staples in the microwave??
July 28, 2005 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Is it really possible to make homemade microwave popcorn?

According to a NYTimes article from yesterday:

"For popcorn in the microwave, the group suggests the following: Place a quarter-cup of good quality popcorn in a standard brown paper lunch bag; mix with oil and seasoning; seal the bag with a single staple (one staple does not contain enough metal to cause a spark) and heat for two to three minutes. Alton Brown, who cooks on the Food Network, uses this method."

The point of this is to avoid chemicals leaching from the storebought bag, but it also seems like it would make tastier popcorn. Alton Brown is my hero, but I'm still scared of putting a staple in the microwave. And how much oil to use?
posted by footnote to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Well, here's the transcript from the episode where AB makes the popcorn; I've done this, and I know people who have done it, and I've never seen anyone's microwave explode. Shouldn't take much oil; his recipe uses 2tsp per 1/4c kernels.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:34 AM on July 28, 2005

I wasn't aware that Alton Brown suggested that method, but I've done it many times. One or two staples on the paper bag has never been a problem in my microwave oven. I've never measured how much oil I use, I just add enough that all of the kernels are coated and the salt or other seasonings adhere to the kernels. I just did a quick search, here is Alton's recipe.
posted by RichardP at 9:40 AM on July 28, 2005

My microwave rice maker came with instructions on how to pop popcorn inside of it, oddly enough.

It wasn't anything amazing, just use the popping lid (a lid with lots of holes in it for escaping steam I suppose) and add a cup or two of kernels inside the rice maker. I do believe this method will leave your popcorn air popped, as they did not mention oil. :-)

FWIW, I got the microwave rice maker from walmart for $10...
posted by shepd at 9:46 AM on July 28, 2005

I do it all the time. I don't use a staple. Just don't overload the bag, fold it a few times, and you'll be fine. I don't season it in the bag, though, I season it in the bowl afterwards. With butter, parmesan, and garlic. Mmmmm.
posted by sohcahtoa at 10:07 AM on July 28, 2005

I do it too, but I don't use oil or staples, I just dump some popcorn in a brown-paper bag, fold the top over once, and throw it in the microwave. I happen to like unseasoned popcorn, but you could also season it after popping.
posted by blm at 10:26 AM on July 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

man - when the first family on our block got a microwave in 1979, making popcorn in a paper bag was the main attraction for us kids. we didn't use any oil, though. i vaguely recall it left a higher % of unpopped kernels than other methods...
posted by chr1sb0y at 10:50 AM on July 28, 2005

I'm a big fan of my Nordic Ware Microwave Corn Popper. It's very simple, just a large plastic bowl with a peculiar slitted lid that sits on top but does not provide a tight seal. You place the kernels in the bowl, put on the top, microwave for a few minutes, and voila -- a bowl of popcorn. Nuke the butter separately to melt, salt up, and eat. The bowl is dishwasher safe. You can find it at your local store, or here -- pretty cheap.

On preview, I wonder if I can make rice with it too!
posted by clever sheep at 10:50 AM on July 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

Yeah we had a special bowl for making popcorn in the microwave and then realized you could do it in a paper bag. I go the no oil route too, totally easy. You can mix in a tablespoon of sugar with the oil and have kettle corn in your microwave!
posted by jessamyn at 10:54 AM on July 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

I've always used one of the gadgets to make my microwaved airpopped popcorn, I'll have to try the paper bag method now.

As far as the metal in the microwave thing, this url had this to say:

Q: If I put a fork in the Microwave, will it destroy the oven?

A: Nope, this is a myth, but it has some roots in reality.

In order to safely use metals inside a microwave oven, the cook has to learn numerous complex and mysterious rules in order to avoid fires and undercooked food. For example, thin metal will heat up fast in the oven, and may cause fires. The famous problem of the staple in the paper popcorn bag comes to mind, where the staple heats up and sets fire to the bag. And if a metal object in the oven is lightly touched to another one, or touched to the metal wall of the oven, an electric arc might ignite at the contact point. If not stopped it can set fire to the oven. In the higher power ovens when the amount of food is small, sharp points on metal objects can initiate a corona discharge, a "Saint Elmo's Fire," which behaves the same as a flame and can set fire to the food and the oven if allowed to continue for long.

So, it's much easier to totally ban the use of metals in microwave ovens. The alternative would be to send everyone to school to learn the complicated rules!
posted by phearlez at 11:03 AM on July 28, 2005

Forgot to mention: The point of this is to avoid chemicals leaching from the storebought bag, but it also seems like it would make tastier popcorn.

