There’s nothing better than sitting down to watch a movie with a bag of the best microwave popcorn in your hands. When you go to the grocery store, though, you have so many options in front of you. Which is the best brand and why? To find an answer to this great mystery, we rented all our favorite movies, bought a bunch of popcorn and starting chowing down. As we popped and ate the popcorn, we paid close attention to pop times, overall popping quality and, of course, how the popcorn tasted.
Based on our experiments with the top microwave popcorn brands, the best microwave popcorn, and our #1 pick, is the Quinn Snacks Microwave Popcorn, winning thanks to overall taste and reliability and use of all-natural ingredients. Keep reading to learn more about our favorite popcorn snacks and why we chose them. We encourage you to try them out too! Get a movie rental and sit down with one of these microwavable popcorn bags for the best time.
Top 5 Best Microwave Popcorn Compared
#1 Quinn Snacks Microwave Popcorn – Top Pick/Best NaturalWHY WE LIKE IT: Want to switch up the typical microwavable popcorn process? The Quinn Snacks microwavable popcorn does just that with all-natural ingredients and bags.
The Quinn Snacks microwavable popcorn is the most expensive option on our list when compared to how much popcorn you actually get in each package, but there’s a good reason for that. Instead of popping your popcorn in chemically coated bags, Quinn popcorn is uses what they call their “pure-pop” paper bag that’s sure to be healthier than anything else.
However, the popping process here takes a bit longer than the standard microwavable treat. First, you pop the popcorn, then you pour in the included oil and shake up the back. After that, you pour in the flavoring and shake up the bag again. Don’t let the long process scare you away though! Quinn Snacks popcorn tastes absolutely delicious and comes in a bunch of different flavors. And we didn’t feel too guilty eating it either, knowing everything was all natural. Use it with the best microwave.
#2 Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter – Honorable Mention/Best ButterWHY WE LIKE IT: Looking for a much richer option than the others here? Check out Pop Secret’s easy and delicious movie theater butter popcorn.
Maybe you’re on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to movie theater butter and you just want to enjoy some of the richest popcorn out there. More butter? Bring it on; let’s make things tasty. Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter popcorn doesn’t hold back on the flavor and gives you an amazing taste without all the grease.
Unfortunately some bags are messier than others. Some of the bags we popped leaked butter into our microwave and you’ve probably already guessed by now that our fingers were messier than ever after eating this popcorn. All in all, this 100% whole grain microwavable popcorn hit the spot for our movie munchies needs. You may want to read about the best countertop microwave as well.
#3 Orville Redenbacher’s Movie Theater Butter – Best Value/Best KernelsWHY WE LIKE IT: Orville Redenbacher’s is a tried and true brand name with tons of reliability and flavor.
It’s true that you just can’t go wrong with Orville Redenbacher’s microwavable popcorn. It’s one of the more consistent popcorn we’ve popped. Almost 100% of the bags we microwaved popped the vast majority of their kernels without using any kind of artificial preservatives or flavorings. Sure, some of the bags get messier than you would expect, but that isn’t a deal breaker by any means.
We loved the flavor of our Orville Redenbacher’s microwavable popcorn. It had just the right amount of butter and salt to make for the perfect treat while watching a movie or hanging out with friends and family. It will taste great made in the best over the range microwave.
#4 Act II Butter Lovers – Best Low CaloriesWHY WE LIKE IT: Act II’s popcorn impressed us with its authentic taste and variety of purchase options.
Act II designs its popcorn for quick microwaving (dependably three minutes for most bags and medium-power microwaves) and taste. In this case, both features come through with winning style. If you want popcorn that’s as close to real movie popcorn as you can get, here’s where to start.
We also appreciated the many buying options Act II offers, from microwavable buckets to little snack bags. However, we found the butter flavoring to be a little inconsistent between bags. Too much in one bag and not enough in the next. Surprisingly, this Act II popcorn is vegan friendly and offers the lowest number of calories on the whole list. Also check out the best stainless steel microwave.
#5 Jolly Time Simply Popped – Best Budget/Best HealthyWHY WE LIKE IT: With no artificial ingredients or flavoring, this fluffy Jolly Time popcorn shouldn’t taste as good as it does.
Okay, maybe that delicious movie theater taste isn’t what you had in mind. Maybe your idea of the perfect microwavable popcorn is something different – a simpler style of popcorn that focuses on the corn flavor and quality and less on everything else. This is what the Jolly Time Simply Popped popcorn focuses on. With no artificial ingredients, you get a more nuanced taste without being blasted by butter flavoring.
We found this Jolly Time popcorn to be sweet and delicious, and thankfully it didn’t have that acrid popcorn odor that so many other microwavable bags have. Whether you’re watching calories or just like a simpler taste to your popcorn, this product does the job right. Perfect for the best small microwave.
How We Choose the Best Microwave Popcorn
It sounds pretty obvious, but we put the popcorn through its paces and then see what happens! Basically, we look at several different stages:
- Ingredients: When first picking popcorn, we take a look at the ingredients and nutrition information.
