Get poppin' this holiday season
December 17th, 2013
04:00 PM ET
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America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook’s Illustrated magazine, and on our two public television cooking shows.

Pop up flavor, not fat, with this resolution-friendly snack. String it on your Christmas tree, Festivus pole or right into your belly.

Popcorn with Parmesan and Black Pepper
Makes about 14 cups

When cooking the popcorn, be sure to keep the lid on tight and shake the pot vigorously to prevent scorching. We like to use a rasp-style grater for the Parmesan here because it makes small, delicate shreds of cheese that stick nicely to the warm popcorn.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil and pepper together in a small skillet over medium‐low heat until warm and fragrant, about 1 minute. Meanwhile, heat a large Dutch oven over medium‐high heat for 2 minutes. Add the water and popcorn, cover, and cook, shaking frequently, until the first few kernels begin to pop. Continue to cook, shaking vigorously, until the popping has mostly stopped. Pour the popcorn immediately into a large bowl, toss with the pepper oil, salt, and Parmesan cheese, and serve.

More from America's Test Kitchen:
10 Ways to Be a Better Baker [Infographic]
The Cook's Illustrated Gadget Gift Guide for 2013
The Science Behind Bubbly Beverages? Cheers to That!
Easiest Brussels Sprouts in the Slow Cooker
The Book That Every Cook Will Want for Christmas



soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Wrathtard

    Chris Kimball is a god and the Test Kitchen is his Dominion. I'd give my right eye to see him belt out Shakedown Street.

    December 27, 2013 at 11:25 am | Reply
  2. Shan

    Um, yeah, what those other folks said. I'm getting tired of CNN's really grabby headlines on ho-hum articles. Are you really that desperate for page views?

    December 26, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Reply
  3. Geoff Walerak

    36 chefs, 2500 square feet of state of the art equipment and THIS is what they come up with. This isn't even the best way to distribute the fat and pepper. Keep up the, um, "work."

    December 26, 2013 at 10:45 pm | Reply
  4. SixDegrees

    My experience with recipes from America's Test Kitchen has been...disappointing. They're technically fine, as a rule. But the way they're developed – dozens of minor variations, tested by a panel, with the high vote winning – always seems to turn out food that tastes like it was concocted by a committee, and is bland and uninteresting.

    While the techniques are sound, the recipes themselves are rarely better than just a basis or starting point for something that can be vastly improved by actually tasting – and correcting – as you go along.

    December 26, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  5. Jefferson

    I thought it was going to be that thing where you take a date to the movies and get popcorn for two and then cut a whole in the bottom of the container and sit it on "your lap".
    I guess you could still do it with parmesan cheese.

    December 26, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Reply
  6. RickFromTexas

    I can't be the only one who clicked on this article expecting an entirely different story. I wish to register a complaint, this is not a popcorn trick I can play on my wife or my girlfriend (or both at the same time) at the movies. Now where's that suggestion box?

    December 25, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Reply
    • Gothko

      Amen! Thought it was popcorn pranks, not a fancy snack.

      December 26, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  7. Dave

    CAUTION CAUTION CAUTION
    I WOULD NOT SUGGEST ADDING WATER TO HOT OIL. (ESPECIALY OIL SATURATED WITH BLACK PEPPER)
    I WOULD BE EVEN MORE CAUTIOUS TO THOSE THINKING ABOUT DOUBLING OR MORE UP ON THE BATCH SIZE.
    IT WOULD NICE IF THE AUTHER OF THIS ARTICLE COULD DECIDE ON WETHER TO USE A LOW HEAT OIL LIKE EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL WHICH WILL LIKEY BLACKEN THE POPCORN VERY QUICKLY OR A HIGH HEAT OIL LIKE PEANUT OR CANOLA OIL, AGAIN ADDING WATER TO PEPPER LADEN OIL DOESNT SOUND SAFE.

