Retro Popcorn

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Oh, how I love popcorn!  My kids do too.  How happy am I that we are beyond the stage of “popcorn is a choking hazard.”  It is true that parents of children age 4 and below need to be wary of popcorn (and other foods, such as whole grapes, hot dogs, peanut butter, and baby carrots) since it can cause choking in pre-schoolers and toddlers.  We used to break up popcorn into tiny pieces (a very tedious task) so that our kids could eat it when they were that young.  But now, our kids are on the cusp of five and seven and they love their popcorn and they chew it well!

I get a lot of questions about the NuVal scores for popcorn.  It is a pretty simple category.  Think of it this way:  If you are buying popcorn kernels in a jar, they score very well.  Orville Redencacher’s Original scores a 91.

If you are buying microwave popcorn, they score much, much lower (scores range from 1 – 28).  It’s all about the additives!

This Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop Kettle Korn scores a 12.

This Pop Secret Butter 94% Fat Free scores a 24.

Some of the highest scoring microwave popcorns include:

  • Act II 94% Fat Free Butter Flavor scores a 28
  • Newman’s Own 94% Fat Free Butter scores a 28
  • Jolly Time Healthy Pop scores a 27

I am not a fan of microwave popcorn.  Bleeechh!!  It’s way too salty and fake-buttery tasting for me.  We never have it in the house.  We make popcorn the old fashioned way – with a pan and a very small amount of canola oil and salt.  The only downside to this strategy is that when babysitters come to our house and the kids ask for popcorn, they don’t know what to do.  They grew up in the Microwave Popcorn Generation.

I, however, grew up before microwave popcorn became All The Rage.  First, we had our 1970s popper.  And it looked exactly like this!


Thanks to the PR Mama  for this digital image that brings back such memories!  This popper used hot oil to pop the corn.  And it got very hot!  In fact, I think this popper is so memorable to me because my sister, while eagerly awaiting the corn to finish popping, pressed her nose against the plastic lid and burned it!  That is a story my own kids have heard many times as they try to peer though the oven door!

As we moved into the 80s, we graduated to a hot air popper that had a little metal dish on top so that you could melt your butter from the heat of the popper while the popcorn popped.  While hot air popping is undoubtedly the healthiest way to pop the corn since nothing is added, I find it kind of chewy. 

Fast forward to now and you find me making popcorn the old-fashioned way.

First, I get out a large pot fitted with a cover, place it on the burner, and turn the heat to medium-high to high.  Every stove is different so you have to experiment with your settings to figure out which works best for you.  Next, I place 1 to 2 Tablespoons of canola oil (NuVal score of 24) in the bottom of the pan.  I also add a dash of salt.  Once the oil is heated (but not smoking), I add my test kernels, place the lid on and wait for them to pop.

Once these kernels pop, you are good to go.  I add about 1/2 cup of kernels.  Honestly, I never measure.  I just pour.  Again, place the lid on top, and wait for the pops.  If you can manage to keep your lid slightly ajar, try to do so in order to let the steam escape.  The popcorn will be drier and crisper, and less chewy.  Shake the pan rigorously over the burner so that the popcorn on the bottom does not pop.  Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the lid completely and pour the popcorn into a large bowl.

Next, I add about two Tablespoons of melted butter and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and I mix it well in this big bowl.  Finally, I divide it into smaller bowls (again, to avoid the inevitable arguments that will erupt between my two children).  These territorial fights can also break out between my husband and me if we share a bowl while enjoying the latest Netflix arrival (these days, Weeds and Madmen).  The Individual Bowl Method also helps in the effort to keep germs in check. 

So, there you have it – my tried and true method for popcorn bliss.  Now get yourself a great DVD and try it tonight!

Yesterday’s Winner

Congratulations to Commenter #19, Don!  You’ve won the Central Market Classics and Lindt Chocolate GiveAway!  Send me an email at and tell me your mailing address.  Thanks to everyone who entered  I loved all the dinner ideas!

