How to Make Homemade Microwave Popcorn in Three Easy Steps
Why Make Homemade Microwave Popcorn?
Commercially prepared microwave popcorn packets are loaded with artificial dyes, flavors, and unhealthy fats. In addition to the unhealthy artificial ingredients, microwave popcorn can be very expensive: our local grocery store was selling a box of generic popcorn (12 packets) for $18. This breaks down to a cost of $1.50 per bag of popcorn.
In contrast, homemade microwaved popcorn costs pennies on the dollar and is made from all natural, healthy ingredients. Our local grocery store sells a canister of popcorn kernels for about $4. This jar holds about 4 cups of kernels, which means you can make about 16 bags of homemade microwaved popcorn from the jar. This breaks down to a cost of $0.25 per bag of popcorn - this is approximately 17% of the cost of the commercial variety.
Natural popcorn is full of fiber (it is a whole grain) and the homemade version is popped in a small amount of olive oil and salt. You can control the ingredients added to the popcorn, and may eliminate the salt if desired. Additional toppings can be added once the popcorn is popped, which allows for any number of creative popcorn toppings.
Homemade Microwave Popcorn!
Artificial Ingredients... Yum?
3 Ingredients for DIY Microwave Popcorn
When the first reports of bronchiolitis obliterans came out, it was believed that only factory workers exposed to high levels of diacetyl were affected. Unfortunately, people exposed to far less diacetyl began displaying respiratory symptoms. Wayne Watson developed "Popcorn Lung" after consuming 2 bags of microwaved popcorn per day. The take home lesson? Never buy commercial, microwave popcorn products containing diacetyl. No food product is worth a permanent lung disease!
Commercial Microwave Popcorn Ingredients
Commercially prepared microwave popcorn often contains a chemical called diacetyl, which produces a buttery flavor. This chemical is toxic, and has caused a condition commonly known as "popcorn lung" among factory workers who prepare microwave popcorn packets. The disease is officially known as bronchiolitis obliterans, an irreversible and life threatening lung disease. Scar tissue obstructs the bronchioles, and literally obliterates the tiny airways in the lungs.
While many popcorn manufacturers are beginning to remove diacetyl from their product, some manufacturers persist with the use of the toxic chemical. Consumers should check their microwave popcorn to ensure diacetyl is not listed in the ingredients.
Even when diacetyl is not used in the manufacture of microwave popcorn, artificial colors and preservatives are often used.
We have always tried to buy the healthiest microwave popcorn, inspecting the ingredient list carefully. How healthy is this brand? The microwave popcorn bag on the right contains "natural flavors" (the ingredient list does not specify the source of the natural flavor), palm oil, TBHQ, and a natural color (annatto).
TBHQ, or tert-butylhydroquinone, is an anti-oxidant used as a preservative. It is a derivative of phenol, and the FDA limits the concentration of this chemical in food. The upper allowable limit of TBHQ is 0.02% - higher concentrations have been shown to cause stomach cancer in laboratory animals. This chemical can be avoided entirely by eating fresh, natural foods. Homemade microwave popcorn does not contain any TBHQ.
Palm oil is high in saturated fats. It also has a reddish color, which lends a hint of color to products. Olive oil, however, consists of monounsaturated fat and may actually reduce the incidence of heart disease. In this case, homemade microwaved popcorn is the clear-cut winner. Use heart-healthy olive-oil and skip the saturated fats in the palm oil!
Annatto is a natural color, derived from the seeds of the achiote tree. The color is added to make the microwaved product more appealing, as it has a bright yellow color. The homemade version does not have any added color, as added color is entirely unnecessary for popcorn.
You can add a variety of popcorn toppings to enrich the flavor of your homemade snack.
- Add melted butter and 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt to the popped corn for a garlic popcorn treat.
- Add 1 tablespoon sugar during the popping process to obtain kettle corn.
- 3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese may be added for a delicious, cheesy treat!
A topping that will please any lover of salty, sweet popcorn is a batch of Peanut Butter Popcorn. For this recipe, bring 1 cup of corn syrup and 1 cup of sugar to a boil on the stove. Boil for 1 minute, then add 1 cup of peanut butter to the mixture. Stir until the peanut butter is melted, then pour the peanut butter mix over the popcorn in a shallow baking pan. Bake the popcorn at 300°F for approximately 10 minutes.