How to Microwave Gourmet Popcorn in a Brown Paper Bag
August 9, 2010 6:35 AM   Subscribe

I tried this, and it worked OK - but I prefer the heavy pan with a lid method. Plus, no paper bags to worry about, just a quick clean of the pan afterwards.
posted by HopperFan at 6:38 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been doing this (and mentioning it on MeFi and elsewhere) for years. Not a replacement for pot-popped, but most definitely a replacement for microwave bags, ugh.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:41 AM on August 9, 2010

I melt butter and add a sprinkle of garlic powder and as much parmesan cheese as the butter can hold and pour it over the popcorn.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:43 AM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've done it lots of times; you can even reuse the bag! But the popcorn comes out a bit chewy compared to pan popped and "pro" style microwave popcorn.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:43 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

When microwaves first came out we did this all the time. This is nothing new.
posted by thorny at 6:44 AM on August 9, 2010

I also use a special popcorn seasoning mix that I made: toasted onion powder, smoked paprika, sugar , a touch of salt and ground sumac. Yum!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:44 AM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

How to get a Blog Post out of Duh
posted by DU at 6:46 AM on August 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

Ha. We were doing this in my home ec class in the early 80's.

Not to push a product, but the Presto Power Pop makes about the best popcorn ever. With or without oil, it's up to you.
The little cardboard things it uses are re-usable for a very very many times, and the most I usually clean it is a quick wipe out with a paper towel.
Friends have commented repeatedly on the quality of the popcorn it makes, so I often end up giving them as gifts.
posted by newpotato at 6:49 AM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Having done a fair bit of camping this summer, can I instigate a minor derail into the wonder that is Jiffy Pop? It's wondrous.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:57 AM on August 9, 2010

Oh yeah, we have that Power Pop thing too. The little cardboard thing is apparently magical but I'm not sure how it works. It does make good popcorn. It's certainly faster and quieter than air but easier and healthier than pan and in quantities larger than paper bag.
posted by DU at 6:57 AM on August 9, 2010

This reminds me, I want a hot air popper.
posted by bwg at 7:05 AM on August 9, 2010

I just use one of these things. No bags, no little cardboard things; just popcorn.
posted by MrVisible at 7:09 AM on August 9, 2010

My dad did this one time. Bag caught on fire and he melted part of the interior of the microwave. My family is never one to let a mocking moment go unused, so Mom gave him a fancy microwave popcorn popper for Christmas that year.
posted by 100watts at 7:19 AM on August 9, 2010

From the Power Pop description:
That means no more of the unpopped, scorched kernels typically left behind when popping bagged corn.

Thing is...i LOVE those scorched kernels. If some one sold a bag of just scorched kernels I would buy it.
posted by spicynuts at 7:25 AM on August 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Whirley-Pop is also a good popping product, but on the stovetop, not in the microwave, obviously. Super easy, uses very little oil. There are many ways to make good popcorn, easily and cheaply.

I commend this blogger's focus on discouraging people from buying microwave popcorn, though. That stuff is foul and unhealthy - too much hydrogenated icky oils and possibly suspect by-products.
posted by dammitjim at 7:26 AM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Infuse some rosemary in hot butter. Strain the rosemary out, or leave it in. Whatever. Pour it on the popcorn.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:32 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

spicynuts: yes.
posted by Makwa at 7:45 AM on August 9, 2010

I used to do this all the time. Drizzle a cap-full of good olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and toss. You won't miss the Yellow #5.
posted by raztaj at 7:52 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been popping my own popcorn since some lean times last fall. Right now I'm in love with the stove top method, but using a few tablespoons of coconut oil instead of the regular canola. I've heard that coconut oil is supposed to be healthier than other fats, but I don't care. I love the subtle, not heavy, coconutty flavor it imparts to the kernels. It's also tasty with a tiny lashing of sugar or a sprinkle of salt.

posted by Alison at 7:56 AM on August 9, 2010

The thing about the prepackaged microwave popcorn is that it has a fixed portion size & fixed calories. Part of the goal is to have less choice rather than more.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:58 AM on August 9, 2010

I do this a lot. Works really well for me, also, el cheapo and much better calorie control.

