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What's the secret to movie theater popcorn?

If you've ever made popcorn at home, you probably thought that it was missing... something. Maybe it was delicious. Maybe it was cooked perfectly. Maybe you doused it in an alarming amount of savory butter. But even so, it probably lacked a certain indefinable quality that you've come to expect from movie theater popcorn.

That quality, that secret ingredient, that x-factor...is coconut oil.

The Movie Theater Difference

While different theater chains use different recipes, most pop their kernels in melted coconut oil, not butter as you might have guessed. The resulting popcorn doesn't taste like coconut, obviously, but the oil imbues the kernels with a subtle sweetness that'll instantly remind you of a night out at the movies.

Theaters typically use refined coconut oil, which has the same nutritional profile of virgin coconut oil, but with a higher smoke point and a milder flavor. You can experiment with both versions, but popcorn cooked in refined oil is more likely to taste like the stuff you'd buy at the theater.

If you've never made popcorn at home before, it really couldn't be easier:

1) Put two tablespoons of coconut oil in a large pot, and melt it over medium heat on the stove. If you want healthier popcorn, use a little less oil. If you're feeling indulgent, use a bit more.  

2) Toss two or three popcorn kernels into the pot, and throw a lid on it.

3) Once you hear one of the kernels pop, dump in a half cup or so of kernels, and give the whole thing a shake to coat them in oil.

4) Put the lid back on the pot, but leave it slightly tilted to allow some steam to escape. Continue to give the pot a little shake every 30 seconds or so.  

5) Within a few minutes, your kernels should be popping quickly and vigorously. But once the popping slows down to a frequency of once every two or three seconds, you should dump everything into a bowl so it doesn't burn.

6) Add salt, melted butter, or whatever else you want on your popcorn, and enjoy.

Considering that four pounds of popcorn kernels costs about $11, and a jar of coconut oil costs less than a medium popcorn at the movies, this is an easy and cost-efficient snack that'll turn your home movie nights into proper nights at the movies (at home).


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