After my old theater-style popcorn maker went kaput, I mourned for a while and then started the search for a smaller footprint popcorn maker. As it turned out the device was already in my kitchen... a wok! I know I can make popcorn in a pot, but that involves so much shaking and (often) burning. With the wok, since only a small area in the lowest part of the pan is directly heated, it makes a great popcorn maker. The heavier un-popped kernels stay near the heat source while the fluffy popped pieces spring away. My wok is electric which makes it easy to dial-in the heat but you could do this with a regular wok on a small burner as well.
To make the Wok-Corn happen, I had to study how popcorn pops. A few facts:
- Popcorn pops at about 350 degrees F (180 C)
- Before it pops the inner starches, fats, and water need to make a gel. The gel is how popcorn becomes fluffy.
- Once it reaches 135 psi the hull breaches. By then, if you have a hull filled with a soft gel, the explosion will create a fluffy foam out of the gelatinous starches and proteins.
- Heat 1/2 cup high quality kernels in 2 tablespoons ghee (or oil) at about 200 degrees in a tightly lidded wok. The ghee gives the popcorn a buttery flavor but does not burn the way butter would. I get my corn from Tietz Farms. The key here is fresh corn with good moisture content.
- Steam the kernels in wok with the lid closed for 2-3 minutes. Give it a shake once or twice. Do not let it pop yet- the gel is forming.
- After the steaming process, turn the heat up to 350 degrees F. The kernels will pop very fast. Once you count a 2 second gap between pops, pour immediately into a large bowl.
- Sprinkle with your favorite very fine salt. I like flavored salts. My friend, Laura, sent me some of this from my old home in Boulder, Colorado and it is my go-to wok-corn topping