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Dave the Cook

Microwave popcorn and the broken carousel

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I know how microwave ovens work, but this one has me stymied.

I have a decent oven, but like most ovens over about a year old, it has a broken carousel. Since I use it mainly to reheat things, and occasionally someone wants to melt chocolate in it, said lack of rotational device hasn't been much of an issue. But every other month or so, I get on a popcorn kick. That's when I run into problems.

Before the carousel quit rotating, I enjoyed almost perfectly popped corn. I swear, if there were five unpopped kernels left, I was surprised. It was late-night, eG Forums-surfing heaven. So when the roundabout failed, I devised a couple of mitigating techniques: massage the corn/fat capsule, check the oven-insertion angle carefully (90 degrees relative to the door seemed to work best), and recalibrate the timing.

Then I switched brands, from Orville Redenbacher's Movie Theater Butter to PopSecret Movie Theater Butter (both in "snack size," lest I get carried away and consume more than two at a sitting). Despite all manner of contrivance, I can't get the Pop Secret to perform at an acceptable level. I'm left with dozens of unpopped kernels, and there's a disagreeable proportion of burned florets (I actually like a few of these). Plus, the bag leaks an icky oil over the (stationery) carousel plate; a reminder of something I don't really care to think about: what "Movie Theater Butter" might really be.

Was I just lucky with Orville? Does ConAgra know something about micorwave ovens that General Foods doesn't? Most importantly (since my conversion was precipitated by a great buy on a mega-pack of Pop Secret; at least 30 portions remain), what's my best strategy for upping the yield?

I love to hear your advice. I'll respond as soon as I can; right now, my mouth is full, and my lips are swollen with salt.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I'm pretty fond of microwave popcorn myself, and don't have a rotating carousel in my oven. My best bet has been massaging the contents of the package before oven insertion, starting the package at about two thirds the minimum time recommended on the package and then removing it and shaking it hard. I then finish cooking it in 20-30 second bursts, removing and shaking the package until the popping has slowed enough for me to know it's basically done.

Not a perfect method, but it works.

My favorite popcorn toppings lately have been a light spray of butter paired with various Penzey's spice blends like the Mural of Flavor, Szechuan Pepper-Salt or Trinidad Lemon-Garlic marinade. Mmmmmmm.... :wub:


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
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It might be the Orville has some sort of liner in the package to diffuse the microwave heat. Even in a rotating carosel, there are still going to be hot and cold spots. Adding such a lining seems like a good idea.


PS: I am a guy.

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Take a thick paper plate - like the Chinette brand or its equivalent... cut a rectangular opening in the center that's about 4" x 6" - then place it inverted it on the broken carousel platter. Now place the corn on top to pop it. You may need to turn the bag once or twice during the cooking cycle but this should solve most if not all of your problems.

And if it doesn't it was cheap enough to try! :laugh:

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Not a direct answer but a related story. A couple of years ago at work, the county prison, someone was making popcorn in the lunchroom microwave. She walked away from it and it burnt real bad. Bad enough to set off the smoke alarm. This set off the main alarm. Were I work if the main alarm is not silenced within a designated period the city fire department and police are automatically dispatched. The guy working in the control center was on break. The guy relieving him was not fully trained in shutting off the alarm. Thus, this one bag of popcorn brought 3 fire engines and a bunch of police cars. And if they come out on a false alarm, a charge is incurred.

As you may imagine, procedures for popcorn making were modified after this event as were the training of officers manning the control center

.

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. . . . . My best bet has been massaging the contents of the package before oven insertion, starting the package at about two thirds the minimum time recommended on the package and then removing it and shaking it hard.  I then finish cooking it in 20-30 second bursts, removing and shaking the package until the popping has slowed enough for me to know it's basically done.

Not a perfect method, but it works.

. . . . .

Katie, despite the -- what, three or four days in total? -- we've spent on kitchen teams together, you still underestimate my laziness.

