A Sweet and Salty Treat:  Kettle Corn

A Sweet and Salty Treat: Kettle Corn

It’s almost Thanksgiving and there’s a whole lotta cookin’ going on in my kitchen.  Cranberry sauce, two kinds of stuffing, pie, pie, pie and, of course, turkey.  My fabulous sister-in-law, Erin, is easing my stress this week by bringing the rest of the sides, roasted beet and goat cheese salad, green beans with shallots and bacon, Grandma’s famous rolls and more cranberry sauce because you can never have enough.

If you are toiling away in your kitchen getting ready for the labor of love that is Thanksgiving, maybe you need a little something to keep your strength up without ruining your appetite and I’ve got just the thing, kettle corn.

Kettle corn walks the line between sweet and salty, healthy and just a little sinful.  I make this crunchy snack for movie nights because it gives me that feeling of a sweet treat without breaking out the real candy.  You see kettle corn for sale at Fall festivals and pumpkin patches for several dollars a bag, but you can make this in your very own home for pennies.


  • Vegetable Oil
  • Sugar
  • Kosher Salt
  • Popcorn

When it comes to making popcorn and kettle corn, this is my secret weapon.  My heavy-duty nonstick Calphalon stock pot may be grungy-looking, but it has never failed to produce perfectly popped popcorn.  When it comes to kettle corn, I have learned one very important trick to ensure that same consistent success.  Want to know the trick?  I know you do, so read on.

Start with your own heavy-duty non-stick stock pot with a lid.  Coat the bottom with vegetable oil.  I use canola oil.  Sprinkle the oil with 2 tablespoons sugar, a large pinch of kosher salt and enough corn kernels to cover the bottom of your pan, about 1/3-1/2 cup.  Give the kernels a stir so they are coated in the sweet and salty oil and then kind of pat them back into a layer on the bottom.

Partially cover your pot and heat over medium-high heat until the kernels start to pop.  I take a dishtowel and drape it around the side of the open lid closest to me and the handles.  This allows me to pick up and shake the whole thing without burning my hands.  It makes my friends nervous that I’ll start a fire, but that hasn’t happened…yet.

Let the kernels pop, shaking the pan occasionally until the popped kernels are about 3 inches deep.  And now it’s time for the…(drum roll please)

SECRET TO KETTLE CORN There is a fine line between caramelized and burned.  To make sure you don’t cross that line, remove the cover at this point and stir the popcorn with a wooden spoon.  The popcorn is deep enough and sticky enough that it will no longer fly out of the pot.  You might get a jumper once in a while, but it’s rare.  The reason for the spoon and the stirring is to make sure that the popped kernels don’t rest on the bottom too long and that the unpopped kernels continue to make their way to the bottom of the pot.

When the popping slows to a 2-3 seconds between pops, remove from the heat and immediately transfer the contents of the pot to a large bowl and eat by the handful.

Now it’s time to go back to the kitchen.  Happy Thanksgiving!