How to Microwave Popcorn – Pros & Cons

Microwaving popcorn has been a staple method for cooking packaged popcorn for decades. You would have to travel extremely far and wide to find anyone who hasn’t used a microwave for popcorn use, or even find anyone who hasn’t uttered the word, “popcorn”. Though common, it’s still appropriate to address how to microwave popcorn.

Microwaving popcorn includes evaluating the package for damage or expiration, placing the package in its proper orientation for cooking, pressing the “popcorn” button on the microwave, and listening for the popping noise to stop before removing it from the microwave. Other methods will involve personal preferences.

As you may read, this is primarily focused on packaged popcorn, however, in this article, we will also address unconventional ways of microwaving popcorn. Microwaving is more complex than you might’ve thought. Let’s go ahead and explore why and how microwaving popcorn may be complex, along with general methods of cooking a variety of popcorn products.

Packaged Popcorn

Though we have briefly mentioned it, let’s go further into microwaving your common packaged popcorn.

First off, checking the packaging is extremely important. Whether you are checking the package for any potential damage that may have been produced during shipping or being tossed around too much or checking the labels and printed instructions, it is beneficial for one to examine the packaging before going further in the microwaving process.

For example, checking the expiration date is a common label to take note of. You do not want to cook expired popcorn as the kernels will lose their moisture and dryness. It is possible to eat expired popcorn but no further than a few months after the expiration date. If you do not mind some bland popcorn, go ahead. But overall, make sure your packaged popcorn is in great condition and not terribly expired.

Even if you are not dealing with packaged microwavable popcorn, any popcorn kernels should be inspected based on their original packing or on their mere appearance. The taste will obviously tell you whether it is expired, but checking the appearance first is our best bet before it’s too late. A dull color will be displayed on nearly all kernels that are far beyond their expiration date. Avoid trying to microwave these expired popcorn kernels as, again, will be flavorless and not desirable.

For the second step, once the package is evaluated and good to go, determine what orientation the package is to be placed in the microwave. Nearly all microwavable popcorns have specific labels and instructions on how to orientate your popcorn. For example, packaged popcorn will include both an arrow and a brief description such as “This side on top”, indicating what side to face down and what to face up.

It is also important to know that nearly all packaged popcorn is packaged in bags and/or boxes in a trifold orientation, meaning that the package is so long, it will require each end side to bend inward to provide more efficient packaging and to save on space. When placing the package on its proper side, you must open up the endpoints to the package’s full length to promote effective cooking.

Third, after everything is set up for the cooking process and placed in the microwave, search for the “popcorn” button on the microwave. Most microwaves have a dedicated popcorn button for a convenient way to simply press “popcorn” and allow the packaged popcorn to do its job.

Though there is a dedicated button for this, I personally do not use the button for cooking popcorn. In fact, I find my popcorn is undercooked or not enough kernels are popped, therefore I think, on a 900W microwave, a time of 2:30 minutes is perfect. Consistently, it cooks the popcorn well while allowing most of the kernels to be popped. And that’s the thing, different wattage of microwaves will determine how long you keep the packaged popcorn in.

Along with the wattage of the microwave, comes the fourth and final step: listening. What are we listening to? We are listening for the “popping” noise to slow down or stop, preferably the former as the latter may result in unnecessary burnt popcorn. Listening also means being near the microwave to be audibly in tune to detect the rate of popping to slow down, otherwise, you will easily burn your popcorn.

Finally, if you perceive that your popcorn did not cook enough and many kernels were left un-popped, you may increase the time in the microwave. Just be careful not to fall into the pitfall of waiting too long or reheating often as these too will run the risk of burnt popcorn.

Lastly, when you feel that your packaged popcorn is at the desired state, remove it from the microwave and enjoy. You can eat it from the package itself or place the newly cooked popcorn in a bowl. The choice is yours.

Unconventional Methods

What we mean by this is that some people may or may not prefer cooking popcorn outside of its microwavable packaged version. Here, we will address some methods that involve just the popcorn kernels and the use of other materials and ingredients involved.

First up, let’s talk about the popcorn kernels themselves. There is nothing special or unique about these kernels. These are just like any other popcorn kernel whether packaged or bare. The real difference comes with how we manage the kernels. For example, with packaged popcorn, we do not need to worry about kernels flying around since they are all enclosed in a container meant for microwaving.

Second, the primary differences between kernels would be the shape and size, and purpose. For example, yellow popcorn would be your average, run-of-the-mill, grocery store popcorn while white popcorn is more tender. Another type of popcorn is mushroom popcorn which displays a fluffy silhouette and is perfect for candy or chocolate coating. Finally, red popcorn’s size is small, and the texture is neutral with extra crunch.