I figure every time I have popcorn I'm sticking it to the HFCS crowd, because this is that much less corn going into that crappy junk food I'm not eating, or something.

*well I feel like I'm sticking it to SOMEBODY, anyway
posted by disclaimer at 8:00 AM on August 9, 2010

Alton says you can use staples, and he's right. There's no arcing because the staples are far shorter than the wavelength of microwaves. (Look out, it's SCIENCE!)

My partner prefers hot air popcorn. Styrofoam, I says.

I like mine from the theatre with actual butter, or failing that in a stirred oil popper.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:01 AM on August 9, 2010

I figure you'd need at least a small amount of oil and I'd poke some holes in the top of the bag to let out the steam. You get fluffier, crunchier popcorn that way.

Might try this at work in a pinch, but at home it is stove-pop all the way.
posted by cross_impact at 8:19 AM on August 9, 2010

We bought one of these and use pure coconut oil so it's just like movie popcorn.

Yeah, it's bad for you, but it's so tasty and it smells heavenly.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:20 AM on August 9, 2010

That may be true, but you can't pop goulash.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:27 AM on August 9, 2010

How to Make Popcorn:

1. Get some popcorn kernels.
2. Make them sufficiently hot.

Why yes, I am a rocket scientist.
posted by rusty at 8:28 AM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Obscure Reference, if you measure the kernels, salt, and fat, it's pretty easy to control the nutrition you're getting. And popcorn kernels are resistent to packing, so you don't even need to measure it by weight to get an accurate amount.

Yes, it's a tiny bit more work than buying the 100 calorie bags from the supermarket, but you just have to do the math once. After that, scoop with the appropriate measuring cup, microwave, done.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:32 AM on August 9, 2010

Speaking of poppers, who else here bought a popcorn popper to roast coffee beans but ended up using it to airpop popcorn on a regular basis because it's just easier than getting a pot greasy? It was a couple of you guys in an AskMe who told me to buy it...
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:34 AM on August 9, 2010

Pre-fab microwave popcorn is just awful. I don't mess with it anymore.

I'm solidly in the stove-top camp. I use peanut oil and good kernels. I like to play with oils. Corn oil is OK; sesame oil didn't work out as well as I hoped.

Some things I've discovered for popcorn:
  • When I got a new stove, I learned I couldn't pop it at full burn--too many old maids.
  • However, if I had to dump some popped into the bowl and resume popping, turning up the heat was a good thing.
  • Shake as the popping starts, to keep the unpopped kernels on the bottom
  • I use a big, wide mixing bowl. This is not just because I like a lot of popcorn, but to expose as much of it to the air as possible. Giving it a few minutes for all the steam to escape, in my mind, makes a crispier product. I do similar things to microwave popcorn (dump it out on a napkin and spread it out) or fresh cut fries (at places like Five Guys or Penn Station).
I think tonight I'm going to be having some popcorn and a Tsingtao.
posted by MrGuilt at 8:50 AM on August 9, 2010

spicynuts: "Thing is...i LOVE those scorched kernels. If some one sold a bag of just scorched kernels I would buy it."

I am going to change your world.
posted by boo_radley at 8:57 AM on August 9, 2010 [12 favorites]

I've been doing this for a while now, because I want to stay away from commercial microwave popcorn, and because I'm too lazy/easily distracted to make it in a pan. I'd say the paper bag method yields popcorn that is a bit inferior to pan popped or a good airpopper, but better than commercial bagged popcorn. So for the lazy popcorn enthusiast such as myself, that middle ground is just fine.

But one of these days I'll find the airpopper we had when I was a kid - the lid was a big bowl that had a compartment on the top where you could put butter. It would melt during the popping process and evenly coat the popcorn.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:59 AM on August 9, 2010

Our favorite popping method is with salt on the stovetop.

If you don't own a microwave and don't like using creepy oils to pan-pop, or if you have a secret fondness for Laura Ingalls Wilder, this will change your life.

Amazing Salt-Popped Corn

Get a stockpot out. Pour in a big handful of kosher or pickling salt. Add corn. Cover with a tight lid and crank the heat to high, shaking the pot occasionally.

