October 8, 2007 3:23 AM   Subscribe

I recently read on The Blue that microwave popcorn could be bad for you, and would like to go back to more a traditional method of making it. What are your air popper / popcorn maker suggestions (UK)?

I know they won't have Orville Redenbacher here. Should I just get the cheapo Argos Special? When I was a lad, they had the Jiffy pop tinfoil stovetop poppers in the store, but that was a long time ago.

My kids love the stuff, but I try and avoid it because it's apparently pretty bad for your gums unless you floss right away.
posted by chuckdarwin to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Why not just pop it on the stove in a covered pot? Add a bit of oil, popcorn, heat and shake. (Like this.) Score one for you if your kids are old enough to do the shaking themselves. My brother and I loved making popcorn when we were kids.
posted by cocoagirl at 4:06 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ditto cocoagirl. Easy, fast, no special gadgets required.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:08 AM on October 8, 2007

I have never felt the need to buy a popper. The old fashioned way is very simple: A large saucepan w/ lid, enough vegetable oil (peanut is fine) to just cover the bottom, pop in one corn, cover, heat on medium/high and wait for corn to pop, take out popped single corn and add enough corn to cover the bottom of the pan in a layer one corn thick, cover and wait till fusillade of popping subsides somewhat, give the pan a good shake and leave on heat for another few seconds. Salt and dump in a large bowl. Retire while children go into feeding frenzy.
posted by Dr.Pill at 4:18 AM on October 8, 2007

Triple cocoagirl and Wolfdog. Popcorn is one of those 'convenience' foods that've become inconvenient through the power of marketing. But it's silly easy to make yourself, and you don't have to wonder about the preservatives and flavorings when you have a homemade batch. Check your snack or baking aisle at the grocery for unpopped popcorn. It usually comes in unassuming bags, so look sharp. All you need is a decent sized covered pot and some oil and the ability to shake a pan for a few minutes and you've got perfect popcorn. Simple for you, fun for the kids (and probably healthier, too.)
posted by maryh at 4:31 AM on October 8, 2007

When I was a kid and before microwave popcorn became big, my family did it like this.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:56 AM on October 8, 2007

We used to do popcorn on the stove, but we have a smooth top stove, and shaking the pot was causing trouble. So I invested in a Whirley Pop. Best $25 I ever spent. Makes great popcorn -- makes the microwave stuff taste terrible. We make popcorn 3-4 times a week, so it makes sense for us to have such a thing - I just leave it on the stove most of the time, actually.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:00 AM on October 8, 2007

A 53-year-old Centennial man who microwaved and ate two to three bags of extra-buttery-flavored popcorn a day for a decade has come down with a dangerous lung disease - apparently the first consumer case of "popcorn lung."

That is 7,300 - 10,950 bags of popcorn over the last 10 years. Do you think you will EVER eat that much popcorn?

Think about it. You eat anything that abrasive for 10 years and of course your gonna scar up. That guy's scars have scars. I don't think air popping his pop corn would have helped him either.

If you do plan on eating 10k bags of popcorn over the next ten years and want to know what you can do to avoid "popcorn lung," you should pop your corn, pour a cup of water in the bag, let it soak for 3 - 5 minutes, grab a spoon and eat.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 5:19 AM on October 8, 2007

We used to do it in the fireplace, which was fun.
posted by MtDewd at 5:20 AM on October 8, 2007

I do it like this--in a big metal bowl covered wth foil. It makes it easier to keep from burning the popcorn. Tips:

I don't use tongs to shake it; I use oven mitts.

It's really important to keep shaking it once it gets popping.

Pour the popcorn into another bowl as soon as it's done popping or it'll start burning.

Don't use a bowl you love, because it will get stained.
posted by hought20 at 5:28 AM on October 8, 2007

Once you go stovetop, you'll never go back. Microwave popcorn is a scam - stovetop takes about 5 minutes and tastes a million times better.
posted by walla at 5:28 AM on October 8, 2007

I was kidding about watering down your popcorn, but then a friend pointed me to the factoid that popcorn used to be eaten as a cereal:

"By the time Europeans began to settle in America popcorn had spread to almost all Native American tribes. The English colonists were introduced to popcorn at the first Thanksgiving feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where one of the chief's brothers arrived with a goodwill gift of popped corn in a deerskin bag. After their introduction the colonists had the idea of eating popcorn with milk and sugar and so was born the breakfast cereal. At this point there were more than 700 varieties of popcorn."
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 5:35 AM on October 8, 2007

I have an unhealthy realtionship with popcorn and love my Whirly Pop as suggested by dpx.mfx. However, when I don't want to drag that out and need a junkie's quick fix, I often use
Alton Brown's microwave recipe:
1/4 cup good quality popcorn
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or popcorn salt
Paper lunch bag
Stapler (I never use staples and just fold the bag over a few times, although they're small enough that it's ok to use in the microwave)

Toss the popcorn with the olive oil and salt in the paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over and staple the bag twice to close. Place the bag in the microwave and microwave on high for 2 minutes to 3 minutes, or until there are about 5 seconds between pops.
posted by FreezBoy at 5:48 AM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

Totally safe microwave popcorn.

