Taste test: Microwave popcorn

Epicurious

Popcorn taste test

(iStockphoto)

For many of us, it's almost impossible to watch anything on television without a bowl of popcorn in our hands: Each year, Americans consume more than 52 quarts of popped popcorn per capita, a figure that has tripled in the last three decades, according to the nonprofit Popcorn Board, an industry-funded group.

While some of that is eaten in the movie theater, the majority is devoured at home, and usually that means microwave popcorn.

There are almost as many brands of microwave popcorn as there are movie channels, so we set out to learn which makes the crunchiest, most evenly salted, most buttery-tasting kernels of all. Unfortunately, quite a few samples suffered from greasiness or an artificial butter flavor, so our task was harder than anticipated. Read on to find out which type tasted best to our judges. And once you know which brand to buy, take a look at ways to enhance the flavor even more, with our 14 delicious popcorn recipes.


View gallery

.
Best Microwave Popcorn Overall
Best Microwave Popcorn Overall

Orville Redenbacher's Light Butter
($3.29 per box of three 3.3-ounce bags )

Pros: Despite the fact that this variety is lower in fat than the standard buttered popcorns we tested, judges liked this best because it didn't sport the artificial taxicab yellow of many; nor did it taste like fake butter. "I like its particularly airy and crunchy quality," said one taster. The balance of butter and salt was especially toothsome.

Cons: A few would have liked it even saltier.

(See also: Best and worst bbq sauces)


View gallery

.
First Runner-Up, Standard Butter

First Runner-Up, Standard Butter

Orville Redenbacher's Butter
($3.49 per box of three 3.3-ounce bags)

Pros: "I am a fan of the very large and wide kernels," commented one judge. All editors commented on this variety's ideal ratio of butter and salt. One participant likened the taste to the popcorn sold at theaters: "This one reminds me of what you get at the movies, but it is so much better! It's crunchy and not neon yellow."

Cons: Quite a few testers found this type a bit too greasy.



View gallery

.
First Runner-Up, Light Butter

First Runner-Up, Light Butter

Jolly Time Healthy Pop Butter 94% Fat-Free
($2.99 per box of four 1.2-ounce mini bags)

Pros: Several editors enjoyed this variety's sweet and salty flavor. They also were fond of its caramel-like color and the size of the kernels.

Cons: This one needed more salt, some said.



The Other Contenders: The Bottom Three

Pop Secret's Butter kernels were described as slimy, cheesy, and a strange yellow. Some tasters were turned off by Black Jewell's Butter popcorn because it looked slightly blue and a bit burnt. Pop Secret Light Butter was the least favorite, because of its inconsistent flavor. Many editors were convinced that this variety was not actually "light" because it was strikingly salty and soggy. One judge added, "This tastes like it's been sitting in my cupboard for a year."

Additional Taste Test Details

All 11 varieties we evaluated are available nationwide in supermarkets or online. Listed from highest to lowest score achieved, they are: Orville Redenbacher's Light Butter, Orville Redenbacher's Butter, Jolly Time Healthy Pop Butter 94% Fat-Free, Act II Butter, Newman's Own Light Butter, Newman's Own Butter, Smart Balance Light Butter, Act II 94% Fat-Free Butter, Pop Secret Butter, Black Jewell Butter, Pop Secret Light Butter.


Methodology: In a blind taste test, judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of 11 types of microwave popcorn (6 were light butter; 5, standard butter). We followed each variety's instructions and estimated microwaving time. In most cases, the bags took longer to pop than indicated. We ranked the popcorn according to the Epicurious four-fork rating system (four being best).

Prices and availability subject to change.

More from Epicurious:

Easy Family Dinners

25 Sandwich Makeovers

How to Eat Your Spring Veggies

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • One by one, 3 utility workers descended into a manhole. One by one, they died.