Once the corn starts popping, turn down the heat, crack the lid to vent the steam occasionally, and keep shaking, which keeps popped corn from sticking and continuously filters unpopped kernels to the scorching-hot salt at the bottom.

Pour out into a bowl and season to your liking. Your pan will be sparkling clean. Your stove will have a couple stray grains of salt on it, which are easy to pick up, unlike oil spatters. You will find the popcorn to be light, airy, and crisp. And every single kernel will be popped.

Improvements to The Method:

- find a colander or spatter screen that fits the top of your stovetop. This makes the popcorn even lighter and crisper, since so much steam gets vented off right away.
- use a REALLY deep stockpot, and just let the top layer of kernels be the "lid" that keeps popping corn from flying out. You can just stir with a spoon if your pan is deep enough.
- do this in a Whirley-Pop. Literally no cleanup.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:17 AM on August 9, 2010 [14 favorites]

errr, stockpot, not stovetop.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:19 AM on August 9, 2010

I have never once NOT ONCE gotten this to work, and I tried many times. Honestly the stovetop method works fine for me, and only takes the tiniest extra bit of time and effort.
posted by ErikaB at 9:20 AM on August 9, 2010

You can also do this without the bag. It's pretty darn cool watching the kernels ricochet around inside the microwave although it's best to be prepared for the tidal wave when you open the door to get your popcorn. One time I did this with popping corn on the cob and the cob shot around in there like a rocket, for a few seconds I was actually concerned we might end up with a containment breach.
posted by jamaro at 9:21 AM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Customers used to ask me what we used on our movie theater popcorn and I wouldn't tell them because it was disgusting. Flavacol and some hydrogenated oil crap was basically it. Heated in a machine the night workers did not always clean responsibly. I don't eat popcorn anymore unless I pop it myself.
posted by mmmleaf at 9:44 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

The thing about the prepackaged microwave popcorn is that it has a fixed portion size & fixed calories.

Any regular sack of popcorn kernels is going to have caloric info and a suggested serving amount (mine says 3tbsp. of kernels).

I don't understand how anyone can NOT get this to work. Pour kernels into bag, fold top closed, nuke for 2 minutes. Popcorn results!
posted by hermitosis at 9:47 AM on August 9, 2010

I've been doing it this way since I finally moved into an apartment with a microwave. I bought a little package of brown paper bags and some superfancy farmer's market hull-less white corn. It's much easier than dirtying a pot, and way faster. But it's true - the texture isn't quite as good as stovetop.
Now I'm curious about peachfuzz' stockpot method. Doesn't it burn without oil?
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:04 AM on August 9, 2010

I don't understand how anyone can NOT get this to work. Pour kernels into bag, fold top closed, nuke for 2 minutes. Popcorn results!

Two reasons people might not be having success:
  1. The microwave. Some microwaves don't distribute the waves evenly. So what you end up with is a bunch of unpopped kernels at the bottom, a few normal popped kernels, and a horrible stench-filled Mordor mass of burnt popcorn right in the center. If you have a microwave like this, basically your only option is to only expect half the kernels to be popped, and to dump the unpopped kernels in the trash (most of them may not pop on a second go-around either)
  2. The popcorn itself. If the moisture content of the popcorn is not high enough, it will not pop as robustly. I'm not sure if there's a "best by" stamped on bags of popcorn but if a batch of kernels is old enough it may have dried out to the point that there's no trapped moisture to explode.
I'm guessing that #1 is the reason for most people who have success with stovetop but not with the microwave. Most microwave popcorn bags have a special surface that prevents scorching, which is why they do tend to perform better than the paper bag in some microwaves:
The design of a microwave popcorn bag is specifically keyed to avoid popped kernel scorching, an undesirable effect that takes place when popped kernels are heated above 300 °F (149 °C).[1]

