Saturday, December 26, 2009

My New Popcorn Popper

My Dad got me something for Christmas that I have wanted for a while.  A real popcorn popper. I have never owned one of these myself. My dad had a big metal pan with a lid that he used when I was a kid.  He made popcorn by shaking the pan over the flame. He would get so mad when we ate all his popcorn.  He even added things like excessive pepper to try and keep us out of it.  We just learned to like peppered popcorn.

I first started thinking about getting my own awhile back when I read a Prevention Article about foods that food experts wouldn't eat.  I was surprised to see that microwave popcorn was on the list.  Evidently, the lining of the bag contains a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which can possibly cause infertility, plus liver, testicular, or pancreatic cancer.  When you heat up the bag to pop the popcorn, the chemicals vaporize, but some of them go into your food.  These chemicals can accumulate in your body over time to levels that can cause these health problems.  Scary!

There is also danger in the fake butter flavoring.  A chemical called diacetyl causes a respiratory disease, known as bronchiolitis obliterans, or popcorn workers' lung.  The people that work in the microwave popcorn factory are getting sick from BREATHING this chemical, and we are EATING it.  It seriously makes you rethink that bag of popcorn you have while watching a movie. 

However, there is a way to avoid these chemicals. You can use an airpopper or use a cool oil popper like the one my Dad got me.  You turn a crank while the oil heats up (think shaking the foil wrapped popcorn over the burner).  You can add seasoning or have it plain, depending on your taste. 

I am psyched to try out some of the recipes in the book that came with it.  I just did plain buttered popcorn the first time.  I learned that a full batch is TOO much for me eating by myself.  Even I cannot eat that much in one sitting.  Popcorn can be a very healthful snack when made with a little oil or airpopped.  It makes for excellent fiber and aids in digestion.  Kids love it and it is much better than most chips.  Do you know of any great flavored recipes for popcorn?  I would love to hear about them...


  1. Oh my goodness, that is so awesome. I want one! I try not to eat too much microwave popcorn for the same reason, but I miss it. I'm going to have to get one of those. Do you know where your dad got it from? I will be dreaming of garlic butter popcorn until I get one. . .

  2. It is called Whirley-Pop. My Dad got mine from Target, but I think they sell them on Amazon as well. Next time I am going to try some interesting spices in mine...I don't usually care for sweet (caramel)type popcorns. Hot a cayenne or something might be neat.

  3. Congrats. Looks like it would be fun to use as well. After recently listening to Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" I have been struggling with finding real food again. Microwave popcorn is just one example of the crap they put into what we eat.

  4. Agreed. I keep looking for ways to make my own foods...this is another step in the right direction. I even found local corn to pop in it. Now, the next stop is to grow popcorn in my garden, and lay in my own supply for next year. Guess I will be adding that to my seed shopping list from Seed Savers.

  5. You have motivated me to get out and buy one of these! I see them in the store and walk by them. We did grow popcorn a few years ago and it worked great- kind of touchy- need to have a good growing season. We are sure due for that, after 2009...... I know so many people dealing with so many different types of cancers right now and I do believe that this maybe where some of these cancers come from. We have so many preservatives and things in our packaging that we didn't use to have. Hope you had an awesome Christmas and thanks for motivating me to take the plunge to pick up one of these!

  6. Diacetyl is actually perfectly natural, and what causes regular, wholesome, organic, home-churned butter to taste like butter, as well as being present in some alcoholic beverages. People have been ingesting it in small amounts for centuries with no problems.

    I see this as maybe more of a workplace safety issue than a food safety issue; exposure to high levels of diacetyl for eight hours a day is obviously unnatural and likely to lead to problems. But, it's (apparently) cheaper to produce a crappier product than it is to pretend to care about your workers, so microwave popcorn doesn't even contain diacetyl anymore; Pop Secret, Trail's End, Act II, and Orville Redenbacher brands of popcorn haven't used diacetyl for a year or more. I don't know what they replaced it with, or whether the new stuff is any safer.

    So but anyway, you're not escaping diacetyl by switching to non-microwaved popcorn; you're actually getting more from the new popper, if you're using real butter, or margarine (which usually contains added diacetyl, since without it, it doesn't taste like butter). Though that's okay, because it's not really terrible stuff to begin with.

    There was one case of a microwave popcorn customer having respiratory problems because of diacetyl exposure, but he was also eating two bags of microwave popcorn every day for 10 years, so clearly he was asking for trouble of some kind or another. If you eat two bags per day for ten years of the stuff from the new popper, I predict bad things will happen to you as well.

    The PFOA thing is different, and you probably are just as well to try to reduce your exposure to it. So you're still coming out ahead with the new popper, and you're even more ahead if you're going to grow your own popcorn in the first place. But the diacetyl thing has been, it looks to me, overblown.

    DISCLAIMER: you are not obligated to care about my opinion or take it seriously.

  7. That is very interesting information...thank you for adding it. I am new to learning about the chemicals that are present in processed and/or convenience foods, so I welcome additional info. I will be using real I guess I won't 'escape' the diacetyl, but as I won't be eating several pans every day, I should be alright. All chemicals aside, I think it is so rewarding to grow your own food, and I am excited to grow my own popcorn organically, and then prepare it with no or minimal preservative chemicals.

    I had read that they were taking the diacetyl out of the popcorn, but hadn't realized they had already done it. Maybe that's why most of it tastes like crap now anyways.

    Thanks for your comments!

  8. I have never liked microwave popcorn, they have always tasted artificial to me.

    I do like gadgets though, but a popcorn maker is one gadget my husband has firmly said 'no' too, he is quite content with the old fashion way, so be it. I will just look at yours and go oooooo. As for popcorn recipes, I picked up a second hand American popcorn recipes book (I actually think the book may have originally accompanied a popcorn machine like yours), but I can't seem to locate it right now, when I do, I will come by and share some of them with you.

    Have a Happy New Year!

  9. Mmmmmmm, I love Popcorn! I love eating popcorn with Tabasco sauce sprinkled all over it! I also grate Parmisian cheese over it while its still warm with some garlic powder!

  10. To have something you really want for Christmas ... that's good! Happy New Year. ~bangchik

  11. As a fellow popcorn lover, I prefer this method to microwave. What a great gift!

  12. This is the way I always make popcorn. I wouldn't use microwave popcorn if you paid me. Not only is it more expensive per ounce it is also a health risk on so many levels as well as not being eco-friendly with its over packaging. I'm sure you will love your new popcorn popper!


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