    December 25, 2013 at 5:57 am | Reply
    • Donna

      You need to re-read this article... note that the oil and pepper are heated in a small skillet and added to the popcorn after it is popped. Meanwhile the popcorn is popped in a dutch oven with a table spoon of water. Nowhere does it say to add water to hot oil.

      December 25, 2013 at 7:53 am | Reply
    • Sassy

      Caution caution caution. Reading the above post will make you dumber because the poster didn't even read the article.

      December 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Reply
    • BeerBrewerDan

      Caution, caution, caution! Your caps lock is on and you have poor reading comprehension skills!!!

      December 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Reply
      • Professor Trollworth@Alcoholic Dan

        Sober up pal, and learn to live and let live...

        December 25, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Reply
    • fj

      caution caution caution
      i cannot read, write, nor spell. but despite my severe retardation, i enjoy reading and posting about popcorn.

      December 26, 2013 at 1:27 am | Reply
    • Sandra

      The problem is that the video doesn't match the article, something a reader would expect. Stupid publishing on the editor's part.

      December 26, 2013 at 11:29 am | Reply
    • heyared

      Did you read the recipe completely? Because I read to use a separate pot for the water and popcorn...

      December 26, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  8. oliveoil

    I always thought the best popcorn trick was the one with the hole in the bottom of the carton.

    December 25, 2013 at 2:24 am | Reply
    • ALLIE B

      HOT BUTTER AND SALT IN THAT AREA DOES NOT SOUND EXCITING TO ME

      December 26, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Reply
  9. J D

    OK, video totally doesn't match the instructions. :: sigh :: I wanted to see how their 'water' trick looked (if that's what the trick was).

    December 25, 2013 at 12:56 am | Reply
  10. Mr. Justice

    Really? Put cheese on popcorn and then hang it on your Christmas tree? Somebody has been hitting the spiked eggnog.

    December 24, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Reply
  11. In Back of the Theater

    Absolootlee a horrible thing to do to popcorn. Your local theater would be outta biz in a week! Merry Christmas.

    December 24, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  12. Curious

    I've never heard of popping the corn kernels in water before. Am I the only one? Or is this a typo?

    December 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Reply
    • Curious

      Even the video shows the chef cooking the popcorn in oil

      December 24, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Reply
    • Bob Johnson

      I was curious about that, too. I found several recipes on several websites where they used water instead of oil to pop the corn. Guess it works because of the steam created by the water evaporating. All the recipes then poured an oil or butter over it with various things added to the oil/butter.

      December 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  13. Krandal

    Best ever? I've seen better. Take that.

    December 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Reply
  14. Burbank

    There is no popcorn quite as good as Jolly Time White! I don't know why people like yellow popcorn, the taste and texture is not nearly as good as white kernel popcorn. Yellow color does not mean it's going to fool people into thinking it tastes like butter; but I think some people must think so, and that must be why they prefer it.

    December 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Reply
    • clevercandi

      I'm a white popcorn girl myself, having grown up in Indiana. Daddy used to buy it from the local factory in Van Buren 50 lbs at a time!!!

      Happy Christmas and Merry New Year to all!

      December 25, 2013 at 9:49 am | Reply
  15. NotYoDaddy

    Or...........

    How to make your Popcorn smell like old dirty socks.

    December 24, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Reply
    • ∞ Weeds ∞

      soak it in cheap tequila

      December 25, 2013 at 12:56 am | Reply
  16. PanOptica

    How is this a trick? Front page headline reads best trick EVER. It's making popcorn from a recipe.

    I guess the trick was getting me to click on the link with a misleading headline.

    December 24, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Reply
    • LSG

      The trick is in the Youtube video inserted in the article. It is actually a good trick to guarantee that all the kernels will pop almost simultaneously.

      December 24, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  17. AleeD®

    Popcorn is delicious when sprinkled with parmesan cheese & curry.

    December 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  18. Ms. Grammar

    If I can't have mine with extra butter and salt, I would LOVE some from Johnson's Popcorn (New Jersey Shore – Ocean City). Loaded with buttery (no molasses) caramel. OMG...it's so good!

    December 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Reply

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