Orville Redenbacher's Movie Theater Butter Popcorn
By Todd Wilbur
The health concerns regarding microwave popcorn are a result of the way it’s packaged. For the corn to pop, the kernels are submerged in boiling fat inside the bag until a buildup of steam in the kernels causes them to burst. To prevent the liquid fat from seeping through, the bags are lined with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, which, unfortunately for microwave popcorn lovers, has been linked to cancer and other nasty things.
I set out on a mission to make better homemade microwave popcorn with only natural ingredients, and without using costly popping gadgets. I also wanted to avoid using plastic, tape, or metal, such as staples. My solution is a new method of prepping the kernels, but like many other techniques I researched, it requires paper lunch bags. I was dismayed to find some discussions about the potential for problems using brown paper bags in your microwave oven, such as fire, but I had absolutely no issues any of the many times I did it. No smoke, no sparks, nothing looking at all dangerous was going on inside my cooking box. The USDA states that using paper bags in your microwave, “may cause a fire, and may emit toxic fumes,” yet the internet is full of microwave popcorn recipes calling for paper bags. I chose to still share my recipe and technique, but ultimately leave it up to you to decide if it’s a hack recipe you feel safe using. If you’d rather stay on the safe side, see the Tidbits for an alternate technique.
My hack starts with clarifying butter so that it’s pure fat, without any milk solids or water. Butter is about 16 percent water and if any of that stays in the mix, your popcorn will be on a fast trip to Soggytown. Once the butter is clarified, we’ll combine it with popcorn and salt and freeze it into pucks that can be saved for weeks until you are ready to make quick popcorn.
When it’s popcorn time, a puck goes into a small bowl, which goes inside two interlocking paper bags. After a warming session, you hit the “popcorn” button on your microwave oven and the popcorn will pop just like the store product (you may have to add another 30 seconds or so of cooking time). The first bag will soak up the excess butter that splashes around inside as the popcorn pops, and the second bag will keep the butter from messing up your oven.
To serve, pull the bags apart over a big bowl, and you’ll have a fresh batch of hot microwave popcorn coated perfectly with real butter and salt.
If you're like me and you like things spicy, try sprinkling your popcorn with my original Hell Flakes to create what we like to call "Hell Corn".
This recipe is available in
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
- 2/3 cup popcorn kernels (Orville Redenbacher's is best)
- 2 teaspoons salt (popcorn salt is best)
You will also need
- 4 paper lunch bags
- 2 custard bowls or other small microwave-safe bowls
- Do This
Instructions1. Clarify the butter by placing the stick in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat. Allow the butter to melt slowly without stirring it. When the butter has melted, carefully scoop or skim the foam (milk solids) off the top. Allow the pan to rest for about 5 minutes, then carefully pour the clear butter into a small bowl. When you get to the bottom, you’ll see some more milk solids and water. Stop pouring just before you get to the water. You should have at least 6 tablespoons of clarified butter.
2. Make the popcorn pucks by lining 2 custard bowls with plastic wrap or wax paper. Add 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels to each bowl, followed by 3 tablespoons of clarified butter and 1 teaspoon of salt. Place these in your freezer for 30 minutes.
3. When frozen, remove the pucks from the bowls and plastic or wax paper. Keep them in a plastic bag in your freezer until it’s time to chillax on the couch and catch up on some shows (aka popcorn time).
4. To make popcorn, place a frozen puck in a small microwave-safe bowl. Put that bowl inside a paper lunch bag, and then put that bag into another bag, open side first, so that the bags are interlocking. Make sure the bowl is in the approximate middle.
5. Place the bags with the bowl in them in your microwave oven and run it for 1 minute on high, then let it sit for 1 minute. This will warm up the butter and popcorn in the bowl. Be sure not to move the bags, since the butter is now liquified in there.
6. After the rest, run the oven on high for 2 to 4 minutes. Microwave ovens vary wildly in strength, so you’ll have to use your ears. When the popcorn stops popping for about 2 seconds, it’s done.
7. Be careful when you take it out. You must get under the bags where the bowl is so that the bowl doesn’t fall out of the bags. And it will be HOT, so protect your hands. Put the whole thing into a large bowl, then pull each bag from the ends. The popcorn and the small bowl inside will fall out into your large bowl. All you have left to do is remove that small bowl from the popcorn, which will be VERY HOT, so use a towel or tongs or something that isn’t your bare hands to get it out of there.
8. Now, go binge your show.
Makes 2 servings (serves 4).
Tidbits: If you want to stay away from brown paper bags, you can place your pucks in a large glass bowl and cover with a microwave safe plate, then follow the recipe from step 5.
I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker
For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.