It might be the Orville has some sort of liner in the package to diffuse the microwave heat. Even in a rotating carosel, there are still going to be hot and cold spots. Adding such a lining seems like a good idea.

Very interesting idea, though I can't imagine that GF hasn't thought of that. I'll get another pack of Orville and check out both bag construction and patent listings (if any) on the packages.

How bout this?

A windup microwave carousel, from Amazon.

The thing is, I can order a replacement part from the manufacturer. See my response to Katie, above!

If the windup carousel is made of plastic, it will melt when you pop popcorn on it. My hubby found this out the hard way.

Not a direct answer but a related story. A couple of years ago at work, the county prison, someone was making popcorn in the lunchroom microwave. She walked away from it and it burnt real bad. Bad enough to set off the smoke alarm. This set off the main alarm. Were I work if the main alarm is not silenced within a designated period the city fire department and police are automatically dispatched. The guy working in the control center was on break. The guy relieving him was not fully trained in shutting off the alarm. Thus, this one bag of popcorn brought 3 fire engines and a bunch of police cars. And if they come out on a false alarm, a charge is incurred.

As you may imagine, procedures for popcorn making were modified after this event as were the training of officers manning the control center

.

If it weren't for the hopefully obvious gender difference, I'd suggest that these two events might be related. Regardless -- Mike, I'd love to know more about popcorn popping procedures at Pennsylvania state penitentiaries. Seriously.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Take  a thick paper plate - like the Chinette brand or its equivalent...  cut a rectangular opening in the center that's about 4" x 6" - then place it inverted it on the broken carousel platter. Now place the corn on top to pop it. You may need to turn the bag once or twice during the cooking cycle but  this should solve most if not all of your problems.

And if it doesn't it was cheap enough to try!  :laugh:

That's what I'm talkin' 'bout! (Well, except for the turning part, which I'll ignore.) I'll post results after tonight's binge.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I used to love Pop Secret. And for years I had a microwave without a carousel. So maybe it's Pop Secret that's changed its formula. My new micowave requires an inverted glass pie plate in order to make popcorn. geesh.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Or maybe manufacturers have changed the way they build ovens. Or both.

I have to say that I prefer Orville, but the difference is slight enough that when a deal like the one I got comes along, I'm okay with switching -- or I was until this problem manifested itself. A 20% reduction in yield unnerves my latent F&B Controller.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I can't comment regarding microwave popcorn because I always make popcorn on the stovetop. (It requires more attention but I really enjoy doing it and I think it tastes superior.) What I can say with great confidence is that different brands and packages of popcorn offer very different results, and also there's some batch variation within brand. There's also no correlation (or maybe even an inverse relationship) between price and performance. Almost without exception, if you have access to popcorn in bulk format, that will be the best -- you'll have the fewest unpopped kernels and the flavor will be nice and fresh. In general, the worst is anything in a jar or can, and that means almost all the most expensive brands. In the middle are the bagged brands, like if you can get Goya or Jiffy Pop in a one-pound bag (the same kind of bag you'd get garbanzo beans in) that's going to be very reliable. So, I can only assume that there are performance differences among microwave popcorn brands as well. There may be technology differences having to do with the bags or oil (I suspect more oil in one brand could explain better popping), but there are also surely differences just having to do with the kernels themselves.


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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If it weren't for the hopefully obvious gender difference, I'd suggest that these two events might be related. Regardless -- Mike, I'd love to know more about popcorn popping procedures at Pennsylvania state penitentiaries. Seriously.

It messes up your alliteration Dave, but I work at the county prison not a state one. However, after the incident I talked about a memo was generated and sent out to all employees. It clearly stated that anyone making popcorn in the microwave could not walk away from it for any reason. It was not clear as to who would be in charge of this, but at the time several smart asses wanted to know if the could be hired as prison popcorn monitor.

Inmates do not have access to a microwave, this is a staff issue only.

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