People nowadays aren’t particularly enthusiastic about microwave popcorn. It’s something you might keep in the back of your pantry for days when you’re out of more exciting snack options or is useful to have around for spontaneous movie nights with friends or family.
However, when first arrived on grocery store shelves in the early 1980s, microwave popcorn changed the snack eating game.
The microwave popcorn arrived at the exact moment it was supposed to. Microwaves had been around since the 1940s, but they weren’t widely used until the 1980s in American households.
Also the 1980s, there was a boom in fitness-related interest, as well as a surge in the popularity of healthier dietary options.
Popcorn, which is lower in fat and calories than potato chips, seemed to fit the bill beautifully, especially popcorn that could be produced in under five minutes and came with its own built-in serving container.
But who made this life-changing snack? And why is it not very popular anymore? Read on to learn everything you need to know about microwave popcorn, including how to make yours taste even better.
Who Invented Microwave Popcorn?
If there is one name that will be forever associated with microwave popcorn, it is Orville Redenbacher. Redenbacher was not a made-up character like Betty Crocker. Instead, he was an agricultural scientist who improved a maize variety that was more suitable for popping.
He once told David Letterman in an interview that when he wanted to start a corn marketing company, he had no idea what he was getting himself into “I enlisted the help of a huge Chicago branding firm to come up with a name for me.
They came up with the name ‘Orville Redenbacher,’ which is identical to the name my mother came up with 85 years ago, and they charged $13,000 for the concept.”
Thing is, although he has the most well-known name in the microwave popcorn industry, Orville Redenbacher did not actually invent this type of popcorn, he only popularized it.
Percy Spencer, the inventor of the microwave, copyrighted an idea for a microwave popcorn popping bag in 1947, and later a man called General Mills improved on this product.
His research and development team produced the first microwave popcorn bag in the 1970s. So it seems that many people had a hand in the creation of this well-known snack.
Nonetheless, Redenbacher’s corn type proved to be so well-suited for microwave cooking that by the time he died in 1995, his corn kernels accounted for 45 percent of all microwave popcorn sales.
Why Is Microwave Popcorn Not Popular Anymore?
In the late twentieth century, microwave popcorn was the go-to snack, but its popularity began to wane shortly after the new millennium. There could be many reasons for this decline in popularity.
For one thing, waiting a few minutes for a snack to cook is a bit of a hassle, especially since you have to stand right next to the microwave counting seconds between pops to figure out when to pull the bag out before the popcorn burns.
Consumer preferences have shifted firmly toward ready-to-eat popcorn, with microwaveable versions failing to keep up, probably because they’ve fallen behind the pre-popped business when it comes to inventing new flavors. This type of popcorn is often seen as healthier and tastier than the original microwave popcorn.
Many people also avoid microwave popcorn because it is thought to be harmful, with hazardous chemicals in both the bags and the flavorings.
The final thing that turns people off of microwave popcorn is the taste, as let’s be honest it often is not even a good or tasty snack to have. But this bad flavor often comes down to how it is prepared in your home. Read on to learn some handy tricks to make your popcorn taste better.
Tips And Tricks For Perfect Microwave Popcorn
Get The Timing Right
Unfortunately, relying on a timer to tell you when your popcorn is done will probably result in burnt and gross-tasting popcorn. This is true even if your microwave has a “popcorn” setting built-in. We all know that burnt popcorn has a strong odor, so avoiding it at all costs is a good idea.
But if you don’t use a timer, how do you know when it’s finished? The answer is very easy. Stay nearby and listen closely to the pops. When it’s ready, the sound of popping popcorn is the best indicator.
Listen carefully until you can count 2 seconds between pops when the popping slows down. When you can count the seconds, you know it’s done. To prevent it from cooking any longer, open the bag as soon as possible, though be careful as it will be very hot.
This trick of counting the gaps between pops works for both microwave and stove-made popcorn.
Use Extra Flavorings
If you think movie theatre popcorn is the only popcorn worth eating, but you’ve never been able to replicate that flavor at home, you’re probably not using the right flavorings. The best added flavoring you can buy is Flavacol.
Flavacol is the secret ingredient that gives movie theatre popcorn its distinctive flavor. Fine salt flakes stick on the popcorn better than ground salt, which tends to come off. It is also able to give your popcorn that that typical bright yellow appearance that you get in movie theatre popcorn.
Store the popcorn correctly
If you buy a large amount of microwave popcorn in one go, then you may be wondering what is the best place in your kitchen to store it all. You may be tempted to put it in the forge or freezer, after all, you may not eat it all for a very long time.
This though can make your popcorn taste a bit gross once it has thawed out and been cooked. Storing kernels in cold places dries them out, and they need moisture within them to pop. If your kernels are dry then you will be left with a lot of unpopped popcorn.