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I got a Nordic Ware "microwave popcorn bowl" for Christmas, that my dad and sister had been raving about. I usually make stovetop popcorn in my Whirley Pop popper, which does a great job, but wanted to give the microwave one a try.

Unfortunately, my 1100 W microwave seems far too powerful and tends to end up with either burned popcorn, or having to stop the process with a LOT of unpopped kernels. I was going to give up on the thing but tried it at a vacation house we rented where the microwave was a lot less powerful. It produced amazing popcorn!! Absolutely delicious, tasted more flavorful even though I used way less coconut oil.

I've tried using reduced power setting on my microwave but it doesn't seem to help, the fact that reducing power just makes it shut off for brief periods (see this question) seems to mess up the popping.

Is there something else I can try, like maybe putting a glass or two of water in the microwave with the popcorn? That might help absorb some of the microwave energy. Perhaps I will experiment...

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A glass of water in the microwave will result in less microwave energy reaching the popcorn. I use a large glass of water (8 - 12 oz.) when I'm softening butter because I want the water to absorb most of the energy. For popcorn, you may get by with 2-4 ounces of water.

I've also found that the amount of oil makes a huge difference. I sometimes pop popcorn in a paper lunch bag. If I don't use any oil, I get the combination of burnt and unpopped you described. With a teaspoon of oil added to 1/3 cup of popcorn, results are a lot better. Perhaps you just need a little more oil to get great popcorn.

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    I had tried using more oil but it didn't seem to help much. However, a very small glass of water (guessing I used about 3T or 1.5 oz) worked very well! Almost the equivalent of the lower power microwave. I still used some oil of course (for flavour, and it probably helps prevent burning too). Jan 20, 2016 at 13:54
  • I'm really glad that worked. Thanks for sharing the result!
    – mrog
    Jan 20, 2016 at 15:00
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    Just don't let the water boil away! I mistakenly used a bit less water in one of my batches yesterday and it popped great until the very end when the water finally all boiled away, then some of the popped corn got burned! Jan 21, 2016 at 15:06
  • I tried adding 1/3 cup of water but this did not work for me. The water was exploding a bit and the popcorn was not popping at all. I had to stop it. Maybe I did it wrong.
    – user100013
    Jul 17 at 1:08
  • @user100013 Try moving the cup of water farther away from the popcorn. Also try using less water.
    – mrog
    Jul 19 at 18:22
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I completely forgot that I'd posted this question! Through experimentation I was able to make the the Nordic Ware microwave popper work very well with my overpowered microwave. We have used it 1-3 times/week for the last 6+ years. Here's the best method I found:

  1. Even though the instructions say 1/3 cup of kernels max, I use a little more than 1/2 cup. More popcorn helps absorbs the energy.
  2. I do not use any oil during popping. None. Instead, I add 1/4 cup of boiled water from the kettle to the kernels immediately before putting it into the microwave. (Note that it will all turn to steam; the popcorn comes out dry.)
  3. With all that water (even near boiling), the popping time is increased to about 5:30 - 6:00, with my microwave.
  4. I let it pop like crazy, spilling out of the bowl somewhat. But if I let it go too long it will burn, so I do stop it and take all the popped popcorn out.
  5. The unpopped kernels go back in the microwave with a little water added to the recessed part of the lid. Popping time: ~2 minutes.

That's it! Once popped I add lots of butter, and salt of course.

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    That approach sounds fine, but I really don't think the water is gaining you anything. In a closed container, the kernels are going to be limited to 100°C until the water all boils away. That is, it delays the cooking, rather than slowing it down.
    – Sneftel
    Jul 18 at 10:01
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I experiment a lot with microwave recipes including popcorn and my suggestion is to stop the microwave before any burning starts, remove the popped kernels from the dish and and put the unpopped kernels back in the microwave for some more popping. This will prevent the already popped corn from scorching.

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    Will, welcome to the site! Please note that all Stack Exchange sites work differently from most forums you might be familiar with. (Start with taking the tour and visit our help center!) I edited your post to keep the advice and remove the "visit my blog" part. You may of course link to your blog on your profile page...
    – Stephie
    Feb 10, 2016 at 9:00

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