When did it happen? Someone please tell me - when did microwave popcorn become the default way that we make popcorn?
Boy did we take a bad turn with that one.
Home made popcorn is awesome, cheap, and good for you. It takes maybe 6 minutes - it's not like you're making a risotto. I'm begging you; drop the bag of Act II and step away from the microwave. If you can shake a pan over a burner you can make beter, cheaper, more healthful popcorn that will taste so good that you might not ever eat the microwave stuff again.
You need popcorn, oil, a pot and salt. I'll break it down by component:
Popcorn: I use the store brand, bagged kind and keep it an an empty Orville Reddenbacher jar. The jar is nicer then a bag for keeping popciorn fresh.
Oil: I'm going to start off right here and say that I make popcorn in coconut oil. Why? Because I've tried the others and coconut tastes best. That said, just about ANY oil you happen to have in your cupboard will work. Even olive oil. Corn oil, canola oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil - whatever - it'll work.
Pot: I use a wok to make mine, but just about any large pot with a lid will work too. A rounded, heavy bottom would be ideal. The lid should have at least one vent.
Salt: I use Flavacol, which is an artificial butter flavored salt. It's got that 'movie theater' taste. If you're not into artificial flavor, Pickling salt is excellent to use because the crystals are so much smaller than table salt.
Get the pot on medium high, pour in about 2 tablespoons of oil. When the oil starts to ripple, add about 3 tablespoons of unpopped corn. You want all the kernels to have good oil contact, but don't want them drowning. I add the salt at this phase too. Put on a lid and start shaking.
It'll take 2 or 3 minutes before you begin to hear popping. When it starts slowing down, kill the heat, keep shaking, and let caryover pop the last ones. Quickly dump your corn into a large bowl.
If your pot's lid didn't have good ventilation, your popcorn might be a little bit chewy. This can be fixed. Put the popcorn in an oven-safe metal bowl and put it in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes and it'll crisp right up.