Microwave popcorn bags offer a convenient solution to satisfy a salt craving. Even more convenient is that your microwave has a special button just for popcorn but even popcorn bags warn against using it.
The reason popcorn bags warn against using the microwave popcorn button is that it’s a generic presetting and often an inaccurate timespan to make popcorn. You’re either going to be left with scorched popcorn and a horrible smell, or a bunch of unpopped kernels at the bottom of the popcorn bag.
Read on to know more about why it’s best not to use the microwave popcorn button.
What Is the Purpose Of the Microwave Popcorn Button?
The purpose of the popcorn button on a microwave is simply an added feature the manufacturer includes to allow users to make popcorn without thinking. But since it’s a generic preset time, most of the time it doesn’t work.
Depending on the type of microwave you have, there are two ways the popcorn button works but neither of them is entirely accurate.
The Popcorn Button on Low-End Microwaves Are Preset Timers
If your microwave is on the cheaper side, it’ll make an estimation of how much time it takes for a bag of popcorn kernels to pop. Microwave manufacturers likely take the average time and preset the popcorn button to this average time.
The average time is based on larger bags to ensure that most, if not all the kernels are popped.
The average popcorn setting is about two and a half minutes which is much longer than required. Some microwaves give you the option of adjusting the time based on the weight of the bag, thus getting closer to the correct time required.
Sensors Detect the Amount of Steam in the Microwave
More expensive microwaves don’t only have a preset time that’s used for all popcorn bags. These microwaves have built-in technology that detects the level of humidity or steam in the microwave.
When the level of steam increases it signals that the popcorn kernels are almost popped and adjusts the time to shut off the microwave.
The problem with using a high-end microwave to pop popcorn is that even though the steam sensors help, they’re not 100% accurate and will usually start shutting down later than required, leaving you with a bag of charred popcorn. High-end microwaves are programmed to overcook popcorn kernels rather than leave you with unpopped kernels.
What’s the Best Way To Make Microwave Popcorn?
The best way to make microwave popcorn is to follow the instructions on the bag and don’t use the popcorn button. Stay close enough to the microwave so that you can hear and smell what’s happening inside it.
To be sure your popcorn is popped perfectly, read the instructions on the bag.
Each brand is different so don’t assume that the timing that worked for one will work for another. The size and weight of the bag will determine how long it needs to be in the microwave.
Keep in mind that the instructions on the bag are a guide, as every microwave is different, so popping times will vary. Once you have stuck your bag of popcorn kernels in the microwave and punched in the recommended time, it’s worth sticking around.
Listen for the frequency of pops. Once it has slowed down to maybe, two to three-second intervals between pops, you want to stop the microwave and get your bag out so that the popcorn doesn’t burn.
Another way to ensure your popcorn is popped perfectly is to create a humid environment in your microwave even before putting your bag of popcorn inside. This is super easy, as all you have to do is put a cup of water in your microwave for one minute.
When the minute is over, the microwave will be steamy.
Now put your popcorn bag in the microwave and input the recommended time. By creating steam in your microwave first, you won’t be left with many unpopped kernels and the butter will be evenly distributed.
Some popcorn experts recommend ditching the bag altogether, as the bag doesn’t allow for a lot of steam to be maintained. Instead of sticking your bag of popcorn kernels into the microwave, pour the kernels into a glass bowl with a lid that’s microwave-safe. The glass bowl locks in steam when it’s in the microwave allowing the popcorn to cook evenly.
Be careful taking the bowl out of the microwave though, because it’ll be piping hot.
Why Do Microwave Popcorn Bags Say This Side Up?
Microwave popcorn bags say “this side up,” because the side that is placed down has a susceptor in it which is responsible for speeding up the process of popping the kernels.
The susceptor in the bag absorbs energy from the microwave and heats up the bag of kernels faster. This means that the kernels will pop faster and you’ll have fewer unpopped kernels. A faster cooking time means that your popcorn will be fluffy and crunchy rather than chewy and overcooked.
There are no real dangers, like your microwave catching on fire, to placing your popcorn bag on the wrong side.
If you’re wondering what will happen if you place the bag in the microwave with the susceptor on top, it would be the same as placing kernels in an ordinary brown bag. You’ll end up with a lot more unpopped kernels and it’ll take a bit longer for the kernels to start popping.
However, if you want to place your popcorn in an ordinary brown bag, you’ll want to first create steam in the microwave, as mentioned above.
While it may seem like using the popcorn button to make microwave popcorn is a convenient, method, it’ll likely result in either burnt popcorn or uncooked kernels.
The popcorn button is just a preset timer and since all popcorn brands and microwaves are different, the time required for each bag of popcorn varies. For best results, always follow the instructions on the popcorn bag as a guide and pay attention to the sound of kernels popping.