Why Popping Your Own Kernels For Caramel Corn Is Key

Bowl of caramel corn
Bowl of caramel corn - Teen00000/Getty Images

Caramel corn has been a popular American snack since the late 19th century. Consisting of popcorn coated in a glaze of sugar and molasses, the sweet snack became an instant classic that continues to be loved to this day. And though we may be more accustomed to the large tins at Christmas time or the bags of Cracker Jack at a ball game, caramel corn is actually very easy to make at home. The key to its success, however, is to pop the popcorn the old-fashioned way: on the stove.

Stovetop popcorn really is the best option for caramel corn in terms of both flavor and structure. You need popcorn that is fresh tasting and devoid of chemicals. Stovetop popcorn also has the benefit of a slightly savory aftertaste, depending on what kind of fat you use to pop it with. Kernels popped on the stove also tend to have a more sturdy structure, which is important as the popcorn is going to be doused and tossed in a bath of hot, thick, gooey caramel.

You could use either butterfly or mushroom popcorn for caramel corn. Mushroom might be better, however, as has a more uniform shape with a lot of surface areas for the caramel to cling to. Either variety should be easy to find online or at a grocery store. Overall, by popping your own popcorn, you set yourself up for what promises to be an utterly mouthwatering snack.

Read more: 25 Most Popular Snacks In America Ranked Worst To Best

How To Make Caramel Corn

caramel popcorn in pan
caramel popcorn in pan - Karynf/Shutterstock

While your freshly popped popcorn is cooling in a large bowl, you can make the caramel. Making caramel can be a tricky thing, so you really need to pay attention in order to get it right. For caramel corn, bring together butter, brown sugar, and molasses and heat in a pot until the sugar starts to melt and boil. You could also use corn syrup if you're not a fan of molasses.

The caramel boils quickly, only needing about three to four minutes to thicken and develop its signature golden color. Stir continually to make sure it doesn't stick to the pan, and then add in some vanilla extract, a little salt, and some baking soda. The baking soda will give the caramel a smoother texture, making it easier to spread over the popcorn. You can also flavor the caramel at this stage, either with a savory twist, moonshine, coconut curry, or whatever you like.

Pour the hot caramel over your freshly popped kernels and stir to make sure everyone is coated evenly. Spread these out onto a baking sheet and bake in a low-temperature oven, around 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring regularly so they don't stick together. Baking dries out the caramel corn and gives it its signature crunch. Once dry, serve it in a large bowl and count how many minutes until it is gone. We'll be surprised if you count past one hand.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.