Popcorn pro tip
Microwave ovens can be quite handy, and I’ve had many a tasty bag of microwave popcorn over the years.
But the finest popcorn does not come from a microwave. The finest popcorn comes from devices especially made for popping popcorn — the commercial poppers at movie theaters, the junior version that you might have in your church youth room or that you might see at a community festival, or — and this is where you should pay close attention — the stovetop version.
Whirley Pop is the most familiar brand name; the one I own is not a Whirley-Pop but a Great Northern stovetop popcorn popper. Either is fine, but make sure in either case that you do NOT get the pricier stainless steel version. What you want, according to one of my favorite food experts, is the cheaper aluminum version, because it heats up more quickly and starts cooling off as soon as you remove it from the heat, which helps keep you from burning your popcorn while you look for a bowl.
Why is this better than the microwave, or a regular saucepan? The crank-driven agitator, like the electric agitators on the professional machines, helps keep the popcorn moving and lets the not-yet-popped kernels fall to the bottom. But the real secret is in the lid. It has little vents to let steam escape — and that helps keep your popcorn just a little bit crisper than the microwave variety.
And here’s another pro tip. I am not what you would call a health food person. But when Dawn and Rodney Simmons had their shop on the Shelbyville square, they introduced me to Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast Seasoning.
I cannot speak to its nutritional value — although, according to the label, it’s heavily fortified with B vitamins. What I can tell you is that it has a nutty sort of flavor that’s been compared to parmesan cheese. And I’m seeing it more and more often in regular supermarkets (especially if they have a health-food or organic-food aisle).
It’s great on popcorn. Some people say they use it instead of salt; I usually add a little salt. In any case, you should try tossing some of it in a big bowl of popcorn and see what you think.