It’s no secret that store-bought microwavable popcorn bags often contain high amounts of salt and fat. But it gets worse than that. Some microwavable popcorn bags contain perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which scientists link to cancer.
So, it might get you wondering—can you microwave popcorn kernels that you prepare at home?
Yes, you can. Microwaving homemade popcorn kernels is easy and a healthier alternative to buying the prepackaged kind. So, we’ll teach you how to do so.
Steps to Microwave Popcorn Kernels in a Paper Bag
Although studies estimate that 98% of Americans already have PFCs in their bloodstream, it’s never too late to give your popcorn-eating ways a makeover. So, follow the steps below to create a fast, chemical-free popcorn treat.
Step 1: Choose a Brown Paper Bag
Brown paper bags are the most popular choice when microwaving popcorn kernels since they most closely resemble the storebought kind. Using a lunch-sized brown paper bag is ideal if you’re making a single serving of popcorn.
Alternatively, you can use a larger paper bag from a store if you want to pop multiple servings simultaneously. Whatever you do, check for staples or other foreign objects around the bag if you’re reusing it.
Metal is dangerous to heat in microwaves, given that it doesn’t contain water, so it reflects the microwave currents. The result is electrons bouncing off pieces of metal, creating an unwanted firework-like show in your kitchen.
You should also check for holes in the paper bag. Holes won’t have a detrimental impact on your microwave like staples, but they’ll leave a mess as your corn kernels pop.
Step 2: Fill the Bag With Popcorn Kernels
A serving of popcorn in a lunch-size brown paper bag equates to about ¼ cup of kernels. So, we recommend calculating from there if you’re using a larger brown bag to pop kernels.
While it can be tempting to want every last kernel in your brown bag to pop, the reality is that this is nearly impossible.
On the contrary, if you overheat your popcorn kernels in the microwave trying to get all of them to pop, you’ll likely end up burning some of the perfect fluffy white pieces of popcorn you already have.
Step 3: Microwave the Kernels
Fold the top of your paper bag twice, but don’t use tape or any other substance to keep it closed, as that could release toxins.
Then microwave your popcorn for anywhere from two to four minutes. The amount of time your popcorn takes to pop will depend on several factors, such as:
- The heat setting
- Quality of your microwave
- Your altitude
Yes, we said altitude, not attitude. That’s because the water molecules in popcorn kernels—which allows the kernels to heat up—evaporate faster in high-altitude areas.
For this reason, you might need to microwave your popcorn slightly longer at higher elevations than at sea level.
Step 4: Wait for Popping to Subside
You’ll hear the unmistakable pop when your popcorn kernels start heating up. It’ll take some practice to get a feel for when you should remove the popcorn bag from your microwave.
But the best practice is waiting for most of the popping to subside. Once there are about three seconds of silence between pops, that’s a good indication your popcorn is ready.
If you leave your popcorn heating in the microwave for much longer after that time, you’ll likely encounter some burnt pieces.
Step 5: Season Accordingly
Did you notice we didn’t mention using butter or oil to microwave popcorn kernels? That’s because microwaves use the water naturally occurring in the kernels to generate enough heat and energy to pop them.
So, you can eat your popcorn plain if you want to keep it extra healthy. Alternatively, some people enjoy spraying a little olive or other oil on their popcorn and sprinkling on some salt.
If you want to get fancy with your popcorn seasoning, you should use fine salt as it’s an excellent option, and it’s even the kind that many movie theaters opt to use. You can also top your popcorn with garlic powder, pepper, or specialty popcorn seasoning.
Of course, if your goal is to make healthy popcorn, you’ll want to take care with reading the ingredient list if you choose specialty popcorn seasoning.
Can You Microwave Popcorn Kernels in a Bowl?
Yes, you can microwave popcorn kernels in a microwave-safe bowl – this is an excellent alternative to microwave popcorn kernels, as you’ll be able to monitor the progress of the kernels popping if you use a glass bowl.
To microwave popcorn kernels in a bowl, simply place the desired amount of corn kernels in the bowl and set a plate on top to fully cover it.
Then microwave the popcorn for around three to five minutes until you hear about a three-second pause between pops.
Unlike brown bags, glass bowls and the plates on top of them get extremely hot in microwaves. Therefore, toss on a pair of oven mitts before handling them.
What About Non-Paper Bags?
You can use other microwaveable bags, including some Ziploc and Stasher bags, to make popcorn at home. The trick is ensuring the company labels the bag as microwave safe.
Otherwise, toxins could leak into your popcorn, leaving you in the same or worse situation as popcorn containing PFCs.
Like glass bowls, the benefit of microwaving popcorn in non-paper bags is that you’ll be able to monitor the progress of your popcorn as it pops more easily. You can follow the same instructions we’ve covered here for microwaving popcorn in non-paper bags.
Enjoying Homemade Popcorn
Few things are more satisfying than making homecooked snacks, especially when you know it has many health benefits. Plus, popcorn kernels are cheap, so you’ll likely save money compared to purchasing the pre-packaged microwaveable store brands.
So, if someone asks you, “Can you microwave popcorn kernels?” you’ll know how to answer them. And if they don’t, you might surprise your guests with this fun fact if you invite them over for popcorn at your house.