Next up, focusing on unpackaged popcorn itself, is not as complex nor challenging as one might expect, however, some of these do not require the microwave itself so we will address these just as well. A common method for unpackaged popcorn is to simply place the kernels in a microwave-safe bowl with oil and top it off with a lid.

After this, just follow the same steps as with packaged popcorn that cooks for the desired time and listens carefully for the popping to slow down. For stovetop uses, have a generous amount of oil in a pan of any kind with added heat enough to pop the kernel and not burn the oil. Similar to having a microwave-safe bowl except without the use of the microwave.

With a packaged popcorn pan, simply place it on top of the stovetop and let it do the work since all the appropriate ingredients are included in this packaged popcorn pan, just like packaged microwavable popcorn.

Lastly, any other methods that do not require a stovetop or a microwave such as a popcorn machine cart or a hot air popper-type popcorn machine will do just fine as well. Again, as long as you provide the kernels and oil, and any other additional ingredients to create a specific type of popcorn, you have a quick and easy alternative.

Pros and Cons of Microwaving Popcorn

Returning to microwaving popcorn, let’s now discuss some possible pros and cons of microwaving popcorn to get an idea if microwaving popcorn or cooking popcorn through other methods is preferable. Also, to understand any health-related benefits or issues that come from this.

The consensus for this is that popcorn without anything else added such as oil and salt is considered one of the healthiest snacks. Microwaveable popcorn has been seen as healthier than regular popcorn in that microwaveable popcorn does not require oil for the kernels to pop as they are not at risk of burning on the base of a pan, for example.

We should also be aware that if you want microwaveable popcorn to reflect this pro-health, it must not include other ingredients such as butter, or else the definition of microwaveable popcorn being healthy is false.

Remember, what makes microwaveable popcorn healthy is the absence of oil, everything else will depend on what kind of microwaveable popcorn you choose. Overall, any microwaveable popcorn that is bland and without much flavor is considered the best for maximizing healthy habits.

For specifics, let’s look at convenience. You may want to say that microwaveable popcorn is far superior to any other method, and you’d be right. If you have a microwave and an outlet for your plug-in cable, simply throw the packaged popcorn in and let it do its work. Behind microwaveable popcorns as being the second most convenient. I consider microwaving popcorn in a bowl or cooking the kernels in a pan on a stovetop on equal footing.

The reason being is that most of us usually already have a pan or bowl of some kind. The only materials you may need to include are any oil and seasoning for the popcorn. Lastly, popcorn machines are specific and can be expensive, not to mention they aren’t common household items such as the bowl and pan.

In the end, microwaveable popcorn is not only the most convenient form of making popcorn but can be the healthiest in the absence of oil. Other levels of convenience and health factors will depend on the individual and perhaps how much time they need to make a quick snack or take the time to create some quality and unique popcorn taste and styles.

Microwave Popcorn Brands

Before we go ahead and conclude this article, I feel like it is appropriate to share some popular brands and other microwave popcorn options out there to explore and try for yourself. We won’t go too far into the brands themselves but rather just make mention of some you may be familiar with and ones you may not be familiar with.

For my personal favorite, Orville Redenbacher and Act II have yet to go astray from their quality microwave popcorn. They have been consistently excelling in their quality and uniqueness as popcorn brands. I see myself buying Act II branded microwave popcorn more often than Redenbacher since they are available often.

There isn’t a huge distinction between Act II and Redenbacher for me, I just grab one that is readily available or if one brand has flavors exclusive to them. The only distinction that could be made is that Redenbacher has quality butter flavoring while Act II nearly uses all kernels without burning the ones already popped.

Other popular brands are Newman’s, Pop-Secret, and Great Value. There are many more, but I remain familiar with these five brands. Pop-Secret’s brand is commented on as having a fair balance in both salt and butter. For Newman’s, there isn’t anything that extravagant about it other than it is light and airy. Finally, if we know anything about all of the Great Value’s products and prices, they are decent and extremely cheap. This is going to be a mainstay for college students, for example.

For these fewer common brands, they may only be region based or just not popular. Brands such as American Garden, Hannaford, Wegmans, and Walgreens. Not to say these brands are bad, but there isn’t much talk about them. They may be ok in quality and taste, but the larger brands are well established and hard to overcome. Either way, these and other brands won’t hurt for you to try and experience something new.

Well, hope that we helped you understand some conventional and unconventional methods of cooking popcorn. As you can guess, microwaving popcorn, for example, is accessible and affordable for anyone looking for a quick bite. It does not require much to get started and is easily ready at a moment’s notice.

Hopefully, you can now go about and microwave some popcorn for your next Netflix binge, Super Bowl championship gathering, or movie nights with buddies. You have a plethora of options to utilize microwave popcorn without losing taste and at no cost!