The Reason You Should Never Use The Popcorn Button On Your Microwave

While popcorn purists deride the very act of popping corn in the microwave, insisting that the stovetop is really the only way, most of us are just looking to have a tasty snack in minutes and we're darn well going to use that microwave. That being said, what's up with the huge disconnect between microwave manufacturers and those who market microwaveable popcorn? 

On the one hand, just about every microwave has a button designated "popcorn." On the other hand, nearly every bag of microwave popcorn tells you in the instructions that you should absolutely NOT use your microwave's popcorn button. So which one should you believe?

For a question of this magnitude, we're going to go straight to one of the world's smartest people, Parade columnist Marilyn Vos Savant. Vos Savant agrees with the popcorn makers, telling Parade readers what we're telling you: Just say no to the popcorn button.

Why you shouldn't use the popcorn button

The short answer, according to Vos Savant, is that many popcorn buttons are just timers. Spoon University further elaborates that different varieties (perhaps even different batches, or bags) of popcorn will have different popping times depending on their weight and humidity, so there simply is no "one size fits all."

If you rely on the button, this popcorn-making mistake could really cost you. If the time's too short, your popcorn may end up under-cooked and full of kernels. If the timer's set for too long, you'll end up with something far, far worse (according to every coworker who shares your break room) — your popcorn will burn and you'll be left with the Stench That Wouldn't Die.

One (possible) exception to the rule

A Stack Exchange Seasoned Advice user wrote in with a question about using the microwave popcorn button, stating that their microwave's manual read: "Touch this pad when popping popcorn in your microwave oven. The oven's sensor will tell the oven how long to cook depending on the amount of humidity it detects from the popcorn." The user wanted to know whether it would still be ok to use this button in light of the fact that their microwave popcorn bag unambiguously stated: "Do not use popcorn button." According to one particularly well-informed reply, since the original poster evidently owned a newer, fancier microwave that was equipped with a humidity sensor, it should be quite safe to use its popcorn button.

So go ahead and check your microwave manual — if you've happened to save it, that is, and can actually manage to unearth it from the kitchen junk drawer. If it turns out that you, too, have a microwave equipped with sophisticated sensors, you may be able to trust the popcorn button. In all other cases, however, it's safer just to stand next to the microwave and count pops. Once the pops slow to two seconds between each one, quick! Snatch the popcorn out of the microwave as quickly as you can, or else risk the wrath of your coworkers as you burn another bag.