Posted on Jul 17, 2011 in Food & drink
Do you have any tips for making microwave popcorn taste better, or pop more completely?
For most people who think of popcorn in the context of movie theaters, only the buttery, salty richness of theater-style microwave popcorn will do. So that’s your first tip: Get the kind of popcorn you like.
Yes, it sounds really basic, but a lot of people buy the diet version and wonder why their popcorn tastes and feels like they’re eating packing peanuts. (On the other hand, some people like to keep it simple, which is certainly cool if that’s your preference.)
To get your popcorn right, it helps to know why it pops in the first place. The awesome science geeks at NASA explain it like this: “Each kernel contains a small amount of water stored in a circle of soft starch inside the hard outer casing. When heated to around 450 F, the moisture turns to steam, creating pressure within. As the pressure builds, the casing eventually gives way, and the kernel explodes and pops, allowing the water to escape as steam and turning the kernel inside out.”
Start by making sure that the bag of popcorn you’re going to microwave hasn’t passed its sell-by date. (If the date isn’t on the bag, check the box.) Having a fresh bag of popcorn will help ensure that the kernels haven’t dried out, making it impossible for them to pop.
Then you might want to consider prepping the microwave. Put 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe cup or bowl, and run it in the nuker for one minute, then take it out just before you start your bag of popcorn. This is thought to help add moisture to help more of the kernels to pop, but the logic isn’t entirely clear.
When popping your corn, start with the package directions. Stand by as you cook the popcorn so you can shut it off when there’s more than second or so between pops. This might mean you microwave the bag for less time than the package suggests. (On the other hand, sometimes you might need a little more cooking time. If you think that might be the case, we recommend putting a little extra time on the timer in case the bag is still actively popping when the oven stops. Once you stop the process, you can’t really restart it.)
Shake the bag carefully when you get it out of the microwave, to evenly distribute all the salt and butter flavor. And, of course, open the bag very carefully, because the steam can burn.
The choice of brands is completely a matter of personal taste, but if you’re interested in some ratings and reviews…
Microwave popcorn ratings from Real Simple:
Light Microwave Popcorn from Good Housekeeping:
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