Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My SIL's-Mother-Is-a-Genius Caramel Popcorn

Total Time: 80 min
Prep Time: 5 min
Stove-Top Cooking Time: 15 min
Total Oven Time: 60 min

What You Need:
24 C popped popcorn*
1 C butter - butter only, margarine won't work
2 C brown sugar
1/2 C white corn syrup
 2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda

*Popcorn hints: The popcorn needs to be as fluffy and free from salt and butter as possible. I don't have an air popper, so when I make this recipe, I buy fat free microwave popcorn. Depending on the brand, 2-3 bags produce 24 cups.

What You Use:
large mixing bowl
roasting pan
large saucepan with fitting lid
candy thermometer
foil, wax paper, or parchment

FOR OPTIMAL RESULTS - Calibrate your thermometer! "Do what?" Calibrate your thermometer. Bring some water to a rolling boil (on the stove, in your saucepan). When the water is boiling, put in your thermometer. What temperature does your thermometer give? Water boils at 212 degrees F at sea level. Note if your thermometer is a degree or two or three warmer or cooler than 212 degrees. You MUST know this because the caramel has to be a certain temperature or it won't perform correctly. It'll either be too hard (from being cooked too hot) or too chewy (from not getting hot enough). I understand there's a cold water method for calibrating, but as I've never used it.


What You Do:
1. Calibrate your candy thermometer.
2. Pop the corn! Pour the popped corn into a large mixing bowl. This allows the kernels to fall to the bottom of the bowl and not accidentally get mixed in the caramel.
3. From the bowl, measure out 24 cups of popcorn. Put the measured popcorn into the roaster.
4. Preheat oven to 250.
5. Place butter, brown sugar, and light corn syrup into the saucepan on medium-high heat.
Bring mixture to a boil for about 10 min, stirring constantly, to 248 degrees F. *This is where your thermometer comes in handy. If your thermometer is off by a degree or two, adjust accordingly. My thermometer is a little on the cool side, so I give an extra degree. Do NOT let your caramel get hotter than 250 degrees. Click here to learn more.
7. Remove saucepan from heat. Add baking soda and stir in thoroughly. The mixture will foam and get very thick.
8. Stir in vanilla. The vanilla will sizzle and pop in the hot caramel. Use the pan's lid as your shield.
9. Carefully pour caramel over popcorn. Mix quickly and thoroughly. Get as much coverage as you can.
10. Place roasting pan with caramel popcorn in oven for 1 hour. Remove and stir thoroughly every 15 minutes. The first two stirrings are good times to get the extra caramel off the bottom of the pan and onto the popcorn.
11. After 1 hour, remove from oven and spread popcorn out onto foil or parchment to cool. It cools very, very fast, so work quickly to break up any clumps.

Calibrate your thermometer. Mine is not perfectly 212. I know from experience in MY kitchen that my thermometer runs cool. To compensate, I add 2 degrees for my desired temperature.

The popcorn I used for this batch.

Popped corn in a big bowl to let the kernels fall to the bottom.

The measured popcorn in my biggest roaster.

Sugar, butter, light corn syrup melting.

My temp is a split second from being too high.
QUICK! Off the heat.

Here's the mixture, OFF the heat.
I'm about to add the baking soda.

See how foamy it gets? Make sure you have a big saucepan
because the caramel rises after adding the soda.

Adding the vanilla. Notice the placement of my lid.

Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn.
Stir quickly because it cools rapidly.

Mixed and ready for the oven.

After the first 15 minutes in the oven,
it comes out looking bubbly.

Notice the caramel that's run to the bottom of the pan.
Now's the time to scape it up over the popcorn.

After 30 minutes it's darker and crisper.

At the 1 hour mark, it's ready to spread out to cool.

Mine is spread out on two lengths of foil.

Cooled and ready to store. And eat.

~ G


  1. Yoo hoo - when you bringing me some?

  2. This is my favorite popcorn EVER! I love it when you make it. Maybe I'll actually try and make it one day.



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