A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated
to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
Microwaving a nice bowl of popcorn is one of those viscerally nostalgic things for many people. Whether you’re settling in to watch a movie with the family, popping up a fresh batch for some sweet recipe, or just enjoying an easy late-night snack, popcorn takes up a spot in many peoples’ pantries for a reason.
For the most part, this popcorn takes the form of prepackaged bags of popcorn; toss them in the microwave, follow the direction, pop up a good batch, and chuck the bag in the trash when you’re done. Alternatives come in the form of something like Jiffy Pop for a stovetop kettle corn experience. But to many people, the popcorn kernels you can buy in large jars remain largely a mystery. How are you supposed to cook the darn things? Does it require special equipment?
I thought so for years, that you needed to do something special with them, but I learned over time that it couldn’t be easier to just prepare these in the microwave as well.
And it’s something I can’t recommend enough; once you get started popping the kernels this way, you probably won’t want to go back. They’re so much more versatile in the pure kernel form.
What are the benefits making your own popcorn?
1. For one, they take a up a lot less pantry space. That jar of popcorn kernels is worth at least your family size box of them, and takes up about half the room on a shelf.
2. For another, making fun popcorn concoctions (things like caramel corn) are never easier than when you pop straight from the kernels, and you get the added benefit no matter what you’re doing of being able to completely control how much of everything you put on your popcorn. Your personal, optimal amount of butter, salt, and other flavorings at the tip of your fingers. Now the only drawback is you can’t blame the company that packaged it if your popcorn is over salted, or too buttery; you’ll have to shift all that blame to yourself!
But that’s a small price to pay for progress, I suppose.
What are the ways to make popcorn?
Now, to the popping. There are a couple of methods, both of which work just as well.
The first requires a bit more money, and that’s to buy a “microwave popcorn maker”. This is basically just a fancy word for a bowl (usually made of silicone) with a fitted, microwave safe lid. The best of these bowls are collapsible, so you can store them very easily when not in use; extremely handy for a kitchen gadget that isn’t going to see daily use for most people.
These are a solid investment if you’re a frequent popcorn popper, since it gives you a dedicated “popcorn sized” bowl to use and doesn’t require any fiddling around with the stuff you have around your house.
The main issue is, these are fairly expensive. Not exorbitant, but you’re looking at paying money for a whole new bowl in your kitchen and a bit of extra convenience.
Read also: How to use a popcorn maker.
If you don’t want to do that, there’s instead a much easier homebrew method: just use a bowl. A microwave safe bowl, of course, but any bowl works. This is now your new favorite popcorn bowl; or old favorite, if it’s already microwaveable.
Instead of a dedicated fitted lid, just slide a plate right on top of your bowl and have it cover the whole thing with enough rim hanging off for you to easily take hold of and pull it off when need be.
And there you go: bowl with “lid”, for no extra cost!
How many kernels of popcorn in a cup?
Whatever you choose for your vessel, the process is going to be largely the same. Put some popcorn in your bowl. This is going to vary by the size of your bowl, so we’re going to go with some general measurements really quick.
If you have a large bowl (about 2 to 2.5 quarts), you’ll want to use about a 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels to fill it up. If you’re eyeballing it, that’s kernels about to the middle of the fingernail on your index finger.
If you have a smaller bowl, cut the amount commensurately; so, about half that for a 1-quart bowl, etc. This is where the eyeball metric comes in handy, because the measurement up to your fingernail should be about the same no matter the size of the bowl, unless it has a very narrow bottom for whatever reason; don’t pop your popcorn in a pitcher in other words.
How long should popcorn be in the microwave?
After you measure your popcorn out, just pop it into the microwave. Set it on high for about 5 minutes, but do NOT walk away from it. The process could take anywhere between 2 and 5 minutes on average (sometimes under that, especially if you’re using less popcorn), and it depends entirely on the power of your microwave.
Keep an eye on it until the popping slows down to about 1 second between pops. If you like your popcorn to be a little bit burnt (not crispy and black, but those nice little grey ones) let it go a few seconds longer, just make sure not to overdo it; popcorn burns easily, and can even catch fire in the microwave.
Popcorn Making Safety Tips
Speaking of fires: don’t use a paper bag in the microwave. It was a preferred method for a while to use store bought lunch bags for this method, but those aren’t treated to stand up to the heat the same way as the prepackaged popcorn bags at the stores (those are a lot thicker for one). They have a tendency to catch fire. Not every time, or even most of the time, but you know…better safe than sorry. So observe microwave safety.
Once the popping is done, take out of the microwave, and serve as desired!
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