You'll experiment a bit; but when it comes down to it, it's everything you want:
Cheaper, easy, better for you. (actually exactly what freezboy does)
posted by filmgeek at 6:00 AM on October 8, 2007

I love my cheapo air popper. I don't have much in the way of gadgets or appliances, so I don't mind the cabinet space used by the popper.
posted by desuetude at 6:07 AM on October 8, 2007

FWIW those JiffyPop stovetop foil things are still available in stores if you really enjoy doing it that way.
posted by genial at 6:07 AM on October 8, 2007

I have a very similar popper to that Argos Special, and I find it very handy. Dump a cup of popcorn in, put a big bowl underneath, hit Start, and go do something else for five or six minutes. Raw popcorn is incredibly cheap, and you can safely flavor it however you like. And by doing it with the air popper, it's quite low-calorie as well... no oil involved.
posted by Malor at 6:15 AM on October 8, 2007

Best answer: I've made the Cinnamon Sugar and Spicy Popcorns a lot and they are always a huge hit. I also put them in bags and sneak them into the movies. The first time I did that, I realized how ludicrous it was to buy a small $10 crappy popcorn.

from Everyday Food

Basic Popcorn
1. In a large heavy-bottom saucepan, stir together 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 cup popcorn kernels; cover partially with lid to allow steam to escape.

2. Cook over medium heat until popping slows, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand (covered) until popping stops, 1 minute. Toss hot popcorn with one of the flavorings below, or more oil or butter and salt, as desired. Makes 8 to 10 cups.

Popcorn Flavors
Cinnamon-Sugar Popcorn
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons melted butter

Combine sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Toss hot popcorn with melted butter to coat evenly, then toss with sugar mixture.

Parmesan Popcorn
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Toss hot popcorn with oil to coat evenly, then toss with Parmesan mixture.

Spicy Popcorn
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine paprika, salt, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper. Toss hot popcorn with oil to coat evenly, then toss with spice mixture.
posted by spec80 at 6:34 AM on October 8, 2007 [8 favorites]

I make it on the stove. It's recommended to grind the salt (if indeed you like salt) so it's as fine as possible. Larger salt chunks are harder to stick to ze kernels.
posted by 6am at 6:39 AM on October 8, 2007

The Whirley-Pop is definitely worth getting; it is available in the UK. It takes about as much time to pop a batch as the microwave but tastes much better and pops more of the kernels. Don't fret about not having Orville Redenbacher; there are better alternatives. We like the black and red varieties that don't pop quite as big but are crunchier, have better flavor, and less noticeable hulls. Popcorn is cheap enough that you can have fun experiment to find something you like. I also second the notion of buying or grinding the salt as fine as possible, I use a mortar and pestle if popcorn salt is unavailable.
posted by TedW at 7:14 AM on October 8, 2007

We too are old school, and always make ours on the stove. We don't even own a microwave.

Pour out the popcorn and have some butter ready to throw in the pan to melt. Only one pan to clean that way.
posted by genefinder at 7:23 AM on October 8, 2007

IMHO air popped popcorn tastes like nothing, but I am a popcorn purist! I have always made popcorn the old fashioned way based on this tried and true method. I put about 1 TBS of olive oil in a heavy pan along with 3 or 4 kernals. Turn on the heat - when the 3 or 4 kernals pop, the oil is hot enough - add 1/2 cup kernals. Shake the pan as the kernals begin to pop and continue doing so until the pop rate slows down to one every second or so. At this point, turn off the heat and let the heat of the pan do the rest of the work. This will prevent burning.

I have found that using olive oil adds a very nice flavor to the popcorn and I rarely add butter, just a bit of salt.
posted by bluesky43 at 8:05 AM on October 8, 2007

Response by poster: You guys fucking rule.
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:48 AM on October 8, 2007

OK, OK, OK, so there are a lot of popcorn purists on this site.

I understand that.

But I also cannot over-stress the enjoyment I get from my popcorn-vomiting duck.

Seriously, once you have owned a popcorn-vomiting duck, no other kitchen appliance can compete. My new housemate said that the duck was one of the deciding factors as to whether to move in with us or not...
posted by flameproof at 9:36 AM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

...as a second point - still here in the UK, does anyone have recommendations on where to buy different types of popcorn? My local supermarkets don't stock any sort of popcorn kernels other than microwavable ones, so I'd be interested to know if anyone knows of a good source for some different varieties.

I'm in London, FWIW.
posted by flameproof at 9:42 AM on October 8, 2007

flameproof, you tease. I want a popcorn-vomiting duck now. But Amazon.uk is out of stock and Amazon USA has never heard of it.
posted by desuetude at 9:43 AM on October 8, 2007

B(oYo)BIES :
The 'popcorn lung' mentioned in the article is due to the aldyhyde added to typical microwave popcorn to enhance the 'buttery' taste. Apparently, alydehyde fumes really mess with your lungs...
posted by Arthur Dent at 11:16 AM on October 8, 2007

I use one of these. Nightly.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:31 AM on October 8, 2007

I will vouch for the Nordicware microwave popcorn popper that small_ruminant linked to above. Consumer Reports recommended it, and so we tried it out. You can pop with or without oil and it tastes like it was made on the stove. I've read reviews saying people got burned corn the first time they tried it, but I have never had any burned batches.

posted by achmorrison at 1:54 PM on October 8, 2007

I want a popcorn vomit duck now too. :(
posted by spec80 at 2:49 PM on October 8, 2007

It's true- that microwave popcorn popper might be easy, cheap, and quick, but it is certainly no vomiting duck.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:45 PM on October 8, 2007

You can all have popcorn vomit ducks! Popcorn vomit ducks for everyone!
  • I got mine years ago from John Lewis' - they don't seem to have it online, but it might be available in-store.
  • They're currently only about £6 on eBay.

posted by flameproof at 2:01 AM on October 9, 2007

Oh! Well if it is a popcorn-vomiting duck, then definitely hunt out a safe alternative. Though maybe you could mod a standard popper with a duck decoy, or something.

also, hoping your post is eponysterical, just in case
posted by Rumple at 6:22 PM on December 9, 2007

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