80s, Blog, Food, Obsession of the Day — November 12, 2014 11:00 am

Pop(corn) Rewind: Frozen Microwave Popcorn?

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In the 80s and 90s, and actually to the present day, if you went to my parents’ house and opened the freezer, you’d find it stuffed with packages of microwave popcorn. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? I mean, I just keep my micorwave popcorn in the cupboard, and likely so do you.

I can barely remember a time when there wasn’t microwave popcorn. In the mid 80s, before my family bought a microwave, I remember using an old brown air popper to make popcorn or sometimes making Jiffy Pop on the stove. My mom would then slather the popcorn in a stick of melted butter and lots of Kernel’s brand popcorn salt. It’s a miracle I didn’t have a heart attack by age 8.

According to this New York Times article, microwave popcorn made its debut in 1982, thanks to Pillsbury, and at that time and for a few years after that, it was kept frozen. Popcorn scientists (that’s a thing now, we’ve been referenced on Wikipedia, so we’re legit) hadn’t figured out a way to make shelf-stable oil to coat the little dried out kernels, so off into the freezer those packages went.

By 1984, Act II had come out with their shelf-stable variety and soon the others followed suit, making frozen microwave popcorn a thing of the past. And from these timelines, my parents already had a microwave by the time shelf-stable microwave popcorn came out. So, what was the deal with the freezer?

According to my mom, there was a tip from Orville Redenbacher that keeping microwaved popcorn in the freezer would get a “better yield”. I asked her if she had any scientific evidence for this, and she just repeated louder that it “yields more popcorn.” I can’t find any indications that this is a thing, but at the same time I can’t prove it’s not a thing. Who am I to argue?

Turns out my mom is a popcorn scientist.

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