Rubbery silicone baking pans have been around for a few years. I’ve been mildly curious about them, but not enough to buy one. Floppy rubber-like objects and hot ovens don’t seem intuitively like things that go together, so I haven’t wanted to buy silicone pans.
This changed the other day, when I noticed a small red, squishy popcorn popper at the Goodwill Store. I picked the thing up to examine it. Nobody had used the popper yet. The original store tags and user instructions were still attached. I guessed somebody received it as a gift but didn’t need it so they donated it to the thrift store. The floppy popper was priced at one dollar, so I brought the product home to experiment with it.
After washing the popper, it was time to try it. I followed the enclosed instruction sheet precisely. It said to add an eighth of a cup of brand new, premium popcorn kernels with no oil. Then it said to seal the popper with the lid. That’s when it became apparent that the lid is slightly elliptical and that the popper is a slightly elliptical cylinder. After several tries, I was able to get the lid aligned enough to stay on the popper.
I set the microwave timer for the recommended two-minutes and pressed “start”. After 30 seconds, the corn began popping and the lid popped open, but not off. Within 90-seconds, popped corn had reached the top and pushed the lid off of the popper. Soon, the microwave tray was covered in popcorn with more to come. The popping stopped just short of two-minutes, so I pressed “stop”. The popper was extremely hot, so I had to deploy potholders in order to safely remove the popper from the appliance.
The finished popcorn had a rubbery texture with many of the popped kernels sticking together. The corn tasted “cooked” and somewhat unpleasant. I judged the experiment as a failure. The next day I tried it again with slightly less corn and less time. The final results were the same, there were also some burnt, blackened kernels.
Because the corn tastes odd and has poor mouth feel the popper didn’t do its job properly. The slightly oval shape of the lid and popper make it frustrating to use easily, so any perceived added convenience is canceled. I probably will not use the rubbery popper anymore.
There are two more poppers in the kitchen to use. I really like them and the corn they make. One is a microwave popper made of terra cotta with the look and feel of an unglazed flower planter. It requires vegetable oil in addition to raw kernels. The popper yields nearly perfect corn in about three-minutes give or take a few. The only drawback is that the popper gets very hot, so handling the pot after the corn is done can be a bit tricky.
My favorite is an old “Stir Crazy” that I’ve owned for several years. It’s fun to watch the stir rod revolve several revolutions, then reverse and go the other way for a few, then repeat the cycle. I like to see the corn pop and fill the clear plastic dome. Knowing when the corn is finished is super easy. The popcorn from the “Stir Crazy” has never failed the taste and mouth feel tests. The only negative is that I somehow lost the flexible “butter cap”, so I use a paper plate when flipping the popper upside down.
So why did I write about popcorn poppers today? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s because I’m craving some fresh popcorn.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this snippet from the late, great Orville Redenbacher: “Every once in a while, someone will mail me a single popcorn kernel that didn’t pop. I’ll get out a fresh kernel, tape it to a piece of paper and mail it back to them.”