Just For Fun Friday: Homemade Microwave Popcorn (subscriber sample)

[box] This post is a sample of what I do for my newsletter subscribers. Each month, I write special articles or do special "classes". I try to hit each of the main areas of Mom University: spiritual growth, marriage, parenting, and homemaking. These pages are exclusive only to subscribers, so if you like what you see, I encourage you to sign up! I'm just about ready to send out April's edition soon! [/box] Last month, it was granola. [Newsletter subscribers, if you haven't checked this out yet, do so before I take the page down on April 1!] This month in my culinary experiments is microwave homade popcorn! At first, I was skeptical. Would it really work? It sounds messy. But I'm always game to try anything, so here is what I found out.

I think the thing I like best is knowing what is in it. Have you ever wondered? The second thing is the price. Being the rookie I am, I think I spent more than I needed to, but next time I'll know better. Lastly, there is the issue of flavor. You can create popcorn flavors that are completely unique. On the down side, be prepared to mess up a batch or two at first. It does take a bit of trial and error, but the learning curve isn't too steep.

Here's how I did it:

First, gather your ingredients. All you need minimally is a paper lunch bag and a bag of popcorn kernels (I got a 2 pound bag for $2). Other optional ingredients include oil (vegetable or olive) or salt or popcorn seasoning (I got this for over $4 at the grocery store, but then later found some at Target for much less! Bummer.)

The next thing you do: add a tsp of oil to your bag, if you wish, along with 1/4 cup kernels. I've read somewhere that you should put the popcorn and oil into a bowl and stir it up. I was too lazy and dumped the corn in and then drizzled oil on top and then shook it up. I used olive oil the first time, which resulted in a bag that looked like this:

In subsequent attempts, I just skipped the oil in this first step and popped my corn dry.

To close the bag, there are several possibilities. I have read about people stapling the unfolded bag closed (I tried this, the metal does not spark), taping it with scotch tape (which doesn't melt), or even piercing it with a toothpick (if you don't want to mess with either staples or tape)! Leaving it unfolded will allow steam to escape. I tried the stapling first, which looked like this:

If you note, I put mine on the bag's bottom, not on the side. That is a little different than store-bought microwave popcorn. I had read that if you put it on the side, it would burn, and I didn't want that! But it didn't fit very well. In subsequent attempts, I simply folded the bag twice and creased it well. No problems. Hooray! I was so glad I didn't have to mess with either tape or staples.

This is where you need to experiment a little, depending on your microwave.  So, here's my first attempt: 3 minutes, burned popcorn. We ate it anyways. But the house did smell like burnt popcorn for awhile. (But if it does happen, try 1/4 cup sugar and 1 Tbsp. cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract mixed in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add enough water to make 1 cup liquid. Microwave as you would a cup of hot water, about 2 minutes on high heat. Let it sit in your microwave until it cools. My daughter, who is sensitive to smell, thought it made the house smell like I was baking something. Good deal.)


My second and third attempts, I did 2 minutes and 2 minutes 10 seconds respectively. Much better.

By the way, did you know that popping corn works because of three key components: 1) a hard outer shell (regular corn on the cob doesn't have this), 2) water--this, when heated up, creates steam, causing the kernel to explode, and 3) starch within the kernel. Through the heating process, this starch undergoes a chemical reaction and becomes a jelly. When the kernel explodes, the jelly is ejected and then when exposed to air, cools into the fluffy white pieces we love. If you want to know more, you can read all about it here.

Anyways, the key, as with store-bought microwave popcorn is to listen in between pops. Two seconds between pops and that should be good.

LATE BREAKING NEWS!!! I tried it again just now and I think I have found an even better method. I used a medium sized Pyrex bowl and a dinner plate. Put the kernels into the bowl and cover with the plate, like so:

I tried this twice. It took a lot longer for it to "heat up" (over a minute, compared to about 40 seconds in the bag), but there was no burning or scorching. I kept adding time because it didn't seem like it was done, so I think all told, it was about 3 minutes. However, there were a lot of unpopped kernels left. Not what I wanted. The second time, I got a little braver and set it to 4 minutes. Much better. And still no burning! My son (my fellow experimenter) thought that we could even have gone with 4 min. 15 seconds.

The main precaution: THE BOWL AND PLATE ARE VERY HOT. REMOVE WITH OVEN MITTS. I even transferred the popped popcorn into another bowl so the kids (and me) wouldn't burn ourselves.

When I compared the two methods, I like the bowl method much better. It was not soggy, as I thought it would be, being covered up like that. And another perk is being able to see the corn popping! Very cool. The downside is that I had a lot more dishes to do afterwards. Oh well.

Afterwards, season your popcorn as you wish. If you want, add a little  melted butter or spray with butter-flavored spray for less calories. From here, the possibilities are endless! You can try:

  • Mixing a little hot sauce into your melted butter before adding it to your popcorn.
  • Sprinkling with Parmesan cheese, dry ranch mix, or taco seasoning.
  • Check out this site for homemade pizza, Indian (curry), Cajun, salt and vinegar, and peanut butter flavors. This page includes sweet and salty recipes for seasonings, including cheesy herb, chocolate and cherry, and gooey cheese with Velveeta. If you'd like more ideas, just Google "popcorn seasoning ideas." Or just experiment and make your own!

If you want to buy seasoning, I've seen bottles at Target. The brand I used is from Kernel Seasons. (I found it at Ralph's). They have 17 different types of seasonings, but in the store there were only about 5.  They had Apple Cinnamon, Sour Cream and Onion, Jalapeno, and even Chocolate Marshmallow! Yum! If you can't find what you want at the store, you can order it online. The site also includes ways you can use their seasonings in other ways in your cooking.

Once you get the hang of it, you can do all kinds of flavors to your liking!

Wouldn't this make a cute gift? Get a big bowl, add some lunch bags (if you want to go with that method), some seasonings (bought or homemade), and a bag or jar of popcorn. If you want to add special popcorn oil (I also saw this at Ralph's for over $4), you can do that too. Type of instructions and give as a gift.

This sure beats the price of a box of snacks! The varieties can be endless. And you can make it as healthy as you like. Fun all the way around! Give it a try and check it out for yourself.

Would you like a pdf summary? Well, you're in luck! Here you go: Homemade Microwave Popcorn