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Taste Test: Microwavable Popcorn

[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Something happens when you microwave popcorn. Even if you're a purist stovetop popper, when the packaged stuff is nuked, you're suddenly at the mercy of artificial butter intoxication. Some synapse fires and all of your thoughts are butter-scented. "I smelled it from floors down," tasters said as they were filing in for this taste test.

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We shopped around and bought brands in each of these five categories:

When it was all said and done, we had a grand total of 27 varieties of microwavable popcorn. If you do the math, we were popping corn for, oh, about 81 minutes.

We Know, We Know. The Real Stuff Is Better

"The best microwaveable popcorn is the kind you don't buy." That was the first comment on this Talk thread when we asked y'all for brand recommendations. We agree, but sometimes you need to cheat, even if the stovetop method is braindead levels of easy. Plus, maybe we wanted our office to be infused with butter air for two days straight. *

* Actually, we've been popping the leftovers for the last couple of weeks, so we're still getting whiffs of buttah pretty much every day since.

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Faye, We Also Blame You

The other impetus for this tasting: former intern Faye Leong, a microwavable popcorn junkie. I think she'd even go on the record calling herself one (that takes real pluck!). When afternoon snacktime rolled around, there was Faye ripping open a plastic wrapper and setting the timer. Even if the rest of us were in the least popcorn-craving mood possible, it didn't matter. You needed to swipe a handful.

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Brands We Tried

Black Jewell
Orville Redenbacher
Pop Secret
Jolly Time
Newman's Own
Whole Foods 365
Trader Joe's
Shop Rite
Act II
Smart Balance

Winners

Best All-Around
Best Butter Flavor
Most Insanely Buttery "Movie Theater Style"
Closest to the Old-Fashioned Stovetop Kind
Best of the 94% Fat-Frees
Most Junk-Foody of the "Natural" Kinds
Most Candy-Like Kettle Corn
Most Sophisticated Kettle Corn

Check out the slideshow for the winners ยป

Brown Bag Popcorn Hack Method!

Tip from the "What's your favorite type of microwavable popcorn?" thread:

Just put kernels in a brown bag, fold the the opening so it doesn't open when its popping. wait like you would for a commercial microwaveable popcorn bag. and you can re-use the brown bag (unless ofcourse you burn the bag haha) then after its done popping i put on salt and cayenne pepper and sometimes black pepper, but thats what i like to eat on it. elara22

Have you ever tried this?

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