Dad’s Famous Popcorn Recipe


Do they still make this?

Okay, like most, we’ve watched many movies with friends and family.  Traditionally, when watching a movie, popcorn is a must. Right?  And who is left with the chore of making it?  Dad, of course!  So, while Danette makes popcorn occasionally, she’s typically leaves it up to me, her husband.  Over the years, people have come to know my aptly named “famous” popcorn as the best they’ve ever had.  In the interests of carrying it on to the next generation, I’m ready to give it up.

This may be a first: The theory I have is that family popcorn recipes are never written down.  They are simply passed down from generation to generation by the male side of the family, father to son, mostly through observation.  In my upbringing, I have had many popcorn-cooking lessons.   Below is a run down of some of the popcorn-cooking lessons I received while growing up, and what was learned from these experiences.

1. Use a Shopping Bag If You Dare:  (Some might cringe when reading this.)  In my youth, I had a memorable learning experience while visiting my Uncle T.L. in Richmond Virginia, when he made popcorn after the most amazing meal of his hunted, bite-size quail.  He used a grocery bag to remove the excess oil and mix his popcorn and ingredients.  In this grocery bag he dumped the freshly popped kernels and shook them.  This scattered the excess oil which is then absorbed by the paper walls of the bag.  Then he added, lots of salt and a stick of butter which he’d melted in a sauce pan.  He shook it again, so it was all mixed up and poured it in a bowl.  It was amazingly good.  (I’ve only done this once, I guess, because I can’t get over sanitary concerns, which is why I say this is optional.  I’m sure if the bag is clean, it’s a great way to get rid of excess oil.)

2. Take Your Time and Don’t Cheat:  I can recall a popcorn cooking lesson when in our rented ski house one winter in Chester Depot, Vermont.  I tried using Jiffy Pop.  Remember that?  (Do they still make this?)  Well, it’s cheating folks, so don’t try it.  (It’s worst than using Hunts as opposed to Heinz ketchup.)  I was probably about 12 years old, so I have my excuses.  I recall that I was so impatient, the popcorn was burned and smoking before it popped-up the foiled roof like it was suppose to.  I felt like a failure.  My cooking career was essentially over according to my sisters.  (Luckily for me, I married well.)

3. Oil by Itself on High Heat Will Catch Fire:  (This is the last popcorn cooking lesson I’ll tell, even though I have more.)  I thought you needed to heat the oil up first, before throwing the kernels in.  I learned the hard way that this is a bad idea, especially if you leave the kitchen stove, unoccupied and on high, with oil in the pot, while your attention is turned elsewhere, to another room, in a fashion most men are inclined to understand.  This lesson happened painfully when I preparing to cook popcorn while watching the 1980 presidential debates in Boulder Colorado, at a friend’s townhouse.  I forgot I’d left that pot on the stove with cooking oil in it, on high heat.  Again, don’t do this.  I’m not sure how I remembered — maybe it was the smell or the smoke, but I ran into that kitchen, saw the flames coming out of the pan, reached with a towel to push the pan off the stove and it fell onto the floor, bottom side down — kerblunk!  Needless to say, the color on the walls of the kitchen (once white) had a musty grey tarnish and the linoleum floor had the pot’s outline burnt into it.  I’ve never lived it down.

Now (drum-roll please) for my famous popcorn recipe:


    • 1/2 cup Kernels — If you like what’s at the bottom of a bowl of popped popcorn like I do, where there are partially-popped kernels, then you’ll want to pay special attention to the kernels you buy or pick to pop.  Blue corn kernels tend to not pop as much, nor do they become as fluffy.  Orville Brothers makes kernels that pop the fluffiest in my opinion.  The point is to pick your popcorn kernels wisely.
    • 4 tablespoons Canola Oil — Sometimes I like to add some extra virgin olive oil, for flavor, but you can add too much.
    • Salt and Pepper and/or…
    • Generous amount of Nantucket Secret Spice — This is my little secret. Every time I’ve added it to my popcorn, people have raved.  I discovered this spice while visiting my sister on Nantucket one summer, and it is the best addition to popcorn ever. When I’ve run out, I’ve tried all sorts of spices to try and match the flavor this blend brings out. But nothing has compared.  To purchase, go to
    • Butter (optional)


  1. Add enough oil in a cooking pot (preferably a Whirley Pop, made just for cooking popcorn) to coat the amount of kernels.  (About 4 table spoons.)
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of kernels.
  3. Place stove on high heat.  If using a standard pot, shake while the oil heats up, to make sure all the kernels are coated.  If you don’t have a Whirley Pop pot, I suggest you double the amount of oil.
  4. Cover the pot before your first kernel pops.  If using a Whirley Pop, turn the handle consistently, and throughout the popping cycle.
  5. In a matter of minutes, the kernels will pop.  Continue turning the handle until a popping is less frequent.
  6. Turn off the heat, and pour into a bowl.
  7. Add salt, spices and melted butter (heated in a separate sauce pan) to taste.