Forget everything you thought you knew about microwave popcorn
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My microwave popcorn obsession began when most of the countries did, circa 2012 when the legendary Olivia Pope first graced our TV screens in Scandal. In an attempt to emulate her iconic bowl of popcorn in one hand, wine glass in the other, aesthetic, I have tried more than my fair share of microwave popcorn brands over the past seven years.
While there are many different forms of popcorn (pre-popped bags, kettlecorn, kernels you can pop yourself in a popcorn popper), my heart lies with microwavable. There is something about a warm, freshly popped bag of buttery, salty, crunchy popcorn that makes it the perfect snack to mindlessly eat while binge watching Netflix for hours on end. You can even eat an entire bag as a meal, which I have done way more times than I would like to admit. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably wondered, what really is the best microwave popcorn brand out there?
In true Reviewed fashion, we found the most popular microwave popcorn on the market and put it through a blind taste test. We’ve done this style of testing with ice cream, chips, Oreos, and even frozen pizza, so this wasn’t our first time organizing a taste test of this caliber. Microwave popcorn was the perfect subject for this test because it pretty much all looks the same and you can’t tell which brand is which just by glancing at it—unless you’re the one person in our office who correctly guessed Popsecret, that was impressive.
Our office rated each popcorn on a scale of 1 through 5, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best; based on texture, butteriness, saltiness, and overall taste. The overall taste and texture score was then calculated for each popcorn to find the overall winner. We also did the same with the butteriness and saltiness scores individually to find the winner for each of those categories. Now let’s get poppin.
Overall Score: 4.2 out of 5
In potentially the biggest microwave popcorn upset out there, Jolly Time scored the coveted number one spot with their Butter-licious popcorn. While this brand was relatively unknown to our office before testing, the team loved it’s butter-to-salt ratio and its light, fluffy texture. One tester wrote that the popcorn was “perfect for shoveling in your mouth during a bad rom com.” Some thought the popcorn had a little too much butter, but how could too much butter ever be a bad thing? Overall, Jolly Time is delicious and I expect the extra bags to fly off our snack shelf.
Overall Score: 3.8 out of 5
Confession time: the main reason I asked my boss to do this testing is because I am OBSESSED with Skinny Pop’s microwavable popcorn and I wanted all of my coworkers to hop on the Skinny Pop train. Clearly, I have great taste because our office fell in love. On top of coming in second, Skinny Pop also won in our ‘most salty’ and ‘best texture’ categories. Some reviewers didn’t love the abundance of salt, but others said they “could eat an entire bag.” Skinny Pop is not only one of the most natural microwave popcorns we tried, but also one of the best and this taste test only fueled my obsession.
Overall Score: 3.7 out of 5
As you can probably tell by the brand name, Act II popcorn is supposed to capture that magical buttery taste you get at the theaters. Some of our testers agreed, saying “this literally tastes like movie popcorn,” but others thought it “tasted pretty bland” and “more like a rice cake than popcorn.” One thing everyone seemed to agree on though was that it looked great. Act II has the perfect buttery-yellow color without looking artificial. Overall, Act II may not be an exact movie theater match, but it’s still a pretty solid choice if you’re looking for a snack to supplement your next Netflix binge.
Overall Score: 3.6 out of 5
Is there anything Whole Foods can’t do? Obviously, I love my Skinny Pop, but the 365 popcorn came in a very close second for my taste buds. The reviews were mixed, as to be expected from a 4th place popcorn, with some testers calling it a “10/10, would eat again” and others simply saying “nah.” It had a little less butter than some of our testers would have wanted, but overall, we found the 365 brand popcorn to have a good salt ratio, a great crunch, and it’s organic if you’re into that.
Overall Score: 3.5 out of 5
Orville Redenbacher, the king of popcorn as some might say, has been dethroned. Well, at least according to our testers. Orville scored very high on our buttery and salty scales, but not in a good way for most testers. One comment read “weirdly salted and very artificial,” and many testers agreed. Of course, Orville has a big name for a reason and some of our testers thought the popcorn was “legit perfect” and “delicious.” All in all, Orville may have the most popcorn clout of all the brands we tested, but the hype is clearly not real.
Overall Score: 3.5 out of 5
Did you know Boom Chicka Pop had a microwave version? Cause neither did we. If we had a ‘best packaging’ winner, Boom Chicka Pop would’ve swept the competition. After microwaving, you pull a tab on the side of the bag—turning it into a bowl for your popcorn. Genius. As for the taste, our testers weren’t as sold. Many claimed it had a “weird aftertaste” that was slightly sweet. If you lean more on the kettlecorn end of the popcorn spectrum, this might be more up your alley. But as far as butter flavored microwave popcorn is concerned, the Boom Chicka Pop was just okay.
Overall Score: 3.3 out of 5
I think Pop Secret ranking in the bottom half of our list surprised me even more than Orville only taking 5th place. In college, Pop Secret was my go-to brand. Did I feel nauseous after eating an entire bag in one sitting? Yes. But was it worth it? TBD. The overwhelming majority of testers thought the Pop Secret was too buttery and tasted pretty artificial. Our Video Producer, Melissa Rorech, was the only tester to correctly guess any of the flavors and she recognized Pop Secret’s buttery taste immediately. Though Melissa remains a huge fan, overall, Pop Secret didn’t sit well with our testers.
Overall Score: 3.1 out of 5
There are so many things Costco is good for, but apparently microwave popcorn isn’t one of them. The texture seemed to be the most unsettling part for our testers with comments like “dissolved in my mouth rapidly” and “cardboard in popcorn version.” The taste was fine, it wasn’t great, but generally not as offensive as some others on our list (spoiler alert: Quinn’s, I’m looking at you). Our testers just weren’t really buying this as a buttery flavor, which is probably why it landed at the bottom of our list.
Overall Score: 2.7 out of 5
Honestly, #JusticeForNewmansOwn. I actually enjoyed this popcorn and if I wasn’t in a passionate love affair with Skinny Pop, I would definitely consider buying it on my next grocery store run. Clearly, the other testers did not agree and the comments where a chorus of “pretty bland,” “meh,” and “it’s fine.” The overall consensus seemed to be that the popcorn lacked flavor and saltiness but the texture was pretty good. Newman’s Own, if you’re reading this, you would’ve ranked in my top 3, but unfortunately, the blind taste test has the final say.
Overall Score: 1.5 out of 5
To the one tester who rated this a 3 out of 5 for overall taste, my only question is WTF? Not only was Quinn’s the worst of the popcorns we tested, but it was also the most complicated. The popcorn came with packets of oil and butter flavoring that you are supposed to pour into the bag after popping. My problem with this method is two-fold. One, despite our best attempts to evenly distribute the flavoring, the popcorn tasted very bland overall and every so often we would get a singular corn overloaded with powder flavoring. Two, I know popcorn isn’t the healthiest food, but I really don’t need this visual representation of how much oil and added flavoring I am consuming when I am trying to snack. Our testers found the taste of Quinn’s particularly offensive and I even got called out in the office a few times for including it in the line-up. Note to self: be careful with future blind-taste test choices.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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