My teenage son has asked me to buy some bags of microwave popcorn. I generally make our own at home through various stovetop methods or with this microwave product which uses regular kernels:
I am pretty sure that my son actually LIKES what I dislike about prepackaged microwave popcorns: the intensity of salt and fake butter flavor. Cooks Illustrated's taste test insists that fresh popped corn triumphs over all packaged microwave bags, but they do recommend two such bags with reservations:
Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn Natural Butter Flavor
Pop-Secret Premium Popcorn Butter Flavor
What I'm wondering: by what means might I satisfy his cravings at least a little better without resorting to the processed products with unpronounceable ingredients and artificial butter?
I did buy some coconut popcorn oil at an Amish store but found it a bit odd in its melting properties and taste.
Maybe just use more salt with an oil/butter mix?
Thanks for all these great replies. I've got lots of new things to try now!
For the time being, I can say a few things. I already knew that finer-grained salt is good for popcorn, so I generally use the pickling salt I have left over from my few pickling experiments.
I did buy some of the "Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn Natural Butter Flavor" for him to try, and I have to say it's not bad so far as taste goes. I haven't studied the ingredient list yet. I might keep some around, as he and his friends like to snack on it as they watch movies and play video games in the wee hours.
I'm not especially uptight about "all natural" or the like, but I like genuine flavors, and I like to understand what we're ingesting. Will report back as experiments proceed.
Probably not ideal, but huge amounts of salted butter coupled with green can parm, and nutritional yeast will make a delicious bowl of popcorn. Or Butter mixed with nutella, or buttered popcorn topped with a big pile of ranch mix. Magnificent. Makes me feel like a super high 18 year old.
If you have a small electric coffee grinder, it is easy to make your own popcorn salt by grinding some kosher salt to a fine consistency. It sticks better and you will probably use less.
My personal preference is popping with oil on the stove (tastes better than kernels popped in the microwave) and the oil helps the salt stick. For variety, I like to pop in different kinds of fats - coconut oil, olive oil, even ghee.
Nutritional yeast is a great topping that adds a cheesy umami along with nutrition.
I second biondanonima on this one- brown your butter before you pour it over the popcorn. You won't be sorry.
I add just a splash or two of Louisiana sauce too, not enough for heat but for the wonderful savory aroma.
And I use Herbamare instead of plain salt. It isn't heavily flavored like most seasoned salt and makes a world of difference.
There are some microwave popcorn options that don't have all of the crap in them - usually the ones labeled "organic" are very good. Our local grocers even have store-brand organic ones.
Here is the popper I use:
I'm one of those no-plastic-in-the-micro sorts, so this popper is great. You can put quite a lot of butter in the top of it to be distributed while it pops. The popcorn from the Catamount popper is more crisp than fluffy, which is my preference.
Maybe some superfine (popcorn) salt would help - it coats the popcorn differently, giving that expected mouthfeel.