Microwave popcorn is the ultimate exemplification of our convenience-centric society, a task that took our pre-microwave ancestors up to an hour to accomplish has been consolidated into mere minutes. This method is safe, easy and requires minimal special equipment.
Step 1: Gather Your Provisions.
What you will need:
- Microwave (The non-pictured model is a basic 1500 Watt Hamilton Beach microwave with an automatic revolving-bottom-plate function)
- Measuring Cup (Pictured is a 1.5 cup Pyrex measuring cup)
- Paper bag (Pictured is a gallon sized bag)
- Tape (Not pictured)
- Fat (pictured is prepared clarified butter and canola oil)
- Dried Corn Kernels
- Seasoning (If desired; pictured is Old Bay a regional spice blend of salt, celery seed and red and black peppers)
Step 2: Measure Corn
Depending on the amount of popcorn you desire, this step is key.
Based on personal experience, this 4 fl oz./1/2 Cup measurement is the optimal amount for one batch for several reasons:
- This amount will fill the bag with virtually no unpopped kernels.
- This amount will cover the bottom of the bag with adequate space between oiled kernels so as to allow kernels to pop evenly (no half-popped kernels).
- There will only be a single layer of kernels on the bottom of the bag.
The yield of this recipe is about 5 cups of popcorn. If the desired yield happens to exceed this amount, remember that because this desirable proportion produces the finest product, making multiple evenly-sized batches in this proportion instead of simply increasing the amount of unpopped kernels in a single batch will not compromise quality of finished popped-corn.
Step 3: Add Fat to Unpopped Kernels
Add about 1-2 Tablespoons of your chosen fat and stir to cover kernels.
This section of the recipe has been tested with clarified bacon fat, butter, truffle oil, olive oil, clarified duck fat, coconut oil, peanut oil and flaxseed oil. Though each flavored fat does contribute a small amount of character to the final product, vegetable oil being of a thin viscosity and neutral flavor is the least intrusive and best for those seeking a "classic" popcorn character. Adding the oil in this step is mores a matter of function than flavor; the oil covers each individual kernel and allows them to pop evenly in the cooking enclosure.
Step 4: Fill Bag
Fill bag with oiled kernels, making sure they are evenly spaced on the bottom of the bag.
In this step also cut bag down to fit microwave chamber, the pictured bag originally 12" was cut 3" and then folded 1" to fit in a 8" high microwave chamber. As microwave chambers have variable heights, one must adjust bag height accordingly.
Step 5: Tape Bag Closed
Several instructional outputs recommend stapling the bag closed. While this method is superior by function of sheer fastening power (you need not worry about the adhesive of the tape being inhibited by oil splatter) staples being effected by the microwaves will make scorch-holes where they are affixed to the bag.
Step 6: Microwave
In a standard 1500 Watt microwave, this 4 oz serving will take +/- 2.75 minutes to pop 95% of your kernels. Place your bag in the very center of the microwave heating plate for most even heating, a microwave heats from the central floor of the compartment outwards. A few of the kernels which were the first to pop will begin to burn at this point but do not fret the instant you smell the signature popped corn scorch aroma around 2.5 minutes, most of your popped kernels will be perfectly cooked, follow through with the last 15 seconds, your patience will be rewarded.
Once ejected from microwave, remove tape, open fully and allow puffed bag to rest and slightly cool, along with making the bag easier to handle, the release of steam will dry the popped kernels and make them more receptive to the liquid fat and seasoning mentioned in Step 7.
Step 7: Get a Friend, Shake
While popcorn is admittedly satisfying to nosh omina solus, this step is almost impossible to perform properly by one's self. The reason for the teamwork in this process is described below:
If desired, gather fancy flavored fats though a favorite of most Americans is butter. A similarly classic tendency carried forth by the amateur popcorn poppers is their tendency to simply melt a stick of butter in the microwave and subsequently drizzle this on the just-popped corn. This is a grave mistake. One must always use a clarified fat to coat popped corn, the water-dense white milk solids in unclarified butter will saturate the crisp starch of the popped-corn structure, the result invariably being a soggy and inferior product.
For best results, set up a 2 person team: one will be in charge of seasoning and one will be in charge of shaking the bag.
Here is the Shake process:
- Add 1/4 Cup fat
- *Shake gently to coat*
- Add a few dashes of dry seasoning such as salt or aforementioned Old Bay
- *Shake gently to coat*
- Add the remainder of fat (1/2 Cup) and dry seasoning (2-4 tablespoons or to taste). Alternate their addition until the mixture has achieved flavor to one's taste preference.
- Roll the top of the bag and shake vigorously. This will assure the dry seasoning that has fallen to the bottom of the bag will be redistributed.
Step 8: Admire Your Work
Your corn has been popped, your popped corn has been seasoned. If desired, place in bowl and share.