Popcorn poppers and popcorn

I have fond childhood memories associated with popcorn. A longstanding Sunday night tradition at my house growing up was to watch The Wonderful World of Disney, and when mom was in a good mood she would sometimes even make popcorn. The popcorn was prepared old school and would simply put a little oil in the bottom of a kettle and shake, but later on we got one of those space helmet looking poppers. The ‘space helmets’ were cool from the standpoint that you could watch the popcorn as it popped, but for some reason the end product didn’t seem to be quite as satisfying (less oil?). After that, my parents graduated to one of those air poppers, and again, for some reason I found the flavor or texture somehow lacking. There was an interval where mom bought a type of popcorn called, I think, ‘Merry Poppins’ which one didn’t top with butter and salt, but rather, used the enclosed packet of butter/salt seasoning powder. I think I liked this type of popcorn least of all…save microwave popcorn, which can scarcely be considered popcorn at all in my book.

For my own kitchen I purchased a hand crank stove top popper, and am quite pleased with the results it provides. The only popcorn that’s better is maybe movie theater popcorn. I’m not sure why theater popcorn usually tastes better than homemade, but it typically does. Anyone have insight into why that might be?

As to the popcorn itself, I used to think there wasn’t much difference between brands but have come to find otherwise. Cheap store brand popcorn may produce adequately good tasting kernels, but there are differences to be found between cheapo brands and premium types. We’re fortunate to live not far from Amish country and have access to some of the best northern Indiana popcorn to be found - my favorite are the ‘low hull’ varieties, but in terms of grocery store brands, I find Orville Redenbacher to offer the most consistency. Properly prepared one seldom ends up with more than a dozen un-popped kernels.

What are your preferred methods of preparing popcorn? What are your favorite toppings? Favorite brands?

Paper lunch bag. Kernels. Microwave for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Dump in bowl. Sprinkle liberally with olive oil, grated parmesan cheese, and garlic powder. Toss. Eat.

I use a tablespoon of coconut oil in the popper I have. There is a rotating bar that spreads the kernels and oil as it heats up, so the popping is even. I don’t use salt or butter, so it’s basically air. LOL It’s a great snack, though, if you want to quell hunger with very little caloric/fat intake.

I’m interested in this “good” vs “bad” popcorn thing. I get it at the market. I get Orville Redenbacher kernels, but how good that stuff is I don’t know for sure. Suggestions?

I used to have a microwave popper (thick plastic bowl with a loose fitting lid) it used a little bit of oil and regular popcorn kernels. It made pretty good popcorn. I, like the OP, hate actual microwave popcorn in the bag. Blah! The smell alone turns me off. I have a ceramic, smooth topped stove, otherwise, I’d just use a pan and shake it.

When my microwave popper bit the dust, I bought an air popper that has a large dome. It makes really good popcorn - I also add melted butter and popcorn salt after it’s done popping. And it has to be popcorn salt. The grains are a lot smaller than regular salt - almost a powder.

I’ve used Orville, Jolly Time and WalMart’s premium popcorn. I didn’t see any difference so I’ve stuck with the WalMart popcorn. I rarely have unpopped kernels and it’s always light and fluffy. I use the yellow popcorn.

I’d eat popcorn every night if it wasn’t for the dogs. UGH They won’t leave me alone, they drool uncontrollably and I have to share. :dubious:

If I open the cupboard that I keep the popcorn in, my dogs will sit a stare at me in anticipation.

Movie butter is often a coconut oil product, which is probably why the OP likes it. Most movie popcorn is so full of hulls that I don’t often get it.

At home I buy ONLY Bob’s Red Mill popcorn. It’s nearly hulless, always leaves very few kernels unpopped, and is always a fresh product. Everything else on the market, with the exception of Amish corn that’s purchased out where it grows, sucks ass.

I pop it in a teflon pot using plenty of oil and I usually top mine with a mix of butter and lemon olive oil, salt and pepper. Sometimes I like to add curry powder for a change.

My mom had one of the stove top hand-crank ones but it was a bit older than the one you picture and the crank was directly on the top, not on the side.

I very rarely make popcorn but, when I do, I use my Stir Crazy popcorn popper. It seems to do a pretty good job.

As for the popcorn itself, the last popcorn I used was some I grew myself in the garden. Really good and hardly an unpopped kernel.

