How To Make Delicious, Fat-Free Popcorn In The Microwave

How To Make Delicious, Fat-Free Popcorn In The Microwave
Image: Alice Clarke

Popcorn is a truly wonderful snack. It’s filling, cheap, extremely easy to make and can be relatively low in kilojoules. It’s the perfect thing for when you want to mindlessly eat something, yet aren’t actually all that hungry.

But if you rely on those special microwave bags of popcorn you get at the supermarket, those contain a huge amount of fat and not always the best flavour. And getting a dedicated popcorn machine seems excessive for a snack.

So, gentle reader, allow me to let you in on the secrets to making popcorn with nothing but a casserole dish, a microwave, and a bag of unflavoured popcorn kernels.

The first and most important part of this recipe is the casserole dish. It needs to have a lid that seals well enough, but not too well. I use the Corningware Etch 1.4L Casserole With Cover because it’s the best I’ve found for this purpose so far. I have also tried a wider, shallower Corningware dish with the more traditional lid type, but the results were disappointing. You might need to try several different microwave-safe dishes until you find the right one, but you’ll know it when you find it.

The second thing is to get a packet of unflavoured kernels from the supermarket. A bag normally starts at $2, and some have resealable ziplocs.

Here’s the method:

  1. Pour a single, thin layer of popcorn kernels into the bottom of the dish. It’ll look like a tiny amount of corn, but it’ll fill the bowl when popped.
    Popcorn in a microwave dish
    Roughly this amount is good. Image: Alice Clarke
  2. Place lid on the dish. If using my recommended dish, just put the lid on as normal. If using a different dish, try to allow a very small crack for venting, but not too much. You ideally want a roughly 1mm gap, or as close as possible.
    popcorn
    The lack of a perfect seal on this dish is irritating for almost all other purposes, but perfect for this one. Image: Alice Clarke
  3. Put in 1000w microwave for 3:45 minutes (adjust if different wattage).
  4. Remove from microwave using oven mitts (it will be hot). If your casserole dish was sealed just enough, the container should be full of popped corn with some miscellaneous unpopped kernels down the bottom. If it’s only half-full with mostly unpopped kernels the dish was either too well sealed or not sealed enough, one of life’s infuriating mysteries. But you’ll get there with trial and error (or get the Corningware).
  5. If you want to add flavours beyond simple salt, now is the time. If you’re adding something that can be sensitive to heat, I recommend transferring the popped popcorn to a different bowl, because you’ll be able to pop the unpopped kernels again (instructions lower down), and you’ll want to reuse this container. I recommend trying cinnamon sugar, garlic salt, truffle salt, chilli salt, or literally any other kind of fancy salt (the merlot and black lava salts from Gewurzhaus are incredible). But the sky’s the limit here. You can also just eat it plain if you’re after a healthy snack.
  6. Once you’ve eaten (or separated) the popped corn, you can then re-microwave the unpopped kernels. If you’re just doing kernels that have already had a go in the microwave, reduce the cooking time to 3:00 minutes. You can also just add more fresh kernels and redo the whole thing for 3:33 minutes if the bowl has cooled sufficiently.

If you decide you do want to add a bit of oil to the bottom during step 2 for some extra flavour, a tablespoon goes a long way. I strongly recommend trying some garlic olive oil. It shouldn’t work, but it’s incredible. (Some people suggest putting more oil in and cooking it on the stove, which is cool, if that’s your jam.)

And that’s it. The easiest snack in the world, on demand.

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