I hate to admit this, but popcorn is probably my favorite food. I could eat it by the bagful and I do often just have popcorn and an apple for lunch. A big bowl of buttered popcorn is the perfect combination of salty and crunchy and has an aura of luxury about it, maybe because my family usually only ate popcorn at the theater or on a special movie night. Whatever the reason, I find popcorn completely irresistible and have tried to find a healthier way of indulging my craving.
I have read for years about the adverse effects of chemicals found in microwave popcorn but we didn’t ever have enough storage space to justify the purchase of a large air popper. Besides, as I am often the only one eating popcorn, I didn’t want to lug out a huge gadget every time I wanted to make a small amount of popcorn. However, during my first pregnancy I knew I had to find a healthier way to make popcorn. I have since experimented with two different microwave poppers, the first being a plastic bowl similar to this and the second a glass jug shaped popper. Although both of these methods worked pretty well and the poppers were very compact and easy to store, I still find that I prefer a simple paper bag method. Popcorn popped in a paper bag seems to pop more evenly without burning and also pops more quickly than with the bowl methods. Below is my favorite recipe for homemade microwave popcorn with a comparison to Orville Redenbacher’s Simply Salted microwave popcorn. I most often make the homemade popcorn with olive oil instead of butter, but for the purpose of this comparison I used butter because, admittedly, it tastes way better!
Homemade Microwave Popcorn
Makes about 3 cups popped
1 regular sized paper lunch bag
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (less if using salted butter)
1. Pour the corn kernels into the paper bag, fold the top over a couple times and staple closed securely.
2. Microwave on regular power for 1 to 2 minutes (depending on your microwave) or until the popping sounds slow down and there are a few seconds between each pop.
3. Carefully open the bag, being careful not to burn yourself on the steam that will escape. Pour the butter and salt into the bag and shake to combine, or pour the popcorn out into a large bowl and coat with butter and salt in the bowl.
This method of making popcorn is pretty much foolproof and just about as fast as using a store bought bag of microwave popcorn. In addition, it is much, much cheaper. Each bag of Orville Redenbahcer’s Simply Salted Microwave popcorn contains 2 Tablespoons of unpopped kernels and costs about 60 Cents. One bag of homemade popped corn, using 1/3 cup unpopped kernels (about 5 Tablespoons), costs only 35 Cents!
Healthier, cheaper, just as fast, but does homemade popcorn taste as good as store bought microwave bags? It depends on what you are looking for. My homemade version was not quite as salty as the store bought and did not have the same buttery flavor, but it did have a bolder corn taste and the subtler butteriness of real butter. Of course, you could add more salt to the homemade version making it taste closer to the store bought version and flexibility is one of the attractive things about making homemade popcorn. As I mentioned above, you can easily substitute olive oil for the butter, or just use a sprinkling of salt with no oil at all!
Bottom Line: I will never go back to regularly buying store bought boxes of microwave popcorn. Popping corn in a paper lunch bag is easy, cheap, healthy and opens up lots of possibilities for trying new seasonings or healthier toppings. Give it a try!