I think that your chances of getting icky chemical exposure from cooking inside a bag not really made to be cooked in and exposed to high temps is just as high if not higher than the chance of it happening from the microwave popcorn bag that's prepared and designed for it.

I wouldn't worry about either but in the realm of comparitive risks I don't see the advantage of the paper lunchbag.
posted by phearlez at 11:08 AM on July 28, 2005

One more vote for just a brown paper lunchbag and corn, NO staple, NO oil. Fold over two or three times, season afterward. Yummy and EASY and cheap as hell, like literally 1/30th the cost of stupid greasy Orville popcorn bags.
posted by pomegranate at 11:40 AM on July 28, 2005

My experience with homemade microwave popcorn is essentially the same as pomegranate's. No staple, no oil, and yes, far less expensive than the storebought - and yummier!
posted by Lynsey at 11:59 AM on July 28, 2005

Best answer: Instead of a staple, you could use a plastic paper clip or one of those "chip clip" bag sealers that doesn't have a metal spring. Otherwise, pop away!
posted by briank at 11:59 AM on July 28, 2005

When I make orange juice from frozen concentrate, I put the open can in the microwave for one minute first.

The ends of the can are metal disks (one of which is removed when the can is opened) and the rest is a cardboard cylinder. I forget who first introduced me to this method but the explanation I was given was that a single metal disk (more than 2 inches from the side of the oven) doesn't have any two points between which an arc can form.

Anyway, I've been doing this for nearly 10 years now without a problem.
posted by winston at 1:27 PM on July 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

I've used AB's staple+oil method, with good success. The oil does get messy as it soaks through the bottom of the bag, so I put a paper towl down on the bottom of the microwave. I've found that the staple is pretty neccessary if you really want a full bag's worth of popcorn.

And yeah, I'd be more worried about the chemicals in the "butter" in microwave popcorn than the chemicals in the bag.
posted by zsazsa at 1:42 PM on July 28, 2005

My experience with homemade microwave popcorn is essentially the same as pomegranate's.

*sigh* I don't pay close enough attention. I was trying to figure out why you'd microwave a pomegranate.

Pomegranate seeds that popped into pop'corn' would be cool though.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:32 PM on July 28, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I'll be eating much more popcorn now.

(phearlez, the main point of the article [NYtimes reg req'd] was the presence of a class of nonbiodegradable carcinogenic chemicals called fluorotelomers that are present in various kinds of cookware and grease-resistant packaging, including microwave popcorn bags. I'm assuming that plain brown paper bags don't have that chemical. But regardless, homemade sounds yummier!)
posted by footnote at 4:12 PM on July 28, 2005

Just got a microwave with METAL shelves. They sit on plastic hooks and therefore don't contact the walls.

Haven't tried them, but was surprised to see them.
posted by banjomensch at 5:35 PM on July 28, 2005

Hah! It worked in my decades-old underpowered microwave. And this, just when my hot air popper bit the dust.

Mmmmm. Greasy GM corn fluff coming right up!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:22 PM on July 28, 2005

Does the popcorn popped this way and with real melted butter taste better than the stuff that comes in the store-bought micro popcorn pouches (I assume usually with many mystery flavorings and other ingredients) ??

'Cause my sister-in-law makes stovetop popcorn that's to die for and WAY better than any micro pop I've ever had.

But I'm just too lazy to go the stovetop route and the few times I've tried it, I've too often ended up with horrible burned corn. I'd love to find a micro popping method that would come closer to the wonderful flavor of the old-fashioned method, especially if it was this easy and cheap to boot.
posted by marsha56 at 7:52 PM on July 28, 2005

I'm surprised to find this works. All commercial microwave popcorn I've used has a flat metal conductor embedded in the bag -- the microwaves induce currents, the metal heats up, and that's what I always thought pops the corn. IIRC, this is also why they tell you not to reuse the bag for unpopped kernels -- You've probably creased that square of metal foil while eating the first round, making it much more likely to arc.

So I wouldn't be scared of the amount of metal in the staple, but by the shape. All microwaves have metal walls.

[now I'm leaving to go try some homemade popcorn!]
posted by rossmik at 1:20 AM on July 29, 2005

I have a popcorn machine in which I make air popped popcorn, but this sounds much easier, I'll have to try it. Thanks for asking!

As for the health risks of microwave popcorn, I think the amounts of trans fat in store bought microwave popcorn are probably worse for you than the chemicals from the bag.
posted by davar at 2:23 PM on July 27, 2006

« Older Is Technorati broken?   |   Name this font Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.