General Question

Perchik's avatar

Why do I fail at making popcorn?

Asked by Perchik (4987points) October 8th, 2007

I can make an awesome cheesecake, perfect seared tuna, and an amazing mojito…yet I cannot make a bag of popcorn. I either burn the bag or pop half of it. It always sounds done when I stop it. Any tips?

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13 Answers

ben's avatar

Are you microwaving or cooking on the stovetop? (I assume you’re not using an air popper).

hossman's avatar

I don’t believe it is possible to prepare microwave popcorn perfectly. Microwaves by their nature heat unevenly (that’s why they have the turntables) and popcorn by its nature pops unevenly (each kernel has a different temperature at which it will pop, depending on the moisture content, starchiness, sugar, size, thickness of skin, density, etc.) Inherently, before all of the kernels have popped (and there are usually at least a few that won’t pop no matter how long they are cooked) other kernels will have burned.

Perchik's avatar

@ben microwaving

@hossman, thanks.. It just seems like I’m getting maybe 60% popped, or 100% burned

kevbo's avatar

It could be the brand of popcorn or the microwave. Someone once bought me some tree-huggy, unbleached bag brand and not only did it burn the popcorn but also spewed some kind of toxic cloud that turned my kitchen into a Superfund site.

If you don’t change either of those variables, then you need to stop prior to the burn point whatever that is.

The single serving bags pop much easier and in much less time.

Godspeed.

susanc's avatar

Perchik, maybe it would be easier in the long run to do it the old-fashioned way, which
is fun anyway: get some generic popcorn in bulk, or fancy in a jar if you prefer, put it in a big pot over a stove burner with a bunch of oil, shake shake shake it baby till it starts
to pop, shake it some more so the unpoppeds pop (except for the ones that are never going to), salt (or whatever) and eat. Doesn’t take long and not much can happen except popcorn.
To answer your question directly: you don’t fail, the stupid overkill technology fails.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

Many microwaves also have a “popcorn” setting. You could try that.

Perchik's avatar

@susan, In a college dorm- don’t have room for a big pot much less the various groceries.

@omfg… college dorm = cheapest microwave on the market. I have a cook/defrost switch, and a timer.

kevbo's avatar

So… you make cheesecake and seared tuna in your dorm?

Perchik's avatar

Nah, my friends have a house, I still live on campus because it’s in my scholarship

kevbo's avatar

Yeah, I was just giving you a hard time, mi amigo.

ben's avatar

I second susanc on this one…. The pot is the way to do it. If you don’t have access to a big bot + stove, I’d recommend trying to find an air popper like this. I had one when I was a kid and it was incredible.

Poser's avatar

Alton Brown, host of the Food Network’s Good Eats suggested using a metal mixing bowl, with just a little bit of oil, in lieu of a flat-bottomed pot. Cover the top with foil, poke a few small holes in the foil to let the steam out, and use tongs to shake it to keep from burning the popped kernels. I don’t remember why he recommended this method, other than the shape of the bowl made it less likely to burn the popped kernels while the slower ones were heating. Haven’t tried it myself, but it seemed to make sense.

hossman's avatar

I second Poser’s suggestion via Alton Brown. Flat bottomed pots create too large a surface area at the bottom of the pan, so already popped kernels are exposed to more heat and burn before the unpopped kernels have popped. I found that a round-bottomed wok works very well, as the popped kernels are forced upward and outward, away from the heat, and the unpopped kernels remain immersed in the hot oil. Plus the wok has a handle, I would imagine the mixing bowl and tongs is very awkward.

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