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DIY microwave popcorn


Fat Guy
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I'd like to start utilizing the microwave oven for popcorn making but I don't particularly like commercially packaged microwave popcorn. It's expensive, it often has weird flavors and it typically uses more fat than I'd like to use. Who had done well with popping in brown-paper bags, or in those microwave-popcorn bowl contraptions, or with other methods?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I got a microwave corn popper from Walmart. I think it was about $12. Plastic, sort of like a big tupperware container. I've used it for years, love it. But the plastic seems to get dark, like dirty. No matter how much I clean it, it won't get clean again.

I spray the popcorn with Pam and add salt.

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1/4 cup popcorn in a brown paper lunch bag, microwaved for 2 minutes, makes a portion suitable for a kid-size snack. I make it every day. I'm sure you could scale up with bigger portions/bags but would probably have to experiment with microwave time.

"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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I've got the Presto Power Pop

A Nordic ware popper

A catamount glass one that I use when I can find the lid. Sometimes I just cap it with parchment paper and a rubber band.

They all work okay. I probably use the Presto more than any others.

The Nordic Ware one tends to discolor after a while but are really cheap so I usually buy two at a time and toss when they get grungy.

The Presto Power pop requires that you buy the power cup "concentrators" but I reuse them several times.

I have tried the popcorn-in-a-bag trick, with white, food-grade bags - a small fire in the microwave convinced me that this was not my forte - abandoned same.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I've used that glass one above - it's OK, works well and easy enough to clean.

But I think the main thing to worry about is the brand/type of popcorn used. I have had good luck with Orville Redenbacher's Original Gourmet Popping Corn. It's not cheap, but it's the best, imo.

And I agree with HungryC. Nothing beats oil, kernels and the stove top.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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I go with a hot air popper...takes four minutes, and no oil needed.

I don't know if you have Shoppers Drug Mart where you live, but they have an organic plain microwave popcorn without all the wierd oily stuff, food coloring or artificial flavor. Just plain corn. It's not bad. Especially with butter and salt :smile:

Don't try to win over the haters. You're not the jackass whisperer."

Scott Stratten

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I have the Presto Power Pop, and the Nordic ware one. The Presto has been used a lot; it works pretty well. But it does need those power cup things. They're not expensive and can be reused, so no big deal.

The Nordic ware one doesn't work at all. I threw it away.

But now I'm back to oil in a pan, in a large part because I've given up on thinking fat is bad for me. A smaller amount of popcorn that tastes really good because it's been popped in oil and has real butter on it is the way I go.

And, like weinoo, I also think the popcorn itself matters; I buy Orville Redenbacher and it's head and shoulders above the cheap stuff.

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I currently don't own a microwave, but, previously tested a bunch of things and settled on the Presto PowerPop for the microwave. Yes, you need to buy concentrator discs, but, I've gotten up to ten uses from one disc. This device pops the corn plain and dry, with a result very much like a hot-air popper. I generally had fewer than ten unpopped kernels remain from making a full bowl of popcorn. I used it for over ten years, several times a week with no problems.

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I use the brown bag in the microwave (without oil) when I want dry-popped popcorn for infusions. I suppose I could buy an air popper but the bag works fine so I figure it's one less thing to find a place for. I haven't managed to get quite as good a pop rate as with commercial microwave popcorns (without cooking it long enough to burn some of it) but, since I'm not eating it, I don't really care about a few extra unpopped kernels. I also agree with HungryC that the texture seems different from the microwave... but I don't eat a lot of popcorn so I'm no expert.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Happy camper with my Nordic Ware poppers--have one for home and one for the office. Inexpensive, highly functional, and portion enforcing: when using an air popper, it's easier to double up on the popcorn (and thus the amount of highly calorific toppings). With this one, if I season it in the bowl after popping (with real butter, or with butter plus popcorn sauce), I have to clean the bowl before I make more. So I eat it more sensibly than voraciously.

So far, I ignore the discoloration, use with any popcorn, and keep a measuring scoop in the jar of popcorn so I know one scoop per batch, and set the timing based on the sound of the kernels, just like with the commercially bagged product (for one slightly heaping 1/3 cup measure of generic yellow popcorn, 3:15 for my home microwave, and 2:20 for the more powerful machine at work). Set aside hot popcorn, melt butter, toss, and eat.

Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)
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The best microwave popcorn I ever had was of the "on the cob" variety, it had a phenomenal freash corn flavor. I cannot recall the brand, but it used to be sold in Macys Cellar's foodcourt by the register in individual packages. As I recall they came in little burlap bags with a paper bag and a cob.

My favorite method was to rub the hard kernels with cold butter, working it into the crevices, and then sprinkling it with salt before putting it inot the bag. i found this gave just enough butter flavor (I ususally over do it) and fatty goodness to keep them from etting that styrofoam texture they can get when popped with no oil. It also helps the salt stick enough, and is easier than dumoing butter and salt in latter which are tricky to deal with in a crowded paper bag. I do confess to frequently throwing an extra pat in there and shaking after the corn is popped.

But the flavor of the corn was so good, it didn't need anything. I have tried so many brands - everything out there basically, and I have never had popped corn that tasty. Totally worth it.

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But now I'm back to oil in a pan, in a large part because I've given up on thinking fat is bad for me. A smaller amount of popcorn that tastes really good because it's been popped in oil and has real butter on it is the way I go.

Based on some preliminary tests, I'm starting to agree with you.

Tonight I tried both a brown-paper bag and a Pyrex bowl. Both produced acceptable popcorn that was not anywhere near as good as popcorn popped on the stovetop with oil.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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That has been similar to my conclusion after rejecting purchased microwave popcorn as expensive, full of weird chemicals, and not very tasty. I, however, haven't found all that much difference between plain microwaved popcorn and stovetop oil-popped corn, given that I add melted butter to both.

If I want fast and easy-- and after years of doing the below method, I now much more frequently use this one -- I melt some, usually unsalted, butter in the microwave, then put a quarter cup of popcorn in a brown paper lunch bag -- I fasten it by folding about an inch of the top down, then making two about half-inch tears in the top about an inch apart, and then folding the section between the tears down -- and nuking it for about 3-4 minutes in my ancient low-wattage microwave. Take it out when the popping slows down, put it in a big bowl, toss with butter and fine sea salt. Yummy.

A little more effort is the same popcorn put into oil (any ordinary cooking oil -- I usually have canola, but I've used corn, peanut, and generic vegetable) pre-heated over medium heat in a good-sized pan with a lid. Put lid on and let pan sit over medium heat until popping starts, then shake pan over heat, venting lid from time to time to let steam out, until popping slows way down. In the meantime, you need to have melted your bit o' butter in the microwave or a small pot. Toss the popcorn into a bowl with the butter, add your fine salt and done.

I have to say that I find a minimal difference between these methods in flavor, and the microwave bag corn is crisper. However, I tend to add more butter to the brown bag popcorn, so there may be a minor health benefit to popping in canola oil and adding a little less butter.

I am intrigued by this on the cob popcorn which I have never encountered.

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I tried the paper bag method but never achieved a consistent result. I never started a fire but I did char the bag and burn the kernels or wind up with an unacceptable amount of unpopped kernels. Then my microwave died (2 weeks after the warranty ran out) and I haven't had one since January of last year.

So I went back to the stove top. Took some experimentation to find the best utensil but I use a steel skillet with a vented lid from a pasta cooker, most recently using peanut oil. Makes enough for me and I can get almost every kernel to pop. I prefer corn without melted butter so cooking in oil is better, anyway, or it's too dry to hold any salt.

Haven't had any in several months, though. I got tired of picking the hulls out from between my teeth. This thread is severely tempting me.

I go back and forth between Orville and WF's organic corn. One time, one tastes much better than the other and then I'll get some of one variety that just tastes like cardboard.

The best popcorn I ever had was shared by a co-worker who brought back bags of the stuff from a visit to Nebraska, where she grew up. She gave ziplock bags to everybody in the office. It popped up beautifully and was fluffier and tastier than any I'd ever had before or since. She said it was because the kernels were fresh and hadn't dried out, so the trick seems to be getting your hands on as fresh kernels as you can. The next best corn I've had was some of the stuff from WF.

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I always had problems with unpopped kernels with the paper bag method.

For stovetop, I prefer to use my wok. I find that the shape is very useful as the popped corn moves upwards out of the oil and away from any danger of burning. The unpopped corn stays in the small base where it's hottest.

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I always had problems with unpopped kernels with the paper bag method.

For stovetop, I prefer to use my wok. I find that the shape is very useful as the popped corn moves upwards out of the oil and away from any danger of burning. The unpopped corn stays in the small base where it's hottest.

