Friday, November 13, 2009


Let’s talk about popcorn today, shall we? I know you love it. I certainly do. During a certain despairing period of my life, I fairly lived on microwave popcorn, apples, and orange juice. It didn’t last long, happily. Now I wonder if I would have recovered more quickly had I known how to make my own popcorn, rather than rely on the microwavable crap. People in my dorm used to burn that shit on purpose to cover up the smell of weed. It was a waste of popcorn, it didn’t work, and it smelled like death. FAIL.

Strange segue aside, popcorn is a hella popular snack food, and one that vegans should be able to obtain with minimal drama. It’s a buzzkill to be tempted by the sweet smell of hot popcorn only to realize that it’s from a sketchy microwave package. The odds of there being “real” butter in there may be slim, but who cares? It’s expensive, creates a bunch of trash, and isn’t nearly as healthy as making your own is.

“But Burnout,” you complain, “I don’t have one of those air poppers. I don’t even think they make them anymore. Well, maybe I could get one at a thrift store. But the last time I bought a kitchen gadget at the thrift store, it broke/exploded/electrocuted me/turned my food into meat.”

Never fear, sweet child o’ mine. I don’t have an air popper either. For the longest time, I too eyed all those loose, unpopped kernels with suspicion. Then my mom gave me two fancy jars of multicolored popcorn for Christmas, and I had to figure out what to do with them. Here is what I did:

I heated a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil grew shimmery, I added half a cup of popcorn, covered the pot, and shook it to spread the kernels out. I waited a minute or two, then that blissful popping started. I shook the pot a few times each minute, occasionally lifting the lid a little (lift it away from you, for the love of your face) to let the steam escape. When the popping stopped, I removed the lid and moved the pot off the burner. I melted one or two tablespoons of Earth Balance in the microwave, then drizzled it over the popcorn as I stirred it with a spatula. (Note: for this amount of popcorn, I usually empty half into a large bowl, then coat and stir each batch before combining them.) I finished with a liberal sprinkling of salt, then settled down on the couch with Red and a beer to savor my success.

This was not hard. I did not burn my popcorn. In fact, I’ve burned far more popcorn in the microwave than I have on the stove. Sure, you can’t sit on your ass while it’s popping, but we all sit too much anyway. Five minutes in front of the stove is good for you. Plus, you get to control what goes onto your popcorn. Are you, like me, in the position of sharing your popcorn with someone who prefers a popcorn-unsuitable seasoning? Does the thought of nutritional yeast or sugar or Old Bay (hi, honey!) on your popcorn make you gag? Maybe your significant other likes a ton of melted butter and you don’t. Well, I have your solution. Simply divvy up that popcorn into two bowls, season to your satisfaction, and let your unenlightened squeeze do the same. Then you can jealously snuggle your individual bowls and munch happily.

“Okay,” you sigh. “I’ll try it. But how much do I use?”

Glad you asked. Half a cup makes a lot of popcorn, almost too much for Red and me. I use our big pasta pot, and half a cup of kernels pops enough to fill it. (No, I don’t know how many quarts it holds. It’s big. It has two handles. There.) If you’re popping for one, try a third or even a quarter-cup instead until you get the hang of it.

Go forth and pop, my darlings. Nevermore will you be slaves to your microwaves.

And floss, too. You’ll need it.

I won this Rachael Ray Garbage Bowl at a bridal shower. It is the perfect popcorn bowl.


  1. Mm, popcorn. I grew up in a house where my mom totally spoiled me by making tons of air-popped popcorn, but I recently made stovetop popcorn for the first time and it was so fun and easy. I dunno if your popcorn purism extends to the sweet/salty juxtaposition, but I LOVE this kettle corn recipe from Joy the Baker: It approximates the stuff you get at fairs and other outdoor celebrations remarkably well. And it's unbelievably addictive.

    ...and now I am going to have to pop some corn tonight. Heh.

  2. Thanks, Kelly! I looooove kettle corn, actually, so I'll definitely give that recipe a try. Mmmmmm. :) I look forward to browsing your blog!

  3. Yay for popcorn! It is one of my favorite snacks because it is totally acceptable to melt entire chunks of butter and pour all that delicious melty goodness all over the popcorn. It disgusts many people but to me the best part is the butter lake at the bottom of the bowl....mmmm....

    I always pop my corn on the stove, just like you. I've never burned any either, you just gotta keep an eye on it! It tastes SO much fresher and better like that....and microwave popcorn just seems weird, it is always filled with an endless amount of chemicals and blech.....kind of like the gallons of butter I pour over mine! Oooh well!

  4. COOL. My parents have an airpopper at the camp still (i think). i am SO begging for a donation lol. :)

  5. About a year ago I found an air popper at Target for $15. It pretty much sucks because unpopped kernels fly out of the poorly-built gadget (what do you expect for $15??) but I still love it. I like my popcorn with lots of Earth Balance and a little nutritional yeast, which has the added benefit of ensuring that nobody else in my family will touch it :) Sometimes, instead of nutritional yeast I sprinkle it with garlic & herb seasoning salt... mmmmm. Think I'll go make some right now...

  6. Oh man, I LOVE popcorn! Have you ever the seen Fueled by Popcorn zine?

  7. Oooh, a zine all about popcorn? I'm so there, Melisser!