My husband makes really good stove-top popcorn. He started with the recipe from Joy of Cooking and adapted until he found the measurements and methods that work perfectly for him. Could a bag from the microwave rival it? We set out to test the two and here are our results.
Stove-Popped Kettle Corn*
Yields 6 servings
3/4 c. popcorn kernels ($.36)
1 T oil ($.03)
1 T butter ($.06)
2 T sugar ($.01)
1/4 t salt
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in an even layer on the bottom of a large stock pot with a lid. Add 3 kernels as testers; when they pop, pull them out and add the rest of the popcorn.
Put on the lid, shake the kernels around to get an even layer on the bottom of the pan, and leave them alone until the popping slows to about 2 seconds between pops. Any more than 3 seconds between pops and you could have burnt popcorn.
Pull the pot off the heat and add the butter. Stir to melt and coat the popped corn. Sprinkle sugar and salt over the top and stir well to combine. Serve.
*The sugar won’t crisp onto the popcorn like in a big kettle, but there is a nice sweetness.
The Cost Breakdown:
Microwave Kettle Corn was on sale for $2.00 for 3 bags, with about three 2 Tbsp servings per bag. That works out to $.26 per serving; however, we lost 1 Tbsp to unpopped kernels in one bag, bringing the servings down to 2.5 and cost up to $.32 per serving.
Our home made version is just $.08 per serving, using real butter. (Mmm, butter…) We lost 7 kernels out of a 6 serving batch.
The Taste Test:
We are biased testers, I’ll tell you upfront! Home made won in a landslide. It has a real butter flavor (mmm, butter…) and a nice balance of sweet and salty. The kernels have a fresh flavor that is lacking in the microwave counterpart, and a fully popped kernel that has a toothsome quality we enjoy.
Taste tester 1 gave it an A-. Taste tester 2 gave it a B+. Taste tester 3 gave it a thumbs up, as he doesn’t quite understand grades yet. (He is 4.)
The microwave popcorn had a strange chemical after taste, like the artificial sweetener aftertaste of diet soda, and lacked the real butter flavor. It was crisp at the outset, but didn’t have quite as hearty a crunch and got a little mushy while chewing it. That may have to do with corn variety.
Taste tester 1 gave it a C+. Taste tester 2 gave it a D. Taste tester 3 gave it a thumbs in the middle, saying, “It needs butter.” (Taste tester 3 is clearly my child!)
The Time Factor:
The microwave popcorn took 3 1/2 minutes in our microwave. Our home made version took about 12 minutes, with most of that time waiting for the pot to come up to temperature.
I’ve heard rumors that microwave popcorn can lead to cancer, but my Googling leads me to ingredients not present in my popcorn. Apparently, though, the butter flavor will kill you. (So will real butter, according to different experts, so it’s a give and take. I’m taking real butter, thankyouverymuch.)
Microwave Kettle Corn: Popcorn, Palm Oil, Salt, Natural and Artificial Flavor (Milk), Sucralose, Vitamin E (D-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate) to Preserve Freshness.
Fat: 5 g
Sodium: 180 mg
Carbohydrates: 18 g
Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 3 g
Home made: Popcorn, sugar, oil, butter, salt
Fat: 5 g
Sodium: 112 mg
Carbohydrates: 25 g
Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 3 g
Lost corn – side A is home made, and side B is microwave.
Keep in mind that we did a double batch of side A.
Scratch vs. Storebought winner:
If it’s not obvious, we love the home made popcorn! I don’t usually buy microwave stuff and I’m not about to start.
Next time on Scratch vs. Store Bought: Refried beans. I’m open to suggestions of what to test after that!
I’m sharing this post with the folks over at Frugal Friday.