Now this is something I'll definitely try! I always shake the (flat-bottomed) pot vigorously, but a wok would eliminate the need for shaking. Oh, and try putting generous shakes of Tabasco into the oil when you add the kernels. Nice.

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The paper bag technique makes me anxious and I have never had great success with it. I get the best results (and the fewest unpopped kernels) with stovetop popping and fresh high-quality corn. I have an old copper-bottom Revere ware pan that does a fine job. Some of the best popcorn I ever had came from the farmer's market, sold by a farm that grows delicious organic corn.

And I have given up shaking, except that right after the corn goes in I give the pan a good roll to make sure all the kernels get coated. My theory is that if you don't shake, the popped kernels stay on top and the unpopped kernels remain on the bottom in contact with the heat until they pop.

But I do have a question: what kind of oil are you all using? I used to always use corn oil, because it made sense, but then I tried peanut oil and it didn't make a discernible difference. Does anyone use olive oil?

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I do an extremely good job popping popcorn in a lunch bag.

I stab one side of the bag a couple of times, add the popcorn to the bag, put the bag up on a corelle bowl. Under the bowl is one of those melamine like bacon racks. I put the microwave power at 70% and start the corn popping.

Once the bag starts to fill, I take it out of the microwave, give it a shake and scrape out the popped kernels.

Then the bag goes back in the microwave for another round. I continue scraping out the popped corn as it pops.

I end up with many fewer unpopped kernels and the half popped ones towards the end are my favourite.

Of course then I melt a goodly quantity of butter in a pyrex measuring cup and pour that over.

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Katie

I have a Paula Deen SS pot with a copper disk bottom(that I suspect is actually a copper plated aluminum disk, but I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth). I use a dollop of Olive oil, and a dollop of butter melted in it. I put a few kernels in while its heating, and dump in 1/3 cup of Orville's when they start to pop. I put a spatter screen on top and the lid on top of that. The spatter screen catches most, but not all the oil, but it lets the steam out. the lid stops the rest of the oil splatters. When the popping is done, I put the pot in a large bowl of cool water to stop the cooking and cool the pot enough that I can put it in my lap.

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Disposable microwave proof ziploc brand container (i reuse it), add popcorn, microwave for 2-3min, spray and toss with olive oil, add seasoning.

I think I only add about 20-30 calories from oil at most with the spray...no need to use oil for the actual popping. Need to keep the lid open a bit so steam can be let off...otherwise the popcorn gets soggy...

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I have found that with the right popcorn that a heatproof glass container (such as a 2 quart pyrex container) or even one of those Nordicware poppers will work great -- with a bit of added oil. The time/temperature and amount of popcorn will depend on your microwave. When our old microwave died, it took a few tries to find the right settings for our new oven. For either a 2 quart pyrex container or the Nordicware, we put in 3 to 5 tablespoons of popcorn and slightly less olive oil or canola oil than it would take to cover the kernels. You can use less, but we like what the oil brings to the popcorn.

Add salt and optionally, garlic powder and/or pinch of sugar and/or pinch of chile pepper.

On a high-powered microwave 3/4 power for about 3 minutes is about right. On our old microwave, it took about 3 1/2 minutes at full-power. Stop the microwave when the popping slows down to less than a pop every few seconds -- or your will seriously burn the popcorn. We have (surprisingly) found that Jolly Time yellow popcorn leaves us with the fewest unpopped kernels. Reddenbacker's microwave popcorn works well. The bulk popcorn that we tried didn't work very well.

There will be more unpopped kernels than if you do it on the stovetop, but the taste is quite close and it is a lot less work (I am lazy).

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I usually use canola or peanut oil to pop corn in my wok. I gave up on olive oils in all high heat applications after reading 'Is it time for an oil change?' by Harold McGee last year.

I don't use it for popping corn but for high temp cooking in my wok, I use safflower oil.

It is somewhat expensive at regular food stores but I buy it at the local Middle Eastern market in 2-liter containers where it is more reasonably priced.

The one I get has a higher smoke point (500°F.) than canola (and my favorite for lower temps, grapeseed oil) and it doesn't have the "fishy" aroma that one sometimes gets with overheating canola. And not all canola oils are equal - check your container to see which you have. See the graph in the link below.

I've also been using rice bran oil (smoke point 490°F.) for the past few months and like it too. It and grapeseed oil have the least "flavor" of any oil I have tried.

A good smoke point graph can be found here.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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