Pandemic times have turned us into popcorn lovers…but my homemade popcorn just isn’t as good as the bagged popcorn from the natural food store. I’ve tried stovetop and 3 dif brands of popcorn and wasn’t impressed and it’s a scratchy method for glasstop stoves. Then I got a popcorn appliance with a stir bar that also gave unsatisfactory results. The popcorn has a styrofoam texture that the bagged popcorn does not have. What am I doing wrong?
Too much steam would be my guess - it makes popcorn rubbery. When you do it on the stove top, try covering with a splatter screen that allows steam to escape rather than a regular lid. I assume the appliance is also fully enclosed?
Buy a Silicone popcorn popper and make it in the microwave. I first had this a few years ago and was an instant convert. No oil (less calories!) and the popcorn comes out great.
There was a useful (if biased) thing about popcorn on Serious Eats. One helpful part of it was saying something like “if you like X texture, Y is a good method to try”. They ended up most recommending the cheap aluminum stovetop popper with the stir crank, and gave their own detailed instructions for its use.
The new appliance actually has many venting holes in the top🤔
When you say styrofoam texture, is each piece too dense? Or are the kernels popping large but you don’t enjoy the feel?
Pop-in-the-bag popcorn often uses more fat or oil than other methods, and many people actually prefer a higher fat content in all their popcorn. Your current results might be technically “too good” in terms of being efficient and low-fat, and maybe it needs more oil to be how you want. However, some appliances only work with their own strict recipe. (With stovetop methods you can be more free to experiment.)
If you’ve ever loved “kettle corn”, and you’re wishing it was a bit more like that, then this is probably your answer.
One my favorite things! Here is some of my previous research
Don’t mean to be glib, but maybe just stick to the bagged kind?
Life’s too short to worry about popcorn, especially during a raging pandemic
Do you have a flat-bottom wok with a cover? We have a gas range, and make great popcorn in the wok. It should work on a glasstop stove if the temperature is high enough. Heat the wok, add 1-2 tbsp oil and 4 grains of popcorn. When the 4 grains pop, add the rest, lower the heat, shake the wok, and enjoy.
This could also be the culprit. I use quite a bit of fat when I pop corn on the stovetop and it definitely has a much better texture overall than air-popped.
Take two paper lunch bags.
Add two to three handfuls of kernels, depending on the size of your hands.
Fit the empty bag over the bag with the kernels and lay them on their side in the microwave.
Set the timer for 2 1\2 minutes or so.
Allow to pop until the kernels just about quit popping.
Notice there’s no oil, so a couple of tbsps of melted butter are almost a requisite if you want the salt to stick. (Note that I consider this a feature, not a flaw).
The bags can be reused several times.
No cleanup except the serving bowl.
No preservatives or other chemicals.
I started doing this recently, and will never look back at the microwave techniques!
Could too high heat be the culprit? I’ve noticed that if I don’t lower the heat after those initial 4 kernels, the popcorn has more of a styrofoam-like texture. Edit: going beyond my speculation, I googled a bit. Excess steam might be the culprit, so make sure there’s enough ventilation in your pans, but I guess not so much that kernels whiz out.
When I once forgot to lower the heat, the popcorn burned. After that I learned my lesson. I don’t have a microwave, so I can’t compare the two methods.
I’m guessing here, but maybe not a very bad guess?..
Facts: Burning is obviously too hot, and if the heat is really too low then the corn won’t even pop (or will take forever).
Guessing: this “too much steam” might really mean “too much steaming”, kernels spending too much time in the pot after they pop. Maybe it’s not about vent holes - maybe the ideal is to be almost hot enough to burn the corn but not quite, popping all the corn in a very short time interval, and getting it out of there.
When I pop corn in the wok, the cover does not fit air-tight, so steam can escape. I have never had the problem of a styrofoam-like texture.
I mean, we could say the same thing about ever taking the time to visit this very website. I think it kind of depends on how much you like popcorn, and how often you eat it. If you like to make popcorn often and your new method isn’t working, you’ll probably start asking someone somewhere.
Quitting a method that works doesn’t seem to make sense, but maybe it didn’t work that well except the texture was better, or maybe there was some other reason to quit it.
commercial “sales” often use ‘popcorn flavored oil/butter’ - straight out of the chem lab. very difficult to replicate that kind of intense flavor doing from scratch with real ingredients…
we have used “air poppers” for many years - this is the best I’ve encountered
the hot air is vented into the chamber on the sides, causing the kernels to swirl around. much neater than many other models which tend to throw popped and unpopped kernels all over the kitchen before they’re done.
do you use the fine grind “pop corn salt”? that also makes a huge difference vs. ordinary table salt.
Or it could be the kind of popcorn you use. Back when white popcorn was hard to find we started ordering a case a year (I know, we have a problem!) I use a heavy pan with olive oil on an induction range, lifting the lid for steam a couple times. Once we found the right heat setting, it’s been reliably good.
Agree with @Cocoabrioche, that it can depend on the type of popcorn used. Being unhappy with the relative toughness and hully aspect of a major brand, I ordered some Amish popcorn online. Not only is it tender and flavorful, but it has few hulls, as advertised. The only negative is that it produces small popped kernels. But, the trade off is so worth it IMO. Oh, and we just do it stovetop, really easy.
we ordered from Rural Route One popcorn in Wisconsin. https://ruralroute1.3dcartstores.com/12-2-Pound-Bags-White-Popping-Corn The kernels are just normal size, and much more tender. The two lb. bags (they now have smaller quantities!) have very thick plastic, so the kernels stay fresher.