The Popcorn Scam

Steven Harper PiziksFor years I thought microwave popcorn bags were made of a special paper for microwave ovens.  I recently learned that this is not the case.  They’re ordinary paper bags.

You want microwave popcorn?  Do this:

Take an ordinary paper lunch bag.  Pour in 1/4 cup of raw popcorn (the kind that goes for $2 for a three-pound bag).  Drizzle some cooking oil over it, about 2 tablespoons.  Put it in the microwave and run it on HIGH until the popping dies down.  Add butter and salt to taste.

I just tried it.  Works perfectly well,  It costs about 1/10th the price of pre-packaged microwave popcorn, and you control the amount of salt and butter.

The microwave popcorn companies have been selling us a load of crap for decades.  But are we surprised?

–Steven Harper Piziks

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The Popcorn Scam — 7 Comments

  1. OR do it the old-fashioned way; place about one tablespoon of oil (I use coconut oil) in a medium-sized saucepan, put over medium heat, add 1/4 cup raw popcorn, cover and wait for the fun to begin. You can shake the pan to accelerate the process, but it isn’t necessary to do so. When popping stops, pour popped corn into bowls, add seasoning to taste and enjoy. Been doing it this way for years – ever since I realized that only about 3/4 of the corn in the micro-bag actually popped.

  2. It’s not only a rip-off, it’s extremely unhealthy, both for the consumer and the poor workers who are exposed to the seasoning powder all day, every day. If people are only going to stop one single thing in their diet that’s bad for them, microwave popcorn is right up near the top of the list. I’d have to put it below soft drinks (diet or not), but not too far below.

    I’d heard that lunch bags are also not microwave safe, so I bought one of those silicone poppers online. I won’t swear it’s completely safe because who really knows? There are dozens of brands, and they are BPA PVC free.

    In the long run, the stovetop method that Martin mentions is probably safest and cheapest. But anything is better than those horrible bags of microwave popcorn!

    • The question is, though, what exactly is it about regular paper bags that makes them unsafe in the microwave? If it’s chemicals, then one probably wouldn’t want to be using them for any food under any circumstances whatsoever. I’d love a definitive answer, if anyone can supply it.

      I actually tend to avoid popcorn. I love it, but I hate the way it gets stuck between my teeth.

    • You can get a glass popper that goes in the microwave. My husband always cooks it on the stove so I can’t say how well it works despite owning one. Before that we used an air popper. (Which, if you take the top that points into the bowl off is great fun for kids. Set them in a circle and put it in the middle and let them try to catch the popcorn as it flies through the air.)

  3. I have an air popper. Works without oil. I melt a measured amount of butter/margarine in a custard cup in the microwave. Salt to taste. All under my control with no added chemicals from anything else.

  4. You don’t actually need to add any oil to your paper bag. I learned this from Alton Brown: 1/3 c popcorn goes into a brown paper bag. Fold the end over twice to seal and staple twice to close (yes metal staples! Don’t put them next to each other, they’ll be fine!). Microwave until the popping slows down significantly. Be careful when opening – there’s some steam in there, and you don’t want to burn yourself.

    Add some melted butter and grated Parmesan. Devour.

    Now, a question: what do you call the unpopped kernels? I grew up calling them spinsters. (One of those names that I simply accepted as a kid, but which now makes me cringe.)