You may be on to something with the type of oil. I’m guessing the fat content in coconut oil probably causes instant heart attacks, so that must be why I like it. I also read once the ‘butter’ in theater popcorn isn’t even butter, but some soy product. The observation about lots of hulls seems to frequently hold true in my experiences as well. It’s strange, I gather theaters on the one hand spare no expense with regard to toppings, seasonings and equipment, but evidently buy bulk quantities of the cheapest, lowest quality popcorn money can buy.

I overheard an employee at a theater say to another employee ‘we’re running low on popcorn, go back and get some more.’ The employee shortly emerged carrying a large bag of pre-popped popcorn which she then poured into the popcorn display. Maybe they make lots of popcorn in advance and store it in bags for use later in the day, but I got the disturbing feeling this popcorn was made off-premises and shipped out to the various theaters in the chain. I could be wrong about this, but I didn’t see any popcorn actually being made on site, and that’s the impression I got.

I remember one theater when I was a teen that actually used a fan to waft the scent of popcorn towards patrons standing in line waiting to get tickets.

The best popcorn I’ve had was Trails End, the brand the Boy Scouts sell as a fundraiser. The worst was Act III, which not only left half the kernels unpopped, but burned them into a block of charcoal.

The physics behind popping popcorn:

We use a silicone microwave bowl. ⅓ cup of regular popcorn kernels on high for 3:30, no oil needed.

I have an air popper at home, the microwave is for melting butter. Butter, popcorn salt, all is right with the world.

As for popcorn types, I’ve developed an affinity for “Baby White” popcorn, bought off Amazon. The store brands, Redenbacher and Jolly Time and such, don’t have a lot of taste to them. Baby White doesn’t pop as big, but it has more flavor.

I worked the popcorn maker at the concession stand. I got really good at it. But, now I can’t eat popcorn anymore. The smell makes me anxious. I am afraid I am running low and customers are complaining about salt. Egads.
We used giant bags of some weird brand of popcorn and a butter flavored oil of unknown origin. As soon as the machine was turned on the smell would permeate the whole place and the customers came running. It was scary.
ETA I never added salt. We had shakers on the counter. People complained anyway.

We have something like that. I was dubious was first. (We used to use the hard plastic type.) But it works very well. I add a very small dab of butter to the kernels.

I eat popcorn almost every night. I use an on top of the stove hand crank (Aladdin brand, no longer made), canola oil, and white popcorn. Currently I’m using Signature brand (Jewel/Albertson’s store brand). I will also use Jolly Time. Melted butter and official popcorn salt to round it out.

I use a mixture of Black Jewel and Red Jewel. I pop in a dutch oven with a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil. I bought a silicone microwave popper but it just doesn’t taste as good.

I keep thinking about buying a popper that is like the movie theater kind but haven’t been willing to spend what it takes.

Very timely thread!

Our new house has a bonus room upstairs that we had speakers installed in the ceiling and use as a media room. We’ve been decorating it with an old school theater look. I recently was at a fundraiser and one of the raffle items was a old fashioned looking popcorn popper. I put a bunch of tickets in on it and won. I mainly wanted it for decoration. This past weekend we had a movie night and I decided to give it a try. It came with some Orville Redenbocker. I was afraid of burning the popcorn, so I turned it off a little too soon and had too many unpopped kernels. The flavor was amazing though. The whole family concurred it was way better than microwaved. I think it was the crunchy texture more than anything. I made a batch a couple days later, using what I learned the first time and it was awesome.

I’m now curious about the coconut oil and other brands. Will have to look for the Bob’s Red Mill.

Funny - my popcorn “evolution” perfectly mirrored the OP’s - up to the current Whirly-pop. As others mentioned, I could eat popcorn daily. Unfortunately, after some expensive dental work a couple of years back, I no longer do. (I LOVE the “old maids!”)

I use a fairly big pot, 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable or coconut oil to liberally coat the bottom of the pot, and cover the bottom with a thin one layer of popping corn. Cook on medium to medium high covered until popped, sharking the pot once every 30 seconds or so once it begins to pop.

Season with butter and salt, and eat until you you think you’ll never want to see a kernel of corn again. Repeat in 24 hours!

Keep in mind that I buy my Bob’s in bulk right at their factory, which is just down the road. I can’t speak for what you might find on the shelf at a market.