      When a utility worker in Key Largo, Fla., noticed that a section of a paved street was not settling properly, he decided to remove a manhole cover and descend into the earth. Moments later on Monday morning, the 15-foot-deep hole went silent. Sensing the man was trapped, a fellow utility worker climbed into the drainage hole to rescue him. When he, too, stopped responding, a third worker entered the same hole. All three men died, overcome by poisonous fumes underground, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. A Key Largo firefighter who made a desperate attempt to save the men also became unconscious within seconds. The firefighter, Leonardo Moreno, an eight-year veteran of the

      Washington Post q
    • Foreclosed mall once valued at $190M is auctioned for $100

      TARENTUM, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania mall that was foreclosed on after its owners failed to repay $143 million has been auctioned off for $100.

      Associated Press
    • American Airlines is banning carry-on bags and overhead bin use for basic-economy passengers

      Flying American Airlines just got a bit more affordable. On Wednesday, the world's largest...

      Business Insider
    • Zuckerberg wants to pay native Hawaiians to get the f off his 700-acre estate

      Mark Zuckerberg is suing hundreds of people in Hawaii in his effort to create a secluded island. The billionaire spent $100 million purchasing 700 acres of land in the island of Kauai back in 2014 and is still dealing with the fact that he doesn't actually have the exclusive rights to all of it.   Sounds nasty, right? SEE ALSO: Sassy Zuckerberg touts Facebook's power to defend Oculus in court The lawsuits, filed in Hawaii's state Circuit Court on Dec. 30, are looking to identify local people's claims to land within the area he owns — the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday — to force a sale of those properties.  Zuckerberg is leveraging Hawaii's "quiet title" law, which allows rightful

      Mashable q
    • Virginia man convicted of 2006 slaying of family is executed

      JARRATT, Va. (AP) — A man convicted of killing a family of four, slashing their throats and setting their home ablaze after they left their front door open while preparing for a New Year's Day party in 2006, was executed Wednesday.

      Associated Press 32 min ago
    • 20 Beautiful Living Rooms You Need To See (21 photos)

      Get one-of-a-kind inspiration from these fashionable rooms around the world. From Veranda

      Veranda
    • ‘Monster Mom’ Sentenced to 43 Years in Prison for Killing Her 11-Year-Old Daughter

      On Tuesday, an Illinois judge dubbed a 35-year-old woman a “monster mom” before sentencing her to 43 years in prison for the 2014 murder of her 11-year-old daughter, PEOPLE confirms. Addressing the courtroom, 19th Circuit Court Judge James Booras questioned how anyone could treat their child the way Nicholette Lawrence did. “Who would lock a child up in a closet furnished only with a sink and feed the child only a bowl of cereal a day?” Booras asked aloud, according to a court transcript obtained by PEOPLE.

      People
    • Trump’s team says he’s ‘troubled’ by Chelsea Manning commutation

      WASHINGTON, D.C. — Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President-elect Donald Trump is disturbed by President Obama’s decision to commute the prison sentence of convicted leaker Chelsea Manning.

      Yahoo News
    • Forever stamps will cost more starting Sunday

      It might be called a "Forever" stamp, but not when it comes to the price of buying one. The cost of mailing a one-ounce first-class letter will return to being 49 cents, up from 47 cents, where it had been since April. The last increase came in January 2014, according to the U.S. Postal Service, when it went from 47 cents to 49 cents. Then last April, the Postal Regulatory Commission ordered the USPS to drop its prices for the first time in 97 years. Postmaster General Megan Brennan protested, saying, "given our precarious financial condition and ongoing business needs, the price reduction required by the PRC exacerbates our losses." So now the price is going to back up again. Postcards, letters

      USA Today q
    • Giant Florida Gator Is Not For Tourists, Nature Preserve Staff Warn

      Officials for the county's natural resources division said, although, they appreciate the attention the nature reserve has been getting, they are also worried about the safety of visitors and wildlife.

