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Oil Smoke Points and Stovetop Popcorn

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

This question is about the heat tolerance of cooking oils and which oils are best suited for making stovetop popcorn. Popcorn kernels pop between 400 and 460 degrees Fahrenheit - www.popcorn.org  I can't seem to consistently pop the corn before the oil starts smoking. What oil do you use when making this snack?  I see a lot of recommendations for coconut oil, which I don't understand, because it has a smoke point of 350 degree. I've also tried extra light olive oil, and hit the smoke point with that oil, too. I've played around a bit with the settings on the (gas) stove, but haven't found the sweet spot where the popcorn pops and the oil does not smoke.

 

The popcorn popper pan is just thin aluminum (it's a gadget called a Whirley Pop). Maybe that accounts for the overheating - the inside bottom is now more black than silver/grey. Might be time to go back to a regular stainless pot with a disc bottom.

 

Anyway, any advice you can share about cooking oils would be appreciated.

post #2 of 17

When I make popcorn on the stove top, I use a heavy bottomed pan or a wok. I should give it a try in my wok on my induction burner.  As to oil, canola or grapeseed would be my picks.  In the 70s when I made popcorn this way all the time, I used vegetable oil (soybean oil). 

 

But I mostly air pop any more so take that for what it's worth. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 17

peanut oil

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #4 of 17

I make tons of popcorn, just short of 20 flavors. I guess we all have something that people have us make constantly because they love it, mine is popcorn.

 

Bar none, the best flavor and consistent cooking of popcorn in oil is via coconut oil. "What, Lakeified? You crazy." I hear you talking now. But here is a good example of what I'm referring to.

 

Snappy Popcorn Coconut Oil:

http://www.amazon.com/Snappy-Popcorn-Gallon-Colored-Coconut/dp/B003C4UDEY

 

Why is it the best? Flavor. It's what, or at least used to be, what most every movie theater used for popping. It stores as a solid at most house temperatures, making it ideal for a theater. Sill, I hear you talking, "but Lakeified, it smokes at only 350F(175C), how can that be good?

 

Rule 2, make the popcorn at nowhere over about medium heat on a stovetop. Yes, it will take slightly longer. But there is a certain point where the temperature of the oil is perfect, and keeps the kernels at just the right temperature to pop, without blasting them with so much heat that they tend to scorch. Medium it is. Forget what you've read about how hot the kernels have to be and the smoke point of the oils. Medium. Max.

 

Finally, there is one key that helps significantly. Agitation during the popping. Shaking, moving, whatever you can do, do it. I prefer this tool, but there are automatic poppers that do the same thing. This one is cheap, it gets the job done, and it is easy to clean between uses (spray it off, wipe it down, it keeps just a thin film of that coconut oil on there which is usually fine.) I see you have one, so you should be good to go once you find the right temp for popping on your home stove.

 

Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper:

http://www.amazon.com/Wabash-Valley-Farms-25008-Whirley-Pop/dp/B00004SU35

 

Now I keep hearing you say, "but they aren't going to pop at low temperature," they will. It works. The magic of coconut oil isn't the popping, it is the flavor and coating onto the popcorn giving that slightly moisturized feel you get versus the sandpaper and lack of substantial food taste versus air-popped popcorn.


Edited by Lakeified - 2/14/15 at 1:40pm
post #5 of 17

I think you're confusing coconut oil with palm oil that used to get used a lot. And I don't hold theater popcorn in particularly high esteem. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #6 of 17

I have used a lot of different oils with no issue with smoke point. As mentioned medium heat is the key. And the kernels explode because of steam pressure so above 212 degrees they will pop. Bacon fat makes really good unhealthy popcorn! I usually use corn oil because it is what I have for when I don't want olive oil flavor or low smoke point like for last nights stir fry. Had it at just at the smoke point of the corn oil when the steak bits went in to cook(round steak)

post #7 of 17

I use mineral oil because it is tastless

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post
 

I think you're confusing coconut oil with palm oil that used to get used a lot. And I don't hold theater popcorn in particularly high esteem. 

Quite possibly, but the only information I've found and followed was coconut oil. Palm very may be similar, it stores the same way.

 

For what it's worth, it makes a very good pop with decent coating that takes additions pretty well, which is how I ended up using it. Either way, popcorn, popped in oil with just a touch of flavocol salt seems to work very well. 

