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I recently bought a new microwave, and started to experience a very bizarre phenomenon when trying to cook microwave popcorn.

For clarification, the Popcorn I am using is pre-packaged and in a paper bag, designed to be put into the microwave at ~800W for ~4 minutes. If it matters, it's called "Kelly Microwave Golden Pop", but I don't want to sound like I'm advertising for them.

With my old microwave, I would just wait until the popping would die down and I would have around 10 seconds between each pop. This would make my popcorn barely not burned, and would not leave too many unpopped kernels.

However, with my new microwave, it doesn't work at all. When going full power, I end up with extremely burned popcorn and half the package unpopped. I tried other power settings, specifically 80%, 50% and 30% power (my microwave only deals in percents, not Watt sadly), but the end result is always the same: Some of the popcorn is already burned, while a lot of it is still unpopped.

I have read that, when food is burning in the microwave, putting it off-center works well, but due to the size of the bag and the microwave, this is not an option for me.

What can I do to save my movie night and get unburned popcorn without throwing half the bag in the bin?

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  • If you know the power of your microwave, you can use that to calculate how to set the power level (eg, 1100W : 70% = 770W) Microwave popcorn instructions used to call for microwaving it for a bit, then shaking it to re-distribute the kernels. I don't know if that's something that's no longer necessary, or if it would help. And there's always a possiblity that you got part of a bad batch, I guess.
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 14:33
  • Certainly not as convenient, but if you are a popcorn fan, the best popcorn I've made is produced in a Whirley Pop.
    – moscafj
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 14:34
  • @Joe I tried several power levels already, but I never seem to get it right. I always end up with burned popcorn and a lot of unpopped kernels.
    – MechMK1
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 14:48
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    A pot with a lid does a better job. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 15:05
  • We don't know the power of your old microwave or your new one. Without that information, all we can do is guess. If power reduction &/or shaking don't work, then maybe it's time to consider a different cooking method.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 18:07

3 Answers 3

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Well if it is burning some of the popcorn I'd say that means it is going for too long or you are setting power too strong, otherwise it wouldn't burn.

If there's still unpopped corn at the end, then it could mean three things I can think of, right now.

  1. Uneven microwave distribution in the chamber, which is a very common issue for which rotating platters have been created.
  2. Poor quality corn maybe mixed varieties which don't pop so easily.
  3. Insufficient humidity. Microwaves heat water well, but not other substances, if there is not enough humidity in the form of water/grease content in the package, or it is unevenly distributed, there may be kernels that never get proper temperature.

Try interrupting the microwave mid cycle and shaking the paper bag around a bit about half way through, instead of doing it all in one go. Make sure the platter is rotating.

Some unpopped kernel is expected regardless.

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    lol hello boy you are here too xD Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 23:06
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    I just made some popcorn yesterday, and setting it on 60% power for 4 minutes, then shaking and doing 80% power for 45 seconds, then back to shaking, etc. until most of the corn is popped. I really miss my old microwave already :(
    – MechMK1
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 7:31
  • Nice to hear it worked Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 9:07
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I can tell from the answers that people who don't have this kind of microwave don't get it. I've been making microwave popcorn for decades (my favorite is Orville R Smart Pop) with NO problems on several different microwaves. But this new KitchenAid does exactly what the OP describes. It either burns the popcorn massively or it leaves A LOT unpopped. It usually does both at once. So no you can't wait for the pops to slow down to some rate. The popcorn button does not burn the popcorn but leaves a sizeable fraction unpopped. I've tried different power levels like the OP but that isn't a great solution. It 'helps' but the problem still remains. It seems like the machine is just too powerful to pop the whole bag without burning the early kernals? I'm thinking I may experiment with having a cup of water in there with it to absorb some of the energy? Will report back...

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Running at lower power is not the same as using a lower power microwave. A 1250 Watt microwave at 80% power doesn't run at 1000 Watts. It runs at 1250 Watts for 8 seconds, alternating with zero power for 2 seconds. This isn't solving the problem you have anyway, which is uneven heating.

Reposition the bag in the middle of heating it. Just before it would begin to pop, open the door and rotate the bag, or flip it upside down. Depending on the microwave, that could swap the underheated and overheated parts of the bag.

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  • Inverter microwaves don't suffer from this problem Commented Apr 9 at 0:02

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