A susceptor, usually a metallised film laminated onto the paper of the bag, absorbs microwaves and concentrates heat at the film interface, thus ensuring a heat distribution focused on the hard-to-heat flavor coating so that the unpopped kernels are evenly coated prior to popping, thereby ensuring even flavor throughout the product.
Oh, and also: nuke for 2 minutes. Do this in my microwave, and you now have slightly hot, utterly unpopped popcorn kernels. Enjoy!
posted by Deathalicious at 10:10 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah the tone of this blog posting is downright annoying. FUCK YOU GET AN AIR POPPER! Heheh.. they sell them at drug stores for cheap and it definitely pays for itself in the long run.. or else do the pot pop method. Whatever. Maybe the blogger will turn this into a book someday.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:11 AM on August 9, 2010

Second to Peachfuzz, if you want crispy, light, non chewy popcorn let as much of the steam escape as possible while popping. A deep pot with a grease splatter screen to catch the first bunch of popping kernels is the best. I have seen caramel corn vendors popping in a 2 to 3 foot deep pot with no lid. They have high btu burners and stir the corn with a wooden paddle. Theater poppers also do not hold the steam in, the lid lifts as the corn pops it flows up over and out.
posted by flummox at 10:28 AM on August 9, 2010

I am going to change your world.

posted by spicynuts at 11:20 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

>This reminds me, I want a hot air popper.

Jeez, hit a thrift store. They make dry-as-bone popcorn, but they are great for roasting green coffee beans.
posted by spock at 12:16 PM on August 9, 2010

Corn. Salt. Pan. Fire.

What is a "stovetop"?
posted by erniepan at 12:38 PM on August 9, 2010

Two reasons people might not be having success:
The microwave...
The popcorn itself...

And a third: the bag itself.

A lot of sandwich bag packs come in a kind of plastic-lined or paper-plastic variety, which can be difficult to perceive when still in its own packaging. No good. Needs to be plain paper.

I'm interested in some of the microwave products linked to by people in this thread, though, because I am tired of searing-hot, demon-propelled seeds ripping through the bag and scattering all over my microwave (which is usually what prevents me from re-using a bag).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:50 PM on August 9, 2010

Reading this thread is inspiring me to get this out and pop some popcorn. It's how we made it when I was a kid, and neither air popped nor microwave (ew gross) comes close.
posted by immlass at 1:15 PM on August 9, 2010

erniepan: "What is a "stovetop"?"

It's like a TV, but you can cook roast beef in it.
posted by boo_radley at 1:23 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have that popper, immlass, but I have only succeeded at making great, crisp popcorn just a few times. Most of the time it's slightly chewy, which took a bit of getting used to. This is with a few different brands of corn, different oils, I can't seem to get it right.
posted by nevercalm at 2:50 PM on August 9, 2010

"Get a stockpot out. Pour in a big handful of kosher or pickling salt. Add corn. Cover with a tight lid and crank the heat to high, shaking the pot occasionally."

I tried this. I cannot figure out what to do with the burned cobs.
posted by bz at 3:34 PM on August 9, 2010

Department of some thoughts on trouble with microwave popcorn not popping:

* Got to keep it stored in a sealed container. It will dry out over time and, with less water inside, less explosive.
* Some kinds of corn sold as 'popcorn' aren't. It can be worth paying more. (Orville, however, can go to hell.)
* Some microwaves don't have the power to heat the corn quickly enough. Should be at least 700 watts. If the corn can radiate much of the heat, won't pop.

A hint for stovetop popping: I had long used 1-1/3 cup of corn with 3/4 cup of canola. I ran short one night and substituted Extra Virgin Olive. What, am I seeing less old maids? I think I am. So I now use 1/8 cup EVO and 5/8 cup canola. YMMV.
posted by Twang at 8:10 PM on August 9, 2010

During a babysitting evening some years ago, I promised the kid paper-bag popcorn... only to realize that I was out of paper bags. After a minute's thought, I grabbed my enormous newsprint drawing pad, made the biggest origami water balloon I could, poured a handful of popcorn in the narrow opening, and popped it. It didn't make much popcorn at a time, but boy oh boy did I feel like the coolest aunt ever!
posted by Elsa at 6:23 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

spicynuts: have you heard of cancha?
posted by LMGM at 5:35 AM on August 11, 2010

« Older I guess it was hot enough for you.   |   I Feel Like Burundi For Dinner Tonight Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments