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

    • Everything Aaron and Jordan Rodgers Have Said About Their Family Feud

      Quarterback Aaron Rodgers may have led the Green Bay Packers to a narrow victory during Sunday night’s playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, but his family did not share in the celebration. According to a new interview with The New York Times published Sunday, Ed Rodgers confirmed that he’s not on speaking terms with his son following the 32-year-old NFL star’s rise in popularity. Word of the family’s rift became public knowledge last spring when the quarterback’s younger brother Jordan appeared on JoJo Fletcher‘s season of The Bachelorette.

      People
    • Texas teacher who had sex almost daily with 13-year-old student gets 10 years in prison

      A former Texas middle-school teacher who was impregnated by a 13-year-old student has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Alexandria Vera, 25, was facing up to 30 years behind bars after pleading guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child in November. She admitted to police that a relationship that started with Instagram messages between her and the boy blossomed into a romance — one that the boy’s family approved of. A judge in the 209th District Court in Houston said during Vera’s sentencing hearing on Friday that he does not believe the former English teacher is a danger to children or a classic pedophile, the Houston Chronicle reported. But Judge Michael McSpadden said he wants to send

      Washington Post q
    • Tom Brady Responded To Antonio Brown Posting Mike Tomlin's 'A**holes' Speech On Facebook

      Only historians will ever be able to properly place Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video into proper context. Well, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was the victim of Brown’s odd choice, and now the world knows his secret — he doesn’t like the Patriots, who are the Steelers’ opponent in the AFC Championship Game this Sunday.

      UPROXX
    • Sasha Obama and Joe Biden’s granddaughter apparently went on a Miami vacation together, and yes, we’re jealous

      Saying goodbye to the Obama presidency has been pretty overwhelming for us, so we can’t even imagine all the emotions his family…

      Hello Giggles
    • Father Who Raised Kidnapped Florida Infant for 18 Years Speaks Out: ‘She’s Still My Child’

      Kamiyah Mobley, the 18-year-old who was abducted as a newborn from a Florida hospital and raised by her kidnapper in a South Carolina home, may have reunited with her biological parents over the weekend — but the man who she called “dad” for her whole life says he’ll always be her father. In a new interview with ABC News, Charles Manigo is opening up about the harsh reality of knowing the girl he believed to be his own daughter for 18 years was really another couple’s child. Mobley was only hours old on July 10, 1998 when authorities say her alleged abductor Gloria Williams posed as a health care worker and took her from a Jacksonville, Florida, hospital maternity ward.

      People
    • Georgia constituent pens open letter to Rep. John Lewis

      Woman shares her message on 'Fox & Friends'

      FOX News Videos
    • NBD, just a massive alligator out for a stroll

      Nothing to see here, just a ginormous alligator casually sauntering across your path. Kim Joiner, a visitor to Circle B Bar Reserve near Lakeland, Florida, took the video over the weekend, according to Storyful. She described the encounter as "very exciting." SEE ALSO: Alligator seems to go for a little ride on a manatee Joiner said the alligator was about 12 feel long and that while she took the photos from a safe distance, she was "close enough." According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the state record for an alligator is 14 feet 3.5 inches. Video credit: Kim Joiner via Storyful UPDATE: Jan. 16, 2017, 3:21 p.m. EST This post was updated to include information from the photographer.

      Mashable q
    • Aly Raisman and Simone Biles Are Redefining the 2017 SI Swimsuit Issue

      After stunning the world at the Rio Olympics last Summer, gold-medal gymnasts Aly Raisman and Simone Biles are back and better than ever, continuing their pursuit of blowing our minds, this time on the cover of the 2017 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The girls are taking the modeling world by storm, and we think they are the perfect candidates for this year's famed issue. "Aly and Simone represent all that is beautiful and strong and inspiring in women today," said MJ Day, SI Swimsuit Issue editor. "Women that are not only elite athletes, that are captivating and impressive in their own professional accomplishments (lots and lots of Olympic gold medals between them), but strikingly sexy and

      PopSugar q
    • Massive Alligator Strolls Casually Past Florida Tourists

      Video shows the gator without a care in the world.

