Are you are trying to make popcorn without the nasty burnt pieces? Do you want to avoid the smell that accompanies burnt popcorn? I will let you in on the secrets to popping microwave popcorn and stovetop popcorn so that it comes out perfect every single time.
Proper preparation, accurate temperature control, and timing are the keys to popping the perfect popcorn. Prepping your popcorn bag or pan is necessary. Next, select the correct temperature to avoid burning. Lastly, understand the timing of the kernel pop to know then time is up.
Time to learn to pop your popcorn and avoid the burnt smell while trying to enjoy your movie.
How Do You Know Your Popcorn is Ready to Pop?
For microwave bags, you will notice that when you unfold the popcorn bag, either side is empty and the popcorn is in the center portion of the bag. With your hands, break up the popcorn that is in the center and try to get the popcorn to lay as flat as possible, basically getting rid of any bulges and separating the kernels a bit.
Remember, do not open the bag to break up the popcorn or accidentally rip the bag by twisting it to break up the kernels. Breaking up the kernels will evenly distribute them to be popped in the center area, which as it pops, moves out towards both ends, filling up the entire bag.
If you have a small microwave, you will need to fold both ends of the bags in little folds like you are rolling up your sleeves (1 or 2 folds usually). This fold ensures the bag can rotate in the microwave as it pops, which will help keep the popcorn from burning.
The microwave turns because the energy is not evenly distributed and it is necessary for the food to circulate in the microwave to heat properly. Make sure you place the bag in the center of the plate, so it clears all the sides of the microwave as it rotates.
For stovetop popping, fill the bottom of a pan will oil (it has a higher burning temperature than butter) on medium heat, put 1 -2 kernels in the pan, and cover. Once the popcorn kernels pop, take the pan off of the heat and pour the remaining popcorn in the pan.
Give it a swirl to coat the kernels in oil, cover, and place it back on the heat. Be careful when you take the pan off the heat to avoid putting your arms above the open flame or electric burner.
What is the Right Temperature to Pop Kernels?
For microwave bags, every microwave will be different based on size and model. For instance, my microwave now has a popcorn setting and it asks the size of my bag.
So, I just select the popcorn button, press the size of my popcorn bag, select start, and the popcorn starts popping at the appropriate temperature.
Now, our microwave in the office does not have the popcorn button, so I set the power to 100% and set the timer for 4 minutes. It is usually ready at 3.5 minutes, but I like to be safe, so I set it for 4 minutes.
For stovetop popping, keeping the temperature at medium will allow for the popcorn to pop steadily and avoid burning. If you try to cook it faster and turn the temperature up too high, you will most likely burn the popcorn at the bottom of the pan, stink up the house, and waste that popcorn.
You will also need to shake the pan (move the pan back and forth over the burner) to help the kernels move around in the pan and avoid burning. Shaking also allows the popcorn kernels to be evenly coated with oil which helps with popping.
Gently shake the pan as the oil is hot as you do not want oil escaping. Remember to never take the lid off for any reason while the popcorn is popping.
How Do You Know Your Kernels Are Done Popping?
For microwave bags, no matter if your microwave has a popcorn setting or you must input the time, this is a critical step. You need to listen to the popcorn kernels popping and when they start to slow down and have a 2-3 second gap between popping, you need to stop the microwave.
If you complete the timing cycle and the popcorn has already stopped popping, I can guarantee you the burn has already started. Make sure you hover around the microwave when popping a bag of popcorn to ensure you catch the opportune time to pull your bag from the microwave.
Of course, the moment you smell burning, stop your microwave and take out your popcorn to avoid a huge bag of disappointment.
For stovetop popping, listen for when the popcorn kernels slow down and have a three-second gap. Turn off the burner and move the pan to another burner that is not hot.
If you leave the pan on the same burner that you heated it on, you are risking burning your popcorn. Before you pour the popcorn into a bowl, ensure that the popcorn has stopped popping to avoid hot kernels popping out at you.
This happened to me many times until I learned to be more patient.
By preparing your popcorn kernels to cook, ensuring you have the correct temperature, and stopping the popping at the correct time, you are sure to have the perfect popcorn every time.
After a few times of doing it this way, it will become a habit and you will forget all the times you burned your popcorn unless you are telling a funny story.
One of the top reasons most people burn their popcorn is because they leave it unattended to go grab something. In those moments, the stovetop popcorn is not being shaken in the pan or the microwave bag is not getting pulled out when needed.
If you can master the art of attentively participating in the popping of your popcorn, you will be pleased with the results. Good luck and get to popping.
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