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This old-fashioned Kettle Corn is the perfect blend of sweet, salty, and crunchy, and will make you feel like you’ve brought the essence of the state fair right into your home!
Let’s talk about popcorn!
Well, technically, we’re gonna talk about kettle corn – popcorn’s sweeter, crunchier sibling.
Today is Halloween, and since Abe and I don’t have kids, our October 31st usually consists of horror movies, pizza, and a big bowl of snacks.
I brought home a big ol’ bag of Papa Baldy’s Poppin’ Snacks Popcorn from my travels in Kansas last month, and we’ve been LOVING the results. And since popcorn is one of his favorite foods, I’ll be making a salty, buttery version for him – and this kettle corn for myself!
(Wanna read more about the #FarmFoodTour I went on? Hop over to this post for a recap & photo dump!)
JUST TAKE ME TO THE KETTLE CORN ALREADY!
If you’d rather skip my (pretty darn helpful) tips and tricks, essential cooking info, and similar recipe ideas – and get straight to this deliciously easy kettle corn recipe, just scroll right on down to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card!
What is kettle corn?
You know that yummy popcorn kids would come to your door and try to sell you once or twice a year? Or that scrumptious snack you just have to grab at the fair every year?
Yeah, that’s kettle corn. And now you can make it in your own kitchen with ease!
Kettle corn is a type of popcorn that is made with oil, salt, and sugar. This delicious, crunchy snack gets its name from the original method in which it was originally cooked – a cast iron kettle!
So how is kettle corn different from popcorn?
Traditional movie-style popcorn is made with oil and salt, and has a rather mild, salty flavor. Because of this, its flavor can be easily influenced by lots of different seasoning powders like cheese, cinnamon, or chili.
In contrast to popcorn, kettle corn is popped with oil, salt, and sugar. Adding sugar when making kettle corn is what makes it even more addictive than regular popcorn! The sugar gives it a predominantly sweet flavor and crispy texture.
Is popcorn a regular corn?
Popcorn is grown similarly to the corn that you eat with meat and potatoes at your backyard cookout. Its harvest season is longer than that of regular corn, which dries out the kernels, giving them a hard exterior shell and a starchy, soft center.
Popcorn essentially looks like regular corn on the cob, but only popcorn kernels have the ability to pop!
When popcorn kernels are heated, the moisture trapped inside is turned into steam, creating pressure inside the kernel that builds up until it finally explodes.
What kind of popcorn is used in kettle corn?
The type of popcorn kernels that we used to make our homemade kettle corn is called mushroom popcorn. This type of large kernel pops into a very uniformly round shape, making it ideal for coating in that crispy sugary coating.
The field corn used to create popcorn kernels is grown primarily in the Corn Belt states of the midwestern U.S. Most of the popcorn sold around the world is grown right here in America’s midwest!
How to make kettle corn at home
Making kettle corn at home is really a lot easier than you may think! All you need is some cooking oil, mushroom popcorn kernels, sugar, and your fave salt.
First, you need to heat the oil to the ideal temperature. Place the oil and three popcorn kernels in a large, wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat. Sprinkle some sugar in the oil and cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil.
As the oil heats, you’ll need to shake the pan constantly to keep the sugar from burning. It should take a couple of minutes for the three kernels to pop, and then you’re ready to go!
Remove the lid, take the pan off the heat briefly, and carefully add the remaining kernels, some more sugar, and salt to taste. Be careful when adding the kernels, as the oil may splatter.
Return the lid to the pan and return it to the heat. As the popcorn does its thing, continue to vigorously shake the pan constantly over the heat to evenly distribute the sticky sugar on the kernels.
Soon, you’ll have a popcorn show to watch! It should take anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes for the popcorn to finish popping.
When there is a 2-second delay between pops, immediately transfer the popped kettle corn to a large serving bowl to avoid burning it.
Stir it occasionally to break up any clumps of popcorn, and be sure to remove any unpopped or urned kernels.
LOOKING FOR MORE RECIPES USING CORN & POPCORN?
- Cookie Butter Popcorn Cupcakes
- Mexican Street Corn Salad
- Jalapeno Popper Cornbread Muffins
- Avocado, Black Bean & Corn Salsa
HELPFUL KITCHEN TOOLS FOR MAKING KETTLE CORN:
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Homemade Kettle Corn
- 1/4 cup neutral flavored cooking oil i.e. canola, vegetable, or avocado
- 1/2 cup mushroom popcorn kernels
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- ½-1 tsp sea salt to taste
- Place the oil and 3 popcorn kernels in a large, wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat. Add half the sugar and cover with a lid or aluminum foil.
- Shake the pan frequently to keep the sugar from burning as the oil heats. Once the kernels pop, remove the lid and carefully add the remaining kernels, sugar and salt.
- Cover the pan and return to heat. Continue shaking constantly and vigorously until the popcorn finishes popping, 3-4 additional minutes.
- Remove pan from heat when there is 2 seconds between pops. Remove the lid and immediately transfer the popcorn to a large bowl to avoid burning it. Stir occasionally to break up clumps and remove any unpopped or over-caramelized kernels. Season with any flavorings you’d like.