Stovetop Popcorn

I know what some of you are thinking. Really? You’re going to tell me how to make popcorn? Maybe next you can give specific instructions on toasting bread. Hear me out (and stop being so sarcastic). Others of you might be saying, “Oh yeah, I already know how to do this. You take this bag filled with stuff, put it in a microwave, hit the Popcorn button, and come back in a few minutes.” Okay, yes, that does work too. But at least listen to the reasons why I am a huge advocate for stovetop popcorn:

(1) You should know how to do this in case you are ever in a situation where you don’t have a microwave. I know, who doesn’t have a microwave, right? (I don’t, actually. I’ve been without one for almost two years, and I’m surprised by how much I don’t miss it!)

(2) It’s cheaper. I buy popcorn in bulk, and it costs about $3.00/lb. (16 oz.). Your average 3-bag pack of microwave popcorn will run you around $3.50 (and each of those packs is only about 3 oz.). Plus, you won’t be wasting all those packages and bags.

(3) Ingredient control. What exactly is in those bags of microwave popcorn anyway? I know you can get plain ones and all-natural ones and what not, but it’s nice to know exactly what went into your tasty snack. And starting from scratch means you have control over all of the flavors going into your popcorn, beginning with the oil. Which brings me to my secret ingredient . . .

That, dear readers, is bacon grease. You know all of those tasty drippings left in your pan after you’ve fried up a batch of bacon? The stuff you’ve been throwing out or washing away? Save it! Let it cool down a bit, then pour it into a glass jar and stick it in the fridge. You can use it in place of butter for pretty much anything. (I’m not sure you’d want to spread it on toast, but I’m not exactly opposed to the idea either.) It will impart a salty, almost bacony flavor to whatever you are cooking. I recently found a recipe for pumpkin molasses cookies that uses bacon grease in place of butter (which totally blew my mind, since I hadn’t considered using it in baked goods). Mmmm!

Now, the measurements I provide for the oil, grease, and popcorn below are based on the size of the pot I am using (2 qt., 7-inch diameter). You don’t have to use one this size, but it should be a deep, heavy saucepan with a lid. You want to use just enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pot, and enough oil/grease to coat the bottom of the pot and the popcorn.

Stovetop Popcorn

  • 1 tbsp bacon grease
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp sesame oil*
  • a little less than 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels
  • salt and pepper, to taste

*I find sesame oil is less likely to cause the popcorn to burn, and it also adds a nice flavor.

Heat oil and grease in a pan over medium heat. Once grease has melted, add a few kernels of popcorn and cover with a lid. Once those kernels have popped, add the rest and cover. Shake to coat kernels in oil. Once popping slows to a rate of  every 3 or 4 seconds, remove from heat. Shake a little bit to pop any remaining kernels. Empty into a bowl and season with salt and pepper. (Every now and then, you’ll get a piece that tastes nice and bacony. Yummmm!)


  1. says

    Dear Carey,

    So…your recipe rocks. Sesame oil is a genius plan!!

    I wonder if you might help me out…I am compiling a post on the essentials of stovetop popcorn and am hoping you won’t mind if I include a link to this fabulous post. Let me know!

    Thank you!

    Joanna @ Stoveless

    • says

      As long as it’s kept in the fridge, I’d say it should last almost indefinitely. I’ve heard of people keeping it in a can or jar on the counter before, but I wouldn’t advise that unless it’s being used often.

  2. says

    Ok…this is genius!

    I always make stovetop popcorn (it justs tastes so much less artificial) but I never even considered popping in bacon grease…that sounds heavenly.

    Next time I make bacon, I’m totally saving the grease.

    • says

      It’s so yummy!

      I love the idea of saving leftover fat from cooking, because it’s a great way to (1) add flavor and (2) really use every last little bit of something. (My mother’s side of my family is 100% Polish, and I’ve been fascinated by traditional Polish recipes, many of which are borne out the necessity to utilize everything [such as calf-brain soup—yee!].) TYGK has a great list of other ideas for bacon grease. I’ve used it in cookies too!

  3. Emilie says

    Holy cow, I made this last night and it was all kinds of awesome! I don’t know why I’ve never thought to use bacon grease (which I keep a full pint jar of in the fridge for sautéing veggies, etc.) to make popcorn. And the combo with sesame oil and fresh-ground pepper was AMAZING.

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