How to Microwave Popcorn without Burning It
What to know

How to Microwave Popcorn without Burning It

There’s a popcorn setting or button on most microwaves. Just press that, put in your bag of ready-pop microwaveable popcorn inside the oven, and then feast a few minutes later. If only things were that easy though. Many popcorn bags warn against doing this. Many times, the kernels end up burnt.

Many other kernels end up not popped. This is because the popcorn setting of many a microwave is only preset on a certain time. It lacks a humidity sensor. Therefore, if your popcorn ends up burning, your microwave won’t be able to adjust.

If you want to know how to microwave popcorn without burning, then keep on reading.

Read the Instructions on the Bag

Every popcorn manufacturer recommends different settings for how long their brand of popcorn should be cooked. They even show the recommended temperature, which isn’t an option for certain microwaves. Read the instructions carefully before cooking any popcorn.

Here’s also a fair warning. You shouldn’t be a rebel when it comes to this. Don’t be stubborn about the instructions because you risk turning those kernels into tiny pieces of coal. These companies tend to care quite a lot about the quality of their products and the satisfaction of their customers.

They also have a vested interest when it comes to customer safety. So be a good boy or girl and make popcorn in accordance to their instructions or recommendations.

You may also like: 22 Surprising Things Your Microwave Can Do

Don’t Use the Popcorn Button but Use Sound Instead

The power levels of different microwaves tend to vary from 700 watts to 1 kilowatt and beyond. You won’t know if their popcorn button or preset will work or not. You could end up with a scorched nimbus cloud of smoky popcorn instead of delicious orange clouds of barbecue flavor popcorn.

It can turn into a mixed, fluffy bag filled with unpopped kernels for sure. Even the Orville Redenbacher brand of famous popcorn kernel recommends using sound instead of the time when it comes to popping popcorn.

To be more specific, if there’s more than two full seconds in-between pops of your popcorn bag then it’s time to stop heating it. You’re on the verge of charcoaling the popcorn if you go any further. You should also make sure that your popcorn bag is filled with fresh kernels.

In other words, check the package’s expiration date. Old and dry kernels won’t pop. It’s better to buy a fresh bag at the convenience or grocery store.

How to Microwave Popcorn without Burning It


Microwave Some Water First Inside the Microwave Oven

Having a little moisture or steaminess inside the microwave oven helps your popcorn kernels to pop better and fluffier instead of as tough as rubber. Therefore, prior to popping a bag of popcorn, you should microwave a cup or glass of water for a minute to create a humid environment.

Put the bag of popcorn before this steam or vapor should dissipate. This means you should put in the bag immediately after heating the cup. For good measure, you can use that hot water to make yourself a cup of instant coffee that you can drink while waiting for your popcorn to pop.

Allow your microwave to work its magic. However, you should listen to the sound of the popping corns as described above. Remove the bag no matter what amount of time is in the directions when there’s about two seconds between every pop.

Ditch the Bag Altogether and Use Another Popping Container

Get a microwave-safe glass or ceramic bowl. Ditch the bag and empty the kernels inside of it. Cover the bowl with a microwave-safe cover or dish that’s ceramic. Don’t cover it too tightly to let some steam out. If you want a fancy way of popping popcorn, buy a microwaveable food cover with vents inside.

The idea here is to keep the steam from building up inside the bowl, which can result in an explosion of heat and pressure. The popping kernels tend to create moisture and heat instead of the microwaveable bowl, which should then result in fluffy clouds of delicious buttered or cheesy popcorn.

Use a thick dishtowel or oven mitts in order to take the bowl of popcorn out. It’s going to be hot to say the least. Very hot and steamy. Don’t underestimate the dangers of scalding yourself with this excessive hotness or superheated steam.

Making Your Popcorn Tastier with Additives

You can add salt, butter, and a little (not too much, mind you) oil at the bottom of the oil before pouring the kernels. On the other hand, the grocery is likely to have kernels that come in different flavors already. Some we’ve come across include barbecue, cheese, and butter.

Regardless of how you put in additives to your popcorn, the idea here is to make the kernels soak up the flavor powder or liquids as they’re cooked by you microwave. If you wish your popcorn to taste more buttery or a bit saltier like cinema popcorn, you can avail of “Flavacol” mixed with a bit of oil.

You can also pop the remaining unpopped kernels with the flavorful liquids by returning them into the microwave for another round of popping.

Should You Buy Microwave Popcorn or Not?

Maybe not. They’re easier to pop and work well with your popcorn preset button, sure. However, you tend to spend more this way instead of buying popcorn kernels in bulk. They’re merely designed by those too lazy to properly cook popcorn.

Even then, they’re not perfect when it comes to making popcorn and you will somehow end up with overcooked, burned, or uncooked kernels while at the same time paying extra for these individual bags. There’s no such thing as microwave popcorn either, really.

Farmers don’t grow microwave-only popcorn, naturally. The bag is a gimmick for the cooking illiterate to make popcorn popping as easy for them as possible.

To Sum it All Up

Microwave popcorn is quite tasty, relatively healthy, and it takes mere minutes to prepare. However, you can’t always depend on the popcorn setting of your microwave. To do so is like playing Russian roulette with the ultimate quality of your bag of microwave popcorn.

Most people instead experience a charred bagful of corn that’s not fit for human or pet consumption at worst. At best, you have a bunch of un-popped kernels you might try to pop again to mixed results every time. Just follow the simple tricks on this article to get maximum fluffiness from your popcorn.

Do the recommendations on this guide to get a tender-crispy result when it comes to the microwave popcorn you’ve bought.


  1. Karen Ahn, “The Secret to Perfectly Fluffy Microwave Popcorn Isn’t the ‘Popcorn’ Button“, Food Hacks, March 7, 2014
  2. Drucilla James, “How to Pop Popcorn in a Microwave Without Burning It“,, Retrieved March 26, 2021


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