      International Business Times
    • Michelle Obama took her final stroll through the White House, and we are sobbing so hard

      The moving vans have arrived and the Obamas are gearing up for the transition to their new home in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington,…

      Hello Giggles
    • Things You Should Never Buy at Aldi

      Haven't shopped at an Aldi supermarket yet? After steadily expanding its footprint in the eastern part of the country over the past 40 years - the first U.S. store opened in Iowa in 1976 - Aldi is now adding locations in Southern California. There are few shelves, few employees and none of the amenities you've come to expect from the likes of Wegmans or Whole Foods.

      Kiplinger
    • Trio of storms to bring dangerous surf and 6 inches of rain to Southern California

      A trio of storms now headed for Southern California will bring dangerous surf, strong winds and up to 6 inches of rain by early next week, according to the National Weather Service. The storms are similar to those that rocked Northern California recently by flooding rivers, blocking mountain passes and causing several deaths. The first storm should arrive Wednesday night and is expected to drop between 0.75 and 1.25 inches of rain in the foothills and valleys through Thursday, said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service in Oxnard. The second storm will arrive later Thursday night and could drop another 2 inches of rain and up to 3 inches in the San Gabriel Valley foothills by Saturday, Seto said.

      Los Angeles Times q
    • Teen abducted as newborn still loves only mom she's known

      COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — An 18-year-old woman abducted as a newborn from a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, says she still loves the only mother she has known.

      Associated Press
    • Chelsea Clinton on life after the election

      (CNN)Chelsea Clinton has kept a low profile since her mother's election defeat in November. "Everything we believed before the election, we still believe," she said. "Use those emotions to engage and organize and advocate to protect and advance what you think matters most," Clinton said. Clinton added that the work can start close to home.

      CNN q
    • Teacher Pregnant by Student Gets 10 Years in Jail

      Alexandria Vera, 24, pleaded guilty last year to aggravated sexual assault of a child and was hoping to avoid prison and just get probation.

      Cosmopolitan
    • Baby Dies After Being Found With Homeless Mother at Oregon Bus Stop

      The newborn child of a homeless woman in Oregon died last week after the two were found at a bus stop amid freezing temperatures.

      Tribune
    • George H.W. Bush apologizes for missing Trump's inauguration: 'If I sit outside in January, it likely will put me six feet under'

      Former President George H.W. Bush will not be attending Donald Trump's inauguration this Friday, but not for the same reasons some other politicians are skipping the event. In fact, Bush sent a warm letter to the president-elect last week apologizing for his absence: On top of his existing conditions, Bush was hospitalized early Wednesday morning for "shortness of breath" and is currently being monitored "for precaution." Local media reports indicate he will be able to leave Houston Methodist Hospital in a few days — but skipping an event that requires sitting outside for several hours in the rain and cold expected Friday in Washington, D.C., is still probably a good move for the 92-year-old,

      The Week q
    • Atlanta Pit Bull Attack Leaves One Child Dead, Another Seriously Injured

      Two small children were attacked by a pit bull as they walked to school in Atlanta on Tuesday morning, leaving one of them dead and the other badly injured. At about 7:30 a.m., three children were walking to school when two dogs ran up to them and attacked, according to WSB-TV 2. Logan Braatz, 6, who died, and Syria Sanders, 5, who is in stable condition.

      People
    • Best All-inclusive Resorts in Jamaica (7 photos)

      If youre the sort of traveler whose ideal trip ends with a bill of zero dollars and zero cents (and let's be honest, who doesn't have that fantasy?), all-inclusives may sound prettyappealing. Package dealswhen done rightcan entail an easy, worry-free vacation. You'll be spared fromthe somehow always unexpectedly high resort bill that feellike a rude welcome back toa gloomypost-vacation reality. Antigua may have invented the all-inclusive vacation, but it seems Jamaica has perfected the category. Here are sevenof our favorite all-inclusive properties in the land of One Love.

      Travel+Leisure