Tonight I want to talk to you about a real first world problem: what to do when your microwave is too small or just too crappy to pop a bag of popcorn correctly. The Man and I own a very small microwave. We bought pretty much the smallest, cheapest one we could find, since we knew from the beginning that it would only be used to pop popcorn and heat soup. Yes, I eat a lot of soup.
Unfortunately, soon after buying the microwave, we discovered that though it’s technically big enough to pop a bag of popcorn, as the microwave tray spins, the popcorn bag moves slightly. This causes the bag to get stuck against the wall of the microwave, stay in one place, and either burn the popcorn or just pop about half of the bag. Both of these outcomes make me very angry, but if I had to choose, I’d say that a half-popped bag of popcorn ticks me off more. The Man still insists on buying microwave popcorn and attempting to pop it, but I tend to leave the room when he does for fear of my head actually exploding if I have to hear him explain one more time that I’m just imagining that the bag is half-full. This as the tell-tale errant kernels clang to the bottom of his popcorn bowl…argh.
I’ve popped popcorn the regular way on the stove before, and I’ve also created my own microwave bags of popcorn using paper lunch bags and regular popping kernels, but I’ve never attempted to pop microwave popcorn on the stove. I didn’t know how it would turn out or if the mechanics would be any different than a regular popping scenario, but since I have a bunch of microwave popcorn bags sitting around and I refuse to use our mockery of a microwave for anything other than soup, I thought I’d try and see what happened.
The result? It totally worked! I was able to pop almost every single kernel, and only singed a few. It was probably my imagination, but the popcorn also tasted less chemical-y. Here’s how you cook microwave popcorn on the stove:
1) Get a large pot (the size you’d use to cook a pound of pasta) that has a lid. There’s not a lot of popcorn in the bag, but you want to give the kernels room to distribute evenly along the bottom.
2) Put a tbsp of oil in the bottom of the pot, and set to Medium heat. Remember that you won’t need as much oil as you would in a traditional popping scenario, since the microwave popcorn comes packed in its own buttery goo. You can use a variety of oils, including vegetable, corn, or wok oil. I used olive oil with a dash of chili pepper oil to give my popcorn a little kick.
3) Rip open the microwave bag of popcorn and scoop the contents out into the pot. You’re going to want to use a spoon, since it’s greasy and kind of gross. Scoop any excess buttery goo (I refuse to call it butter) off of the sides of the bag to add to the pot).
4) Put the lid on the pot and wait. It will take a minute or two for the corn to start popping. Once the popping is pretty regular, shake the pot gently back and forth over the burner to keep the popcorn at the bottom moving so it won’t burn.
5) Once the popping dies down, you might want to move the pot off of the burner and assess the popcorn. I could see (and smell) that some of mine was starting to get a little browner than I like, so I took all of the popped kernels out and then put the pot back on the burner to pop the rest of the corn.
Notes: I played around with temperature, and you might want to, too. I have a gas stove with burners that tend to burn on the hotter side, so Medium was fine for me. Low was a little too low, and High started to burn the popped kernels faster than the rest of the corn could pop. However, your stove (especially if it’s electric) might be just fine on High. Just remember to keep the corn moving and you’ll be fine! Also, use common sense and don’t take the lid off while you’re still popping the corn. For one thing, you’ll be letting heat out and the corn won’t pop as efficiently. More importantly, it’s a safety hazard. How would you like to be the person who has to say, “Popcorn,” when explaining your eye injury?