As a follow-up to a couple of comments from my last post, here is my step-by-step method to creating the best bowl of Pan-Popped Popcorn Happiness.
First, get a pan. Not a huge pan, not a tiny one, just an average-sized saucepan with a handle. And a lid. (The lid is important.) Have a large bowl sitting next to the stove for later, too.
Now go get some butter-flavored shortening. (I believe this is the key to having that rich, buttery flavor without any of the popcorn becoming mushy or oily.)
Set your stove burner to that little line right past MEDIUM (2 little lines before HIGH). Scoop a nice chunk of shortening into the pan and let it melt. If it comes up about 1/4" from the bottom of the pan, your chunk was the right size. If not, add a little more. If it looks like too much, you're okay. It just means you're going to get more popcorn.
Once it's all melted, toss in one little popcorn kernel and put the lid on the pan. Once the lone kernel pops, your shortening is the right temperature for popping. Remove the lid and dump some more kernels in - just enough that the melted shortening can cover all of the kernels. Put the lid back on and let the pan sit until you start to hear popping. Now it's time to shake the pan.
*shake, shake, shake*
Keep shaking until the popcorn starts to escape from the pan. Once your lid is being pushed up by popped kernels, take the pan off of the burner and dump the top layer of popcorn out of the pan and into the bowl. This step is a little tricky because you have to keep the unpopped kernels from escaping by leaving a good layer of popped kernels in the pan. You never really remove the lid completely at this point, just lift it enough to allow the popped kernels to find their way into your bowl. At this point, you need to be sure to salt the popped corn in the bowl.
Put the pan back on the stove, and continue to *shake, shake, shake*.
Dump again. Salt again.
Keep doing this until the popping slows to a few seconds between pops and then dump the entire contents of the pan into the bowl. (Again with the salt.)
If you are like me, you may need more popcorn at this point. If so, add another chunk of butter-flavored shortening to the pan and start all over again.
There you go... Popcorn Perfection!
Now go make some memories to go with it.