of us, I usually do three batches in a row, seasoning each batch as I go.  That's a quarter cup per batch.  We usually eat about two thirds of it, with another container to snack on the next day.

I'm happy with it, but if it weren't for the scratches in my stovetop, I think I'd probably stick with a saucepan and shaking it.  It is challenging to clean.  Lately I have been putting an inch of water in it when we finish using it and putting it back on the stove so that the oil more readily comes out.  It still takes a bit of nibbling with the dishrag to get into all the nooks and crannies presented by the paddle and gears.

Still, we're getting good popcorn production, and I like to believe that even with the salt and oil, it's better than commercial potato chips.

Subsequent batches are getting better!

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