What does the paper disk in my popcorn popper do?

I have a Presto microwave popcorn popper that has disposable paper cups that are required for the popper to work. But what are the little cups doing?

They’re called “concentrators” but are they really concentrating the microwaves?

The popper usually leaves only one or two unpopped kernels, so something is working.

They are specially engineered with a material that absorbs microwaves efficiently. This makes them heat up evenly, and get very hot. It is mainly this hot material which heats the oil mixed in with the kernels and causes the corn to pop. Microwave popcorn bags have a similar patch of material inside them; if you look in the empty bag at the part opposite the “This Side Up” instruction, you’ll see a dark square area. That’s the microwave absorbent material.

So what happens if I leave out the concentrator? Something ghastly, or just unpopped popcorn?

And can a bag be reused the same way the concentrator cups can?

Unpopped and burned, mostly. And a gawdawful smell.

The bags aren’t designed to be reused, and it says as much on the bag. I’ve never tried, actually, but I suspect either the bag could catch on fire or the material simply won’t absorb the radiation as effectively as it did when new. The same applies to those crisper sleeves included with certain frozen microwaveable products, like Hot Pockets, which work by the same principle.

Thanks for the info!

Are you sure you even need the popper? I just throw popcorn into a brown lunch bag, staple it shut, and throw it into the microwave on the popcorn setting. Works every time. You can even add oil if you think you want to.