Sunday, June 23, 2019

Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper Review

Picture of popcorn in a red and white striped box labelled "pop corn"
I love popcorn.

I love eating popcorn at those places we usually eat popcorn like movie theaters and sporting events. 

Popcorn, as simple as it is, really brings up the enjoyment level of those activities. I am a bit confused and frustrated, however, at how crazy expensive popcorn can be in those concession stands. One can hardly imagine a cheaper food (the popcorn, especially when purchased in large quantities, is incredibly cheap, the butter or butter flavored oil, the salt, even fancy flavored salts like garlic or buffalo, are all very cheap). But when you buy a bag of popcorn at an event, it is often $7-$10. 

I love popcorn, but I can hardly afford to spend that kind of money on something so cheap to make. That would just be silly and wasteful. 

I understand that the high markups on popcorn, and other concession stand staples like soda and candy, subsidize the existence of the event and location. For example, in the case of movie theaters, often the ticket admission price is almost entirely paid to the makers and producers of the film you are there to see. The owner of the individual theater you see it in gets almost nothing. 

To pay for the building, the staff, the electricity, all the costs associated with running the theater and playing the movie for the audience, is paid for by either advertisements within the theater or concession stand sales. 

So, I do sympathize with the reason popcorn costs so much, and I do occasionally purchase it at those high prices, but I want popcorn way more often than I can afford to buy it at $10 a tub.


Why I Don’t Like Bags of Microwaveable Popcorn


My former solution to this problem was to buy microwavable bags of popcorn from the grocery store. 

The bags were cheaper than at the theater, and they were easy to make. Simply place the bag in the microwave and heat for the prescribed amount of time. But I always seemed to either overcook and burn the popcorn, which would stink up the house and taste awful, or I would undercook the bag and have a huge number of wasted, unpopped kernels. 

Also, the artificial butter in the bags, while extremely delicious, always gave me stomachaches and made me feel like trash.

Then I visited a friend who made popcorn for a movie we were going to watch at his house. 

He got out the Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper by West Bend. 

I had never seen such a thing. I had seen the large-scale poppers used at theaters, but never anything for household use

He got out a plastic bottle of all-yellow popcorn kernels, a glass bottle of olive oil, and some butter. 

There were the makings of the best, most cost-effective popcorn I’d ever had.


How To Use the Popper Instructions



Picture of Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper


The popper has a large flat heating surface which is always on when the machine is plugged in and has no adjustments or settings, so there is no way to heat it wrong. 

A data table which shows the proper amount of kernels, oil, and butter needed to make various amounts of finished popcorn.

Use this data table only as a general guide. Make sure to reference your specific model's instruction manual for specific amounts of ingredients.


You put the proper amount of some oil (we usually use olive oil, but you could also use coconut oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or whatever you most like the taste of) in the pan. The oil helps transfer the heat of the pan into the popcorn kernels so that they can heat up and pop (use the prescribed amount of oil; I’ve tried using just a small amount and the kernels never pop; the oil is absolutely key). 

Then add the proper amount of popcorn kernels (by volume). 

-->Go to the West Bend site and they have all the instruction manuals for all of their products available in digital format! Just scroll down most of the way to the Popcorn Popper section (It's organized alphabetically) and select your specific model. This is super handy if you should ever happen to lose your instruction manual, or if you are closer to your smartphone than you are your paper manual!


If you follow the directions in the manual that comes with the Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper, you would then immediately place the plastic dome-shaped lid over the pan surface and wait until all the popcorn has popped. Through extensive experimenting, I’ve found that the popcorn may turn out slightly soggy if you do that. 

What I’ve found works best is to leave the lid off until the first couple kernels pop, then place the lid on the machine, that way the moisture doesn’t build up. 

So that the first couple kernels don’t blast off like a rocket onto the table or floor you can hold the lid a few inches above the machine so that moisture can escape, but you’ll also catch the popped corn.

You wait until all the popcorn has popped, or until there are a few seconds between consecutive pops. 

This machine pops nearly every kernel every time. I never have as many unpopped kernels as I do with bagged microwave popcorn. I’ve also never burned the popcorn with the Stir Crazy Popper. 

This, I think, is because as soon as a kernel has popped it is pushed up, away from the heat, and is stacked on other popcorn or kernels. With bagged microwave popcorn, all the corn is constantly heated regardless of whether its popped or how long its been popped. 

So at this point you have perfectly cooked popcorn. 

Time for extra flavor!


Adding the Butter and Salt

Picture of melted butter in glass measuring cup

Some popper models come with a butter melting cap that goes on the lid. You put the desired amount of butter in the cap on the lid, and then as the popcorn heats the heat rises and melts the butter in the lid. 

There are holes in the lid which allow the butter to drip evenly all over the whole batch of popcorn. 

My model either doesn’t have this cap, or I accidentally threw it out with the box and packing materials, but no bother, because adding butter without it is super easy. 

Take however much butter you want to add to your popcorn and place it in a microwave safe container. Put the butter in the microwave and heat it until liquid. 

It doesn’t take very long at all to melt butter, so 10 to 25 seconds should do it (and butter splatters and is a mess to clean up in the microwave, so either cover the container with a lid or paper towel or watch to stop the microwave the second it’s melted). 

The instructions say that you can use the lid as the bowl to eat your popcorn from, but I always pour a bit of the popcorn into another large bowl, then pour a bit of butter over it, add some more corn, more butter, and repeat until I’ve used all of both the butter and corn. Using this method ensures that all the popcorn gets adequate butter. 

Then add salt to the bowl, regular or flavored, and you’ve got your perfect popcorn.


Conclusion


I absolutely loved that popcorn, and I was very impressed with the quality of the finished product.

I loved that the bowl of popcorn was able to be made so cheaply, so quickly, and without any nasty ingredients that gave me a stomachache!

I was hooked and I couldn’t see myself ever going back to bagged popcorn.

It was nearing Christmas, so rather than buy it for myself, I put it on my Christmas gift wish list. Someone bought it for me, and even amongst all my gifts, that Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper was my favorite one!

Now I regularly enjoy high quality popcorn at home, for movies in the living room, or just as a standalone snack. If you go light on the butter, popcorn can be a much healthier nighttime snack than chips or cookies.

The only possible downside to the whole thing is the need to clean the popper after use, which is the one and only thing that bagged microwave popcorn has going for it. You just throw the bag and you are done, nothing to clean.

But cleaning the popcorn popper is really not hard at all. If you can wash a frying pan, a cup, or a spatula, you can definitely clean this popper.

If you enjoy popcorn, I thoroughly hope you give this popcorn popper a try!

I’m sure you’ll, too, be hooked and never go back to that ultra-processed junk popcorn.



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