      Inside Edition
    • Aaron Rodgers Hasn't Spoken to His Family in 2 Years, Father Confirms

      In a New York Times story about the family rift, the NFL star's dad, Ed Rodgers, said the family hasn't spoken to the Green Bay quarterback since the end of 2014. The public first became aware of a rift in the Rodgers family when Aaron's younger brother, Jordan, appeared as a contestant on ABC's reality show "The Bachelorette" last summer. Before Jordan brought the show's star JoJo Fletcher to his Chico, California, hometown to meet his family, he told her that Aaron would not be there, explaining that he had chosen to distance himself from his family.

      Good Morning America
    • Last Night’s Look: Love It or Leave It? 1/16/2017 (13 photos)

      See the best red carpet looks from this week

      People
    • Cavs-Warriors highlights: Draymond Green mocks LeBron James after incredible flop

      LeBron James knows how to draw a flagrant. The Cavaliers star pulled off an all-time flop on Monday vs. the Warriors, earning a flagrant one foul on Draymond Green, and a subsequent kerfuffle with Richard Jefferson earned Green a tech. Green mocking James seems notable considering how the Warriors mocked James last year for how he reacted to Green punching him in the crotch, earning Green a Game 5 suspension in the Finals which many feel opened the door to he Warriors' 3-1 collapse. Apparently Golden State isn't done mocking James. Notably, the Cavaliers used that call and others to pull within 14 in the first-half before a vicious Warriors blitz tore open a 29 point lead at half. Green helped

      CBS Sports q
    • Drake gave Sasha Obama a shoutout on Instagram, and we’re so jealous!

      As if Sasha Obama wasn’t winning already as a member of the coolest presidential family to ever live in the White House, Drake…

      Hello Giggles
    • People are showing off photos of their scratched up Jet Black iPhone 7 handsets

      Look, we're just going to go ahead and say it: the Jet Black iPhone 7 and the Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus are the most gorgeous smartphones that have ever been created. This is not open to debate. It's a fact. There's simply nothing else like the sleek glossy finish of Apple's Jet Black iPhones, which reflects just the right amount of light to appear as though the glass face of the phone wraps straight around to the back of the device. It's stunning, but there's a pretty big caveat to that bold statement we made. The Jet Black iPhone 7 and the Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus are the most gorgeous smartphones that have ever been created... for about 3 minutes after you first remove one from the box. After that, Apple's Jet Black finish starts to scratch and scuff like crazy, and it's also a magnet for grease and grime. Apple didn't exactly admit how delicate its Jet Black finish is when it unveiled the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus last September, but it did post a disclaimer on its website. Here's that disclaimer in full: The high-gloss finish of the jet black iPhone 7 is achieved through a precision nine-step anodization and polishing process. Its surface is equally as hard as other anodized Apple products; however, its high shine may show fine micro-abrasions with use. If you are concerned about this, we suggest you use one of the many cases available to protect your iPhone. Translation: the Jet Black finish on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus is going to scratch. A lot. We've shown you what happens to the Jet Black iPhone finish in a couple of different posts. One showed a Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus after three months , and another showed a Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus after just two months . Both of those posts were scary for potential Jet Black iPhone owners, and now there are even more examples of what Apple's sleek new iPhone finish looks like with normal wear and tear. A post on Reddit from over the weekend asked people to share what their Jet Black iPhones look like now that they've been used. Several people complied, and the photos they shared give us a good idea of what happens to Jet Black iPhones when they're in your hands as opposed to being featured in photos on Apple's website. Reddit user KateWalls shared the highest-quality photos in the thread, and you can see plenty of fine scratching on her Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus — which is only two weeks old. She does note that in person, the scratches are more visible on the antenna bands than they are on the aluminum housing. Here are a couple of examples from her post: There's definitely plenty of scratching there but as you can see, it's much more visible at certain angles to the light. Another user named ctsikh posted one photo of his Jet Black iPhone 7, and you can clearly see some scratching. You can also see how much grease and dirt the Jet Black finish picks up — remember my tweet showing a Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus that had been handled by customers in an Apple store? Yeah. https://twitter.com/zacharye/status/778223454935982080 If those photos don't scare you, this one from Redditor polygonarsenal definitely will: He used a filter to accentuate the scratches, which look downright terrible. This is pretty much the stuff nightmares are made of. There are a bunch more photos in the thread on Reddit , so definitely check them out.

