How to Make Caramel Corn

The more you eat, the more you want. It’s been the Cracker Jack slogan since 1895 and it’s still true. There’s a little bit of candy-making process to this never-fail treat, but it’s painless if you can lay your hands on a thermometer. First, we make the popcorn. Throw a few kernels in a 3-4 quart saucepan with a couple tablespoons of oil and put the pan over medium-high heat.

When you have a couple of pops, you know you’re ready.

Add the rest of the corn.

Cover the pan and leave it slightly off-kilter to allow steam to escape. Shake it back and forth over the burner. What does that do? It helps un-popped kernels to settle to the bottom where it’s hotter. Oh, and yes, in case you were wondering, this wooden pastry board doubles as a cooktop. Very hush-hush technology, I hope to take it to market soon, make a billion dollars, and kiss this cyber-popsicle stand goodbye forever!

But where was I? Oh yes: pop the corn.

Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray…

…then pour the popcorn and the peanuts in. Give it a stir. The peanuts will all settle to the bottom. Don’t worry about it. Put the bowl in a very low oven — under 175 if your oven will go that low.

Then, make the caramel. Combine all the ingredients except for the soda and salt in a 2-3 quart saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and swirl until the butter melts. The let it sit and boil until it reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit. It will take about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine your soda and salt in a bowl and stir to combine.

Lay out a piece of parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

When the caramel hits 300 degrees, take it off the heat…

…and stir in the salt/soda mixture.

It will start growing. This is the part where you’ll wonder if you haven’t made a big, big mistake because this stuff looks downright weird. However there’s method to the baking soda madness, since it’s creating an ultra-light caramel that will lay on extremely thin.

It will keep growing and probably fill up the pan. Stir it down to contain the reaction.

Remove the popcorn from the oven and pour on the crazy caramel. You need not use every last bit of it. I didn’t. I left maybe 15% of it in the pan.

Toss with two wooden spoons.

Lay out the big mass of caramel corn on the greased parchment and separate it into small pieces with the spoons or by hand (careful, it’s hot).

And you’re done! You’ll need to soak your caramel pan in water for at least 20 minutes before you can clean it, because the caramel will set up like rock. If you make caramel corn in humid weather, be sure to store it in an airtight container or zip-type plastic bag. Above all, don’t start eating it, because you won’t stop.

And with that I’m outta here for at least a week. Summer vacation. Back soon kiddies!

4 thoughts on “How to Make Caramel Corn”

  1. Hello Joe,
    We are HUGE fans of your caramel popcorn in our house. I was wondering, how far in advance can you make this caramel popcorn and it will still taste good? One day, one week, 10 days, 2 weeks?
    I want to make this as a party favor to give to guests, but because I am doing all of the cooking for the party (we will have nearly 40 guests), I was hoping that this recipe I might be able to do in advance. Since when I make your recipe for caramel popcorn it never lasts more than 24 hours, so what is your feeling on it?
    Thank you ever so much,
    Laura

    1. Hey Laura!

      Great to hear. It’ll depend on how dry you can keep it, since humidity will soften the caramel. In a dry house, inside a well sealed container it should last for a week or more.

      Cheers,

      – Joe

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