Posted by: Melissa 22 comments

Posted in: Popcorn


22 Comments on “Retro Popcorn”

  1. #1 Christina @ Food.Fun.Fabulous
    on Apr 7th, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I just got a hot air popper for christmas and I love it! It makes making popcorn much more exciting than popping a bag in the microwave :)

  2. #2 kalli@fitandfortysomething
    on Apr 7th, 2010 at 11:19 am

    yikes i have microwave popcorn in my pantry! must do a switcharoo and get rid of it:)
    have a good day Melissa!

  3. #3 Lily @ Lily's Health Pad
    on Apr 7th, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I love microwave popcorn! I’ve tried it on the stovetop several times, and it always burns. :-(

  4. #4 Sandy Youngblood
    on Apr 7th, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Yay for original popcorn! We used to have a metal rectangular pan that had a sliding lid and a long handle. I guess it was meant for popping corn on a campfire. But we used it on the stove – it’s a good memory. Glad the original gets a high score!

  5. #5 Ron
    on Apr 7th, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I used up my microwave popcorn by first putting it in the freezer to make it easier to get all the oil & popcorn out of the bag. Then put the frozen popcorn/oil in a pot, add regular popcorn if needed & popped.

  6. #6 Jen
    on Apr 7th, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I have that 1970s popper!! Haha. It is from my parents and still works great!

  7. #7 C Neroni
    on Apr 7th, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    I was at my brother’s last year and he made popcorn the old fashioned way. Since then we do ours on the stove top and spinkle Old Bay Seasoning to it! No more microwave. It may take a little longer but very worth it. Very yummy.

  8. #8 Carol
    on Apr 7th, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    We have a Whirly-Pop pot. It is a large pot that has a handle attached to an arm that stirs the popcorn as it’s popping. No burnt kernels! And soooooo much yummier than microwave popcorn.

  9. #9 Ju;ie
    on Apr 7th, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    You have inspired me to get rid of the micro pop! I can’t believe how bad the scores are. I will go back to the old fashioned way and keep my nose away from the top! Julie

  10. #10 Tara
    on Apr 7th, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    I’m definitely going to switch popcorns. Those scores for microwave are awful. I just need some practice with the stove top kind.

  11. #11 Joanna Sutter
    on Apr 8th, 2010 at 7:58 am

    I haven’t had popcorn in forever but lately I’ve been craving it. Now that I know the scores…I just might add it back into my diet for a healthy snack. Thanks, girl!

  12. #12 Alicia
    on Apr 8th, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I’m with Carol- we have a Whirly Pop. It’s the best! For a real treat we put in little oil, a little sugar and a tiny bit of salt and make our own kettlecorn.

  13. #13 Claire
    on Apr 8th, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I used to use my air popper daily when I was in college,but wore it out.Then,I switched to paper bags.hehe…cc

  14. #14 Popcorn is My Favorite Food
    on Apr 8th, 2010 at 11:26 am

    When I was a kid in the sixties, my dad always popped popcorn on the stove and I do it to this day. When microwaves were first available, my neighbor would put popcorn in a paper bag, no oil, or butter and let it pop and I do that sometimes to this day as well. Does that mean the NuVal Score stays in the 90s?

  15. #15 Popcorn is My Favorite Food
    on Apr 8th, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Forgot to ask, is there a difference in NuVal scores between white and yellow popcorn? Thanks.

  16. #16 Melissa
    on Apr 8th, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    I just asked Rachel Rodek, MS, RD, LDN, CSSD about the difference between NuVal scores for white and yellow popcorn.

    If the popcorn is in kernel form and there are no additives, the answer is “no”. The scores are the same for white and yellow popcorn kernels.

  17. #17 Trading Up Downtown » Blog Archive » Score Surprise: Popcorn
    on Mar 28th, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    [...] time last year, Melissa wrote a post called Retro Popcorn where she explained that popcorn kernels in a jar score very [...]

  18. #18 Delores
    on Apr 20th, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I’m not easily iprmesesd. . . but that’s impressing me! :)

  19. #19 Peek Into Kelly's…Family Movie Night | BLEND
    on Jan 15th, 2013 at 8:08 am

    [...] in canola oil (NuVal 24).  For step by step instructions on how to pop corn on the stove, click here.  Sometimes we top it with a little melted butter (NuVal 2) or Kraft grated Parmesan cheese (NuVal [...]

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