The real difference between regular popcorn and movie theater popcorn

There's really no competition. Movie theater popcorn just tastes better than the popcorn you make at home. Either way, Americans like popcorn. We eat enough of it each year to fill the Empire State Building three times over, or 17 billion quarts (via Fact Retriever). Although it's mighty popular among cinema-goers (because how can you watch a movie without popcorn?), you've probably heard that eating movie theater popcorn isn't all that healthy for you. And you'd be right; one study likened eating a medium-sized popcorn at the movie theater, and drinking a soda, to consuming three McDonald's quarter pounders with 12 pats of butter, the equivalent of three days worth of fat consumption. And that doesn't even take into account the amount of sodium involved (Center for Science in Public Interest). 

We know movie theater popcorn tastes better than homemade, no matter how bad it may be for us. So, what's the real difference between the two? How do they make it taste so good at the theater, and can you recreate that same flavor when you make popcorn at home — sans all the extra fat and calories?

The secret popcorn ingredient at the movie theater

How do the theaters create the buttery, salty, goodness of their popcorn, that is seemingly so difficult and impossible to recreate at home? First, it's important to understand that all popcorn kernels are pretty much the same. The movie theater uses the same type of kernels you use at home. And, it doesn't matter if you choose to air pop, or use oil to cook it on your stove top. You are heating the kernels to increase the temperature and vapor pressure inside so they pop, resulting in beautiful, fluffy, flowery-shaped popcorn (via Lincoln Journal Star). 

If it isn't the kernels, or the popping method, it has to be something that's added. In fact, movie theaters use a combination of ingredients you would probably never have in your pantry to create the addictive flavor of their popcorn. The main ingredient used is called Flavacol (via Extra Kripsy). Flavacol is a fine salt that gives movie theater popcorn its yellow color. It is best when added to the kernels and oil before you pop (via Popcorn Supply). Butter flavor is next (a ton of it; because that what concession stand employees add), add a lot more salt, and you have movie theater popcorn. 

Remember, it tastes amazing because it's not at all healthy. So perhaps you'd be best served to save it as a movie treat after all.