      BGR News
    • Kourtney Kardashian Steps Out with Justin Bieber — But ‘Is Still Serious About Making Things Work with Scott’: Source

      Kourtney Kardashian may have been spotted hitting the town with ex-fling Justin Bieber over the weekend — but the two are now just friends, a source tells PEOPLE. Bieber and Kardashian stopped by West Hollywood hotspot The Peppermint Club on Saturday night, shortly after the reality star left a birthday celebration for Jessica Alba‘s husband Cash Warren. According to a Kardashian source, she and Bieber “hung out together with friends, but didn’t spend the night together.

      People
    • Russell Wilson Pens Heartfelt Letter to Wife Ciara After Seahawks Playoff Loss: 'I Will Forever Win'

      The dad-to-be was feeling the gratitude for his family following the Seahawks' playoff loss on Saturday.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Gerald Levin To Donald Trump On Rep. John Lewis: Have You No Sense Of Decency, Sir?

      Former AOL-Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin writes guest columns for Deadline when the spirit moves him. Like it has today, on MLK Day, on the eve of the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president, and the controversy over his reaction to comments made by iconic Civil Rights reformer and Georgia congressman John Lewis. Rep Lewis was in attendance in 2001 when Levin received the MLK Award from Coretta Scott King and her son, Dexter Scott King. An open letter to…

      Deadline
    • How to enable the ‘dark mode’ feature hiding in your iPhone browser right now

      Apple's iOS 10 software is packed full of new features. In fact, there are so many new features that it's impossible to remember them all, which is why we often publish collections of lesser-known tips and tricks. A perfect example is this collection of 5 iPhone features only power users know about  — we always want to help people get the most out of their smartphones. When iOS 10 was first released as a closed beta last summer during WWDC 2016, developers instantly began picking it apart. In doing so, they stumbled upon a fantastic looking "dark mode" feature hiding inside iOS . The good news is it was there. The bad news, as we all know, is that it wasn't enabled when iOS 10 was finally released in September. Rumors suggest that a new " theater mode " might be introduced in iOS 10.3, but nothing has been confirmed at this point. What you might not know, however, is that there's already a dark mode feature hidden inside your iPhone browser. Night Shift is a nifty new feature Apple introduced in iOS 10 that reduces the amount of blue light emitted by an iPhone or iPad display at night. It theoretically helps users sleep better, but it doesn't do anything to make text more visible in low light situations. For that, you need "dark mode," which switches things up and makes the background black with light colored text. Dark mode is available in many third-party iOS apps and even a handful of first-party apps. Sadly, however, there's no system-wide dark mode feature for the time being. That said, there's actually a special dark mode in Safari that most people don't know about, and it'll let you read just about any article on the web in light text on a black background. Here's how to enable it: 1) First, load any article in Safari (if you're reading this Safari on an iPhone or iPad, you're good to go). 2) Tap the reader mode icon in the left corner of the URL bar. You'll then see something that looks like this: 3) Tap the "aA" icon in the right corner of the URL bar and you'll get a drop down menu that looks like this: 4) Tap the black circle all the way to the right in the top row of the drop down menu. Presto — you've just enabled dark mode in Safari: Here's what your screen will look like once you start scrolling around: In-line pictures will still display normally, but the rest of the page will be dark, as pictured above. It's not the system-wide dark mode we've all been waiting for, but people spend a tremendous amount of time reading in Safari, so this should be a big improvement at night.

      BGR News
    • ‘Fame Can Change Things’: Aaron Rodgers’ Family Opens Up About Their Rift

      NFL star Aaron Rodgers’ father Ed Rodgers has opened up in a new interview with The New York Times about his family’s strained relationship with the Green Bay Packers quarterback. “With all the craziness that comes along with the media and the show, it would have been much harder to do it not living together,” Jordan said of moving in together.

      People
    • Richard Sherman's conflicts on and off the field escalated by 'significant' MCL injury

      Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said it affected Sherman off the field, too. On Monday, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said on 710 ESPN Seattle that cornerback Richard Sherman has been battling a “significant” MCL injury for several weeks. The injury was affecting Sherman off the field, also, according to Carroll.

      SB Nation q