- Cooking: How well does the popcorn cook? Does it tend to pop smoothly and easily, or is the heating uneven and prone to burning or undercooking? Are the instructions clear and concise? Not everyone has a smart oven to cook for them.
- Cooling and Buttering: It’s important that popcorn cools easily and shakes well in the bag afterward if necessary – we don’t like to see any messes or uneven flavor, and we really don’t like burnt fingertips.
- Taste: And of course, last but not least, there’s the taste. Taste and mouth-feel are both important, as good popcorn should feel fresh and “fluffy” in the mouth, and shouldn’t be soaked with grease. The taste should be as close to real buttered popcorn as possible, and shouldn’t change much even when the popcorn gets cold.
Why You Should Buy Microwave Popcorn
Today’s microwave popcorn uses more sophisticated ingredients and combinations of palm oil/corn oil to create healthier or more realistic flavors. If you’ve tried microwave popcorn in the past and been a little disappointed, you should definitely give these newer versions a try. We’ve found a lot of variance in texture and flavor between brands and product lines – you may have just not found the right kind to try. These choices are an excellent place to start. And last, but most certainly not least, it’s the least laborious way to make popcorn, though it’s arguably not the healthiest.
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Microwave Popcorn Features to Look For
- Fresh Feel: One of the problems we frequently encountered when testing popcorns was that the combination of the butter flavor and the corn quickly grew stale in many cases, creating an uncomfortable, chewy sensation that only grew worse as the popcorn cooled. Not great! The best tasting microwave popcorn managed to keep its fresh, crisp feeling even with butter products added. The less stale the taste, the better!
- Oils Used: The ingredients really do matter. Of course, microwavable popcorn doesn’t use real butter (even theater popcorn doesn’t actually use real butter), but it’s still a good idea to look at the label. The best butter microwave popcorn provides is typically a mix of palm oil and corn oil. Then most brands add in a little salt, some natural/artificial flavors, and some preservatives. Look for popcorn that focuses on a few, simple ingredients. We found that those that included a bit of corn oil tasted more authentic.
- Sizes: Microwavable popcorn bags come in several different sizes, and many brands offer additional options like snack sizes and extra-large options, too. Generally speaking, it’s important to pick the size that you’re most familiar with, and double-check to make sure that you’re getting the right size for your plans. This can also be an easy way to control the amount of calories you’re eating in a single sitting.
- Easy Cooking Times: Wondering which microwave popcorn pops the best? We’ve all tried to microwave bags of popcorn before, only to have them blacken and smoke even though we’re sure we got the times right. It happens! The best microwave popcorn maker will have settings and one-touch features that make your job easier. The best microwavable popcorn, meanwhile, will resist easy scorching and burning, reliably giving you a low number of unpopped kernels without any overcooking. The microwave and popcorn need to work together on this, but it’s still an important feature to consider.
- Health Features: “Healthy” and “Great taste” aren’t always incompatible with modern popcorn! Don’t be afraid to buy popcorn based on health options. That includes low amounts of saturated fat, low or no butter flavoring, low amounts of sodium, low amounts of total fat, and so on. However, if you’re taking a look at healthy features, we suggest you go right to the label to find the best healthy microwave popcorn. The claims and ad-speak on the front of the box don’t always translate to real changes in the ingredients.
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Mistakes To Avoid
- Mixing Up Popped and Unpopped: Most popcorn bags give you two sets of nutritional information – one for about two tablespoons of unpopped kernels, and one for around a cup of popped corn. Don’t get these two mixed up! The nutrition information is very, very different, since the kernel information is typically for 4 to 5 full cups of popcorn. If you’re looking at the labels, make sure you read them correctly. Another important note: Look to see if the butter flavoring is included in the nutrition information, or if it’s counted as an extra option.
- Buying Solely Based on Ingredients/Nutrition: The best microwave popcorn has a mysterious equation, one which depends on ingredients, how the popcorn is produced, what sort of microwave and settings you have. If you only choose popcorn based on ingredients, then you may be missing out on products that actually taste better to you. Remember that with all things remaining equal, the nutritional value of microwave popcorn is about the same no matter which brand you choose.
- Ignoring the Instructions: We know that you have that tempting popcorn button right there on your microwave, but even if you have the best microwave popcorn popper around, you should still read the instructions. Generally, the makers of microwave popcorn know what they’re doing. If they have any specific information about how long to microwave, what settings to use, or anything else – then pay attention. Try it their way first, then start customizing.
What Else You Should Know
It’s never fun when you have a bag of popcorn rip or explode. If you need help cleaning up the grease in your microwave, then we’ve got tips on how to clean a microwave the easy way. If you want something that can handle much more than popcorn, think about an iChef Oven or a similar type of smaller automatic oven that can handle anything.
On the other hand, if you’re really tired of your work microwave smelling like popcorn all the time, you can find USB microwaves to plug in at your desk and heat your coffee too!
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