First, throw out your microwave. Throw out all your packages of gross yet expensive microwave popcorn with all the repulsive fake butter flavoring that reeks up your kitchen for weeks. Go to the store and find a bag of plain stovetop corn. It should cost less than two dollars, unless it's some sort of horrendous economy size. Buy it.
If you don't have any plain tasteless vegetable oil, buy some of that too. You only need a little. We use soy oil for popcorn.
Get out a saucepan with a lid. It should be at least two quarts. Bigger is fine; smaller will cause popcorn overflow. Put it on the stove.
Proportions for popping corn on the stovetop: most brands of popcorn will tell you to use 1/4 cup oil and 1/3 cup popcorn. We usually use less oil, aiming for just enough to cover the bottom of the pan: maybe a couple tablespoons total. Then we eyeball the popcorn later, covering the bottom of the pan with it as well. If you feel more comfortable with straight 1/4 and 1/3 proportion, go ahead and do that.
Put the pan over medium high heat. Add oil and three kernels of popcorn. Cover the pan and shake it around occasionally while you wait for it to get hot.
When the pan is hot enough, the test kernels inside it will pop. Listen out for them. When all three have popped, add the rest of the popcorn. Immediately clamp the lid back on the pan, put it back on the burner, and start shaking it constantly. Shake and shake and shake.
After a minute or two, your new kernels will start to pop. Listen to them. The noise will start slowly, build up to a massive crescendo, then taper off. When you're not hearing pops more than once every few seconds, you can be pretty sure your popcorn is done.
Ok. What do you want on your popcorn?
Nearly everyone wants salt and butter/acceptable vegan margarine. So. Pour the popcorn out of the pan and into a big bowl. Add a chunk of butter/whatever to the pan. It will hiss and start melting immediately. Swirl it around the pan until liquid. Then you can either pour the butter over the popcorn or pour maybe half the popcorn back into the pan to absorb it. I generally put the popcorn back into the pan, stir it, dump it back into the serving bowl, salt it quickly, and stir some more. If there's butter left in the pan, I do it again. This allows for maximum butter and salt absorption, while keeping the popcorn pretty hot.
Do you want anything else?
- hard grating cheese like parmesan or romano
- paprika or cayenne for hot hot popcorn
You can add spices with the butter and salt, but things like cheese will melt. Add them in the bowl. Use the finest grater you have, so the cheese will get all feathery and stick to the popcorn well.
Other things: this is really the main way I like popcorn. Have it with some icy soda for movie theatre action, or with apple juice for Little House on the Prairie night. I don't know why I associate the apple juice with Little House on the Prairie, since technically they only did popcorn and milk, but whatever. Apple juice and popcorn go together like That.