This past spring I visited Green City Market in Chicago where a farmer introduced me to dry cobs of corn. He explained how I could put them in a paper bag and pop the corn in the microwave, no oil needed. I bought them mostly out of disbelief and as a fun experiment to try with the kids.
Sure enough, he wasn’t lying. I placed the cob of dried corn inside a brown paper bag, folded the top down and pressed the “Popcorn” button on my microwave. Beautiful air-popped corn emerged from the bag. The cobs looked a little funky with a few remaining unpopped kernels and others that had popped and been unable to release themselves from their anchor. We were beyond tickled and gobbled up the delectable snack.
As I ran low on the Green City Market cobs and considered where I would more conveniently replenish my stock, I began wondering why it needed to be on the cob. With cautious optimism, I put loose kernels in a paper bag, folded over the top and again, pushed the Popcorn button on my microwave.
Less than a minute in, we heard the first “pop” that quickly crescendo-ed into a rolling, popping, titillating realization – you can make air-popped corn in the microwave with nothing but a regular brown paper bag!
How did I not know this before? Did you know this was possible? Why do air pop appliances exist still? Why did I assume that the commercial, grease-lined bags of microwave corn were the only option? As soon as possible I began to spread the news to friends at parties and at the office. Everyone in my peer group seemed as surprised as I was!
I felt like a whistle blower uncovering the microwave popcorn industry’s tight hold on public information or the genius that cracked the code on producing the ideal, cheap, easy snack. Honestly, I should probably keep this truth close to the vest but this discovery has been one of the highlights of my summer. (Of course, a quick Google search equals a reality check. It turns out quite a few people had figured this out before me!)
If you share my excitement and if this blog post just brought you out of the dark and into the air-popped light, here is the simple step-by-step.
Put 1/4 cup of dried corn kernels into a paper bag.
If you have one, press the “Popcorn” button on your microwave. This might not be the ideal time. You have to experiment a little. Listen for when the popping starts to slow and when there are a few seconds between pops, stop the microwave and check it. You don’t want to burn the corn. And, you don’t want too many kernels left in the bag. If you don’t have the “Popcorn” button, start with 2 1/2 minutes. Add more if needed.
One of the other wonderful conveniences is that if you want to add butter and salt, you can just coat the corn after it has popped while in the bag. Melt 1 tablespoon (or however much you want) of butter. Drizzle over the popped corn in the bag and sprinkle with salt. Close the bag and shake it to coat.
This air popped microwave corn makes a healthy lunch box addition, after school snack, or an easy movie night accompaniment.
Popcorn variations and ideas:
Try different types of artisan kernels and have a popcorn tasting party
Squeeze lime over popcorn and add sea salt
Mix a few M&Ms or chocolate chips into your buttered popcorn
Drizzle with olive oil, top with grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper
Find 10 more ideas at Serious Eats