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Do it yourself microwave popcorn

homemade popcorn

Now that “Popcorn Workers’ Lung” (more formally known as “bronchiolitis obliterans”) has been found outside of microwave popcorn production factories, the suggestion that we should avoid microwaved popcorn is all over the news. Health and safety should take precedence over snack foods, but all the same, the taste and convenience of microwave popcorn is hard to match. Fortunately, you can make your own microwave popcorn at home without buying it in prepacked microwavable bags.

I heard about this technique from Alton Brown, although I’m sure it has been around for quite a while. What you do is toss some unpopped kernels (they sell these in bulk bags in the supermarket) in melted butter or vegetable oil, place them in a paper bag and seal the bag up with tape. Then, you just pop your bagged popcorn as you would with storebought, adding salt, butter and seasonings when it is ready.

Do-it-yourself Microwave Popcorn
1/4 cup unpopped popping corn
2 teaspoons vegetable oil or melted butter
Paper lunch bag
Scotch tape

Toss the popcorn with the vegetable oil to coat and place in the paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over twice and seal with a strip of scotch tape. Place the bag in the microwave and microwave on high for 2 minutes to 3 minutes, or until there are about 5 seconds between pops (Note: This is AB’s suggested time. I recommend setting your timer for 3-4 minutes and just watching carefully for when to stop, rather than risk underestimating the time needed. Some types of popping corn seem to take longer than others.)
Add salt or other seasonings (garlic powder, parmesan cheese, etc) to bag and shake to coat before eating.

Serves 1.

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  • Popcorn Lover
    September 6, 2007

    Actually, you don’t even have to put oil in the bag, nor do you have to tape it. I am on a low-salt, low-fat diet and I have perfected the technique! I take two ordinary sized brown lunch bags (don’t use “boutique type” bags with the twisted paper handle – the glue gets toxic in the microwave). Open one and put several handfuls of popcorn in the bag. Take the other bag, open it and put it over the opening of the other bag, so that it looks like a box (the mouth of one bag touches the bottom of the other) or a rectangle. Lay the bags on their side in the oven, I usually press 4 minutes and wait until the popcorn popping starts to lessen. Take it out, place on the counter with the outside bag resting on the counter so you will remove the inside bag (the first one you put kernels in) out, shaking to settle the corn as you go. This prevents hot unpopped kernels from falling on the counter or you and burning you. Season as desired.

    I started doing this in the office where I worked and people thought I was nuts – but now they’re all doing it! 🙂

    I devised the 2 bag method because i got tired of cleaning the turntable microwave of popped kernels and hot unpopped ones. this way they stay all together and make the least amount of mess.

  • Nicole
    September 6, 2007

    Brilliant advice, Popcorn lover. Thanks for sharing – I’ll have to give your method a try the next time I make popcorn.

  • Jennifer
    September 6, 2007

    I have to admit that I’m not that worried about Popcorn Lungs.. I mean, he ate microwave popcorn twice a day for ten years. That sounds so unhealthy in many dimensions.

    However, my dad’s popcorn, made on the stove, is my favorite ever. I really don’t do popcorn much now except for when I visit him. I love hearing it sizzling all the way to the table — and of course it must be accompanied by an ice cold bottle of beer. Yum.

    I don’t think microwave popcorn really compares for me.. but then it’s also about the ritual and father-daughter time.

  • melissa
    September 7, 2007

    I usually just make popcorn on a pan on the stove (mostly because brown paper lunch sacks are impossible to find in the UK), but my favourite seasoning, hands down, is cajun. Sprinkle some quality cajun seasoning onto fresh, hot popcorn, and you’ve got a friend for life…

  • Glenna
    September 7, 2007

    Oh, I’ve done this before too, it’s so easy and delicious! Thank you Alton Brown, indeed 😉 I’ve done it without oil like the above commenter and it works just great. Also I’ve done it with the Alton method of two staples closing the bag shut – no sparking at all.

    I really enjoy reading your blog! I’ve bookmarked so many recipes as a result. Thanks for all of your delicious links.

  • Pumpkin
    September 7, 2007

    Yeah, ever since seeing Alton do this on Good Eats, it’s been the way my husband and I have popped microwave popcorn. We don’t put oil in, as it works fine without, and only seems to make the bag greasy. It’s so much cheaper doing it this way- think of the money I’ve spent on prepackaged microwave popcorn because I thought it was the only way to do it in the microwave! Of course if you want that buttery-ness, you have to drizzle on a bit of melted butter, but I imagine a tiny bit of real butter is better for you than butter-flavored chemicals, anyway!

  • farmgirl
    September 9, 2007

    Great timing. A couple of weeks ago I decided I really needed to give up my microwave popcorn habit because of all the health scare stuff. I’d never thought to make my own. Can’t wait to try this. Thanks, Nic! 🙂

  • rudy
    September 11, 2007

    Yum Yum Smak Smak
    Isn’t Alton Brown the greatest! He is my favorite when it comes to food.

  • Lyons NY
    February 28, 2008

    A hint re. using a brown paper bag top folded twice is in the February 2008 Readers Digest.
    Thanks ! for the added tips.

  • Betty
    March 4, 2008

    I love homemade microwave popcorn. No butter or oil but just salt. But once I’ve burned my microwave since I didn’t know recycled paper can cause a fire in the microwave! (well, it was an old microwave which I’ve never loved, and nothing happened to anyone) So, keep in mind not to use recycled brown bag. I learned that (after the little fire) recycled paper has metal particles which causes the fire..

    Just a note: I used several other recycled paper like paper towels in my microwave and nothing happened. The fire-cause was a thick, cardboard like paper. It may depend on the metal percentage, thickness etc.

  • Patt Wack
    April 3, 2008


  • Patt Wack
    April 3, 2008


  • Jeannie
    December 14, 2008

    I’ve been doing this for quite some time. I use butter spray because it doesn’t make the popcorn wet like the butter seems to. I don’t know if the butter spray has the same health concerns as commercial microwave popcorn, though. Until they tell me otherwise… I just spray a little so that my flaky Kosher Salt will stick better. 🙂

    I’m glad to find this post, btw, there are lots of great additional tips! Thanks!

  • Nicola
    August 5, 2009

    WARNING! I was sooo excited to find this, but I just did it in a recycled paper shopping bag!!! It just didn’t occur to me that paper lunch sacks and a grocery bag would be any different.
    I just totally fried my microwave; the popcorn turned out GREAT, but I just wasted hundreds of dollars.
    Apparently recycled paper may have metal bits in it. There was NOTHING awry when it was cooking, but now my microwave won’t heat anything! I have an upset husband, and I’m really bummed.
    Don’t use a paper grocery sack; maybe I’m the only one that doesn’t knows recycled paper in a microwave is a no-no.

  • Shaz
    September 4, 2009

    Alton Brown is my -hero-! I’ll have to try this sometime. 🙂

  • Anna
    February 21, 2014

    Tried this today 🙂 I popped for 3 minutes and some kernels were burned. I’ll try the two bag method next time. I hope it will distribute the kernels more evenly.

    The melted fat mixed in with the unpopped kernels did nothing — the grease just got absorbed by the bag — no fat went into the finished popcorn. So I sprayed the popcorn with olive oil from my misto sprayer and then sprinkled on a salty seasoning mix.

  • […] wait for me to finish pouring before she dove in! And sprinkle with salt. Recipe: adapted from Baking Bites […]

  • […] of suggestions. Some of which seemed to still involve too much work and alchemy (Alton Brown and others get way too complicated and oil it up in the bag and then stick staples or tape on […]

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