 

Some love theater-style popcorn, some love light and fluffy air popped. It's a very versatile snack.

post #9 of 17

I second using bacon fat.  When I was growing up that was the only way me made popcorn at home.  Yes, it is not the healthiest way to make popcorn, but it didn't need any butter drizzled over top, just a few shakes of salt.  The only reason I don't it this way nowadays is that we don't save our bacon fat like we used to when growing up.  My parents cooked just about everything in bacon fat then.  I'd sleep over at friends' houses and thought their eggs tasted strange because their Moms used butter not bacon fat!!

post #10 of 17
Light olive oil won't work but extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 400 degrees. Add sea salt and you are in business! All you need is a good video !
Moonshadow
post #11 of 17

Extra virgin has a lower smoke point than the light olive oil. Do you have a source for your numbers because they seem backwards. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #12 of 17
The International Olive Oil Council puts the smoke point of EVOO at 410 and the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils puts it at 420. Although light olive oil may have a higher smoke point 468, it is a highly refined product with no real nutritional value. It could easily be a splash of olive oil mixed with another oil entirely. Light refers To the color and lack of flavor not the calories in the oil.
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonshadow View Post

The International Olive Oil Council puts the smoke point of EVOO at 410 and the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils puts it at 420. Although light olive oil may have a higher smoke point 468, it is a highly refined product with no real nutritional value. It could easily be a splash of olive oil mixed with another oil entirely. Light refers To the color and lack of flavor not the calories in the oil.
So in conclusion, light olive oil works better for this application than EVOO.
post #14 of 17
I would never use refined oil when a nutritious option exists. Maybe my overall popcorn skills are more sophisticated than I thought but I always use EVOO with stellar results and no smoking.
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

I should have tested with a different pan before making my original post. Here is a follow-up: The thin aluminum pan I described in my original post was causing my overheated oil problem. I like the concept of a popcorn maker with the hand crank and stirring rod in the bottom of the pan, but the lightweight aluminum stove-top popper was the reason I could never get the oil temperature right. I switched to a heavy, bottom clad stainless steel pot, and that resolved the problem.

 

The manufacturer also sells a stainless steel version of their stove-top popper, and there are also similar model made by other manufacturers, also in stainless. On mine, I noticed the bottom of the aluminum pan was warped, so that was also probably contributing to the problem.

post #16 of 17

     You're jumping the gun...that Whirley Pop is a classic and makes perfect popcorn.  It sounds like you're using too high of heat.  I prefer to use as little oil as needed to pop my popcorn, using canola or corn most of the time for popping.  Then I'll use another oil to top.  Heated coconut oil, bacon grease, duck fat...I use these things as topping oil with far better results than heating them high enough, and long enough, to pop the kernels.  My favorite topping oil is fresh harvested extra virgin olive oil...way better than butter.

 

  I also prefer baby white rice popcorn...I usually order from https://www.selectpopcorn.com/

 

 

   Here's the instructions for the Whirley pop...

 

 WhirleyPop™ Popcorn Popper - Instructions

Click here to view the Instructional Video.

Please visit the FAQ for the answers to many common questions.

Seasoning Instructions: First Time Use

  • Wash and season pan:
    1. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Heat for 20 seconds or until oil is hot. Do not leave pan unattended.
    2. Remove from heat and let cool
    3. Wipe out with a napkin and start popping!

Popping Instructions:

  • Do not add any ingredients while the popper is on any heat source
  • Use the proper amounts of oil and popcorn.
    1. For Popcorn use 1/2 Cup
    1. For Oil use 1-3 Tablespoon
  • Some gourmet hybrid popcorn such as white, crimson or petite pop-up smaller and should be adjusted accordingly
  • As you become more comfortable with your popper, you can reduce the amount of oil used to as low as a single teaspoon. That's about 41 calories - 4 1/2 fat grams!

Stove Instructions:

  • Do not preheat popper and oil
  • Place popper with added ingredients on gas stove and turn on the burner. Medium heat is best.
  • If using electric range, heat range only to medium-high; place popper with added ingredients on heated unit
  • Stir slowly, adjust temperature as needed so popping is complete in about 3 minutes
  • Continue stirring through entire process until there is only an occasional pop...pop, or until the handle becomes hard to turn. Do not force the handle.
  • Remove from heat immediately
  • Transfer into a serving bowl
  • Add butter and salt or your favorite seasoning

CAUTION:
Never place empty popper on heated stovetop
Never leave popper unattended while popping
 


If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our customer service department at 877-888-7077 or e-mail us at any time.

post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 

I have the original aluminum version of the WhirleyPop. Since I purchased mine, they have added a stainlesss steel version with a clad bottom.  Anyway, I replaced my aluminum WhirleyPop with a Victorio StovePop Stainless Steel Popper - VKP1160. It is similar to the stainless WhirleyPop, but it has a handle on the side of the pot and a gearless drive system. Having a clad bottom on poppervs lower section has resolved the overheating issues I was experiencing.

 

With the aluminum popper, I could never dial in the right amount of heat to prevent the oil from burning. The fact that the pot was thin, and had a dent on the bottom, made managing the heat a challenge. 

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