If you think microwaving popcorn is as simple as pressing a button, you might be in for a surprise. Do it wrong, and you could not only ruin your popcorn but break your microwave as well.
The purpose of a microwave plate is to rotate food so it can be evenly heated. It also absorbs extra microwave energy to keep it from bouncing around and damaging the microwave. And though the transparent glass is designed to withstand heat and pressure, they have been known to crack and break. And unfortunately, it is neither easy nor cheap to find a replacement plate when this occurs.
GE Appliances recently came out with a statement saying extreme heat from popcorn bags is the primary cause of microwave plates breaking. The superheated oil in popcorn bags, when in direct contact with the glass, can create stress points prone to fracturing. As an appliance repair service, this came as no surprise to us, since the first question we ask customers who call about a broken microwave plate is: “Were you cooking popcorn in your microwave when it happened?”
We recommend always cooking prepackaged popcorn on a separate plate to decrease the heat stress on the glass plate. This also ensures that the glass plate’s surface stays clean of any popcorn oils.
Most microwavable popcorn brands provide instructions for cooking and handling their product. Due to variations in kernels and popcorn bags, following the instructions on the packaging, including cook times, will more likely result in the perfect microwave popcorn every time.
Make sure you center your popcorn bag within the microwave and pay attention to the “This side up” label on the bag. Why? Inside the bag, there is a sheet of material called the susceptor that absorbs the microwaves, gets hot, and acts as a hot saucepan to cook the kernels. The kernels need to be directly over the susceptor for the best results.
Not all microwaves are created equally. Uncooked kernels require a minimum of 500 watts to be popped. The power of a microwave largely depends on when it was made and its size. Smaller and older microwave ovens often struggle to pop all kernels. Newer models also have a built-in sensor, so they can detect when something is being overcooked and automatically shut off. If you have a smaller model, consider buying smaller bags of microwavable popcorn.
To determine the wattage of your microwave, check either:
It sounds contradictory, but you should not use the preset popcorn button on your microwave. As we wrote above, different popcorn brands have specific instructions for how to cook their popcorn, including how long. The preset popcorn button generally runs for two minutes and 30 seconds, which might be too long for some brands and too short for others.
For example, Orville popcorn should be microwaved for four minutes on the highest setting, Newman’s Own popcorn for three minutes, and Skinny Pop for two minutes. Knowing the time it takes to cook your popcorn eliminates overcooking and reduces heat strain on your plate.
Many popcorn brands recommend staying near your microwave and listening to the sound of popping. In fact, some even explicitly say “Do not leave popcorn unattended.” Along with the timer, listening to the popping level can help you determine when your popcorn is done. This can ensure that you’re not exposing your glass plate to unnecessary heat. It is also the only surefire way to avoid burning your popcorn and smoking up your kitchen.
Microwaves, like all appliances, will last many years if used properly. At Nebraska Home Appliance, we make it a priority to give you all the tools you need to take care for your home. If you’re having trouble with your microwave, give us a call. Our experts will be glad to help.