Popcorn is one of those snacks with nostalgic superpowers. It’s something many of us have grown up eating during movies, sleepovers, as popcorn balls for Halloween, or just as a great snack. So simple, yet so wonderful.
As a kid, I remember my mom teaching me how to pop up this favorite treat on the stovetop using a heavy saucepan—no fancy air popper for us in the 80’s:
- Pour in a little oil to coat the bottom of the pan, add 3 kernels of corn.
- Cover with a lid and turn up to medium-high heat.
- Twiddle your thumbs for 3-4 minutes until you hear those first few kernels pop, indicating the pan is hot enough. I vividly remember the excitement waiting for those first few kernels to take flight—it took FOREVER. It was music to my ears to hear one kernel burst, then the second…sometimes the third one would be a dud and I’d wonder for a few seconds if I should risk lifting the lid to see what was happening. Images of a scalding hot popcorn kernel flying into my eye was the big fear (oh, to be a kid again with REAL problems!)
- Once those first kernels were popped it’s time to add the rest of the kernels (3 Tbl), quickly, before the guinea pig kernels can burn.
- Then, replace the lid and soon the grand finale of a million kernels popping starts up, punctuated by the intense metallic scraping sound of shaking that pan like crazy over the heat to keep the popped kernels from burning.
- Once popping slows to a few every couple of seconds, it’s time to remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for a few seconds to let any stubborn last kernels pop.
- Then pour into a bowl and add the glorious melted butter and plenty of salt. We always had our popcorn with orange juice—something about the sweet/tangy/salty combo was perfect on a Friday night with The Dukes of Hazzard. Heaven.
But, my popcorn memories aren’t all roses (or fresh-buttered corn?)…oh, no. In fourth grade, we had the assignment of teaching the class how to do something in a short presentation. I chose to teach them how to make popcorn using the above method. I practiced it at home and was super excited for the big day. Using the school’s electric hotplate, I commenced through the steps, carefully explaining to the class as I went. I don’t recall exactly when things went awry but sometime during the process I remember my teacher asking me if I was sure everything was going to plan. I assured her that all was fine. I was following my steps exactly as they had worked 100 times before so how could anything go wrong?
Well, it wasn’t long before it was clear: that popcorn was incinerating. When I finally lifted the lid, a huge cloud of black smoke and the worst burnt popcorn smell shot out and seemed to permeate the entire building within minutes. And the ear-piercing smoke alarms—can’t forget those! I was so confused as to why this was happening. My recipe had always worked before! That was a long day, hearing other students and teachers mention the burnt popcorn smell that actually stuck around for a few more days (mortifying).
When I got home, I explained the horror to my mom and she zeroed in on a very valuable cooking truth: a gas range works very differently than an electric hot plate! I had learned to cook on a gas range and didn’t understand that an electric cooking surface (a hotplate from the 70’s to be real) requires a different approach since it takes quite a while to come up to temperature and, not realizing this fact, I had overcompensated by turning it up too high.
Needless to say, I survived the embarrassment and didn’t hold it against the popcorn; I still love it—and so does my family. Sometimes popcorn is even “what’s for dinner” if we’re feeling the need to watch a movie.
A couple of years ago, it came out that pre-packaged microwave popcorn is seriously toxic. Who knew? If you’d like the dirt on that subject, this article from FoodBabe.com describes all of the chemical problems with, not only the ingredients, but the bag itself. It’s truly eye-opening! Did you know Popcorn Lung is a thing?
Well, I’m not about to give up popcorn, and I don’t always want to drag out the air popper (yes, we’re fancy now). So, we typically make popcorn in the microwave using a brown paper bag (you know the kind your mom used for your cold lunch once that Strawberry Shortcake lunch box wasn’t cool anymore?)
This recipe is super easy and takes less than five minutes to make. I keep an old-fashioned recipe card on the fridge so my seven-year-olds can make this all on their own.
And, some good news if you want this to be even more simple: you don’t need to add oil to the kernels. I personally love the taste of a bit of coconut oil used for popping, but you can leave it out completely if you want and the popcorn will still pop up delicious and fluffy.
I like to top mine with melted butter and Wildtree’s Blazin’ Buffalo Blend (which means I get my own popcorn bowl as the rest of my family doesn’t like spicy foods…win!) Alpine Touch Seasoning is also an amazing flavor to try.
What do you like on your popcorn? Do you have any of your own “Popcorn Memoirs” to share, or am I the only weird one here? I hope you enjoy this recipe and use it to make some happy memories in your home.
Homemade Microwave Popcorn
- 1⁄2 c popcorn kernels
- 1⁄2 tsp coconut oil or olive oil optional
- toppings like additional salt, melted butter, olive oil, melted coconut oil, seasoning blends
- Place popcorn, oil (if using) and a few sprinkles of salt into a brown paper lunch sack (about 12″ x 8″ x 4″).
- Fold down twice (2-3″ total, leaving plenty of open space in the bag for popped popcorn).
- Pop for 1:30-2:30 minutes at high power. Microwaves vary so you may need to experiment a few times. Our 1000-watt microwave pops this recipe perfectly in 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
- Carefully open bag (watch out for hot steam), pour into a bowl, top with your favorite toppings and enjoy! (It’s fine to reuse the bag immediately if you want to make another batch.)