make popcorn using a brown bag

Popcorn Your Way – No Special Tool Required

Popcorn is a pantry staple in an American household.  Typical household would have some sort of popcorn- whether bought popped or to be popped just before consumption.

In good ol’ days, we had jiffy pop, which I still think it’s so much fun to watch the extraterrestrial looking dome form right before your eyes.  But I always ended up with burnt popcorn because I was focused on the dome’s size, not the doneness of my popcorns.  You can still buy jiffy pop today from grocery stores in their popcorn section.

Then I had an air popper I bought from a thrift store.  This was also fun to watch because I could see the popcorn popping in action.  And they came shooting out of the chamber, and it was like a game trying to catch them all into a bucket.  I never burnt popcorn with air popper, but I just couldn’t ever figure out how to use the butter melting function without making a huge mess on it.  My niece and nephew thought I was so cool and loved the homemade popcorn as they ate them out of a gallon-size bucket.  Their parents didn’t agree with them however.  Microwave popcorn, which made their kids very self-sufficient and required no clean up, was no longer good enough for the younglings as they were asking their parents to make popcorn in a seemingly harder way.

One day I discovered that my husband had gotten rid of my air popper, because he was always weirded out, that the machine that would produce something that we would put in our mouth came from a thrift store, yet I never washed the popping chamber, because I couldn’t.  It wasn’t built for washing.  Because it didn’t need to be washed.  The chamber’s bottom was fashioned with a heating element, kinda like the wires that glows red in a popup toaster, and it got so darn hot that anything bad would have been either burnt or killed off at some point.  I was not about to give up on a machine that made me a cool aunt.  So, my husband took it to his own hand and tossed it when I wasn’t looking.  He didn’t even donate it back to the thrift store.  He claimed that any food-prepping tool that couldn’t be washed shouldn’t be recycled.  Let the buyer decide that!  But, whatever.  It’s done.

So this time, I went and found an un-used air popper at a thrift shop.  It had a cute retro design and color to it.  It didn’t have a box, but everything looked like never had been used, with instruction tucked inside, plug in cord still neatly twist-tied.  More importantly, it now has a seal of husband-approved.  It promised longevity in our household.  Hopefully this is the last air-popper I would have to buy in a long time.

I went shopping for all the popcorn ingredients, even picked up a movie that would go with the popcorn.  When I got home, I studied the instruction carefully as I always like to do.  Here we go, we are popping!

Not.  This one, this never-before-used machine, didn’t seem to have enough heat to really get the kernels to pop, so kernels slowly burnt inside the aluminum drum.  A few popped, but there was not enough force for them to jump out of the drum, so they also slowly burnt inside.  I re-read the instruction.  Maybe I put too many kernels?  Maybe not enough?  I tried all different ways, but it didn’t make any difference.

I was so irritated how this new and cute popcorn machine turned out to be useless.  I had such a high hope for it.  It couldn’t even do the ONLY job it was designed to do – to make popcorn.  How would anyone make something that doesn’t work and sell it?  Is it supposed to be just for the looks?  (I am talking about this popcorn maker.  I don’t know the person you are thinking of.)  Who’s got counter space for that these days?  I am a sucker who bought it.  But now I know what it does (or doesn’t do, to be more accurate), I am not going to put up with it.  She’s fired.  (Still talking about the popcorn machine.)

I was going to have popcorn that night, no matter what.  Not because I wanted popcorn, but because succeeding in making edible popcorn seemed like the way to get back at the company who made the worthless popcorn machine I just slam-dunked into the outside trash can.  So I:

  • Mimicked jiffy pop using a frying pan – didn’t really pop and kernels just burnt
  • Mimicked popcorn maker pot by using a cooking pot – again didn’t really pop and kernels just burnt.

After wasting half of the bag of popcorn kernels and washing several pots and pans, while smoky aroma and haze filled our little house, I turned to a bag of microwave popcorn…  I ripped opened the plastic and threw the bag into the microwave angrily, feeling defeated, even violated of my justice and rights.  I guess there is a reason for popularity of microwave popcorn.  It works.  It’s easy.  No pots or pans to wash.  Set it and forget it.  Kids can do it without parental supervision.  But why does it work so well?  It’s just a bag with corn and butter inside, I think.  Right?  Heck, I have a bag right here, corn chips came with Mexican food take out.

So I tried mimicking microwave popcorn this time.  I didn’t add butter to it, because I figured that the popcorn bag had some sort of special coating inside preventing butter to bleed threw the bag.  My brown bag would not stand a chance against butter.

I made the bag flat, put it in the microwave just like I would with a microwave popcorn.  I followed the microwave popcorn’s instruction for popping – 2 to 2 and a half minutes, depending on microwave.

I set the microwave for 2 minutes and got back to cleaning around the kitchen, which was now quite messy with kernel spills everywhere, and pots and pans heaping on my dish rack, fully anticipating the air to get even more smokier in a couple of minutes.


Well, that’s one more pop than I got from other methods.


Sounds promising.


I dashed to the microwave.  It’s working!

I hopped in place and clapped my hands, watching the bag slowly expand.

I stopped the microwave as soon as I heard a slight pause in between pops.  I didn’t care if half the popcorn was still kernels.  I think I am getting un-burnt popcorn!

I took the bag out from the microwave, picked up the end with one hand, the other holding the bottom of the bag, as though the microwave printed a sign on the bag says “fragile.”

My heart was racing with excitement.  When I put the bag in a bowl upside down and pulled up the bag, white, light popcorn came pouring out.  A lot of it.


I was so impressed with the result I told everyone about it.  To my surprise no one knew that you could do this.  So give it a try, go show off to your friends and your children.  I guarantee they will be impressed!

Brown Bag Popcorn

What you need:

A Microwave

A paper bag*

½ cup Popcorn kernel** (found in popcorn isle at the grocery store)

Topping (Optional)

Liquid, spray, or melted butter

Seasoning salt, your favorite (I like Jonny’s seasoning)

Nutritional Yeast (usually found in bulk isle, flake or powder. (video shows powder)

*lunch bag size, and thin material.  Full-size grocery paper bag material will be too thick.  Fast food bags will work fine, too.

**try Mushroom popcorn found in a specialty or bulk store.  It makes large meaty popcorns!

***Nutritional Yeast and Brewer’s Yeast are not the same, in case you are wondering.


  1. Put popcorn in a brown bag.  Fold the opening twice.  Flatten the bag so that the kernels are laying in a single layer.
  2. Place the bag on its side, folded side down.  Set the microwave on high for 2 to 2 ½ minutes, depending on your microwave.
  3. Empty in a bowl.  Add topping of your choice.  Let the bag air dry and save it for the next time.  You can reuse the bag as long as the bag is good.

Tell me what you think!

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