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Can You Pop Microwave Popcorn on the Stove?

If you found yourself with microwave popcorn and no microwave, can you revert to the stove? Here’s what you need to know.

Here’s a challenge for you: try to name one person, just one, you have ever met who doesn’t love popcorn. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

If you gave up trying, then you’ve experienced firsthand just how impossible this task can be! Everyone, without exception, loves salty, buttery, and deliciously crunchy popcorn.

But what do you do when all you have is microwave popcorn and you don’t have a microwave? Read on to find out.

If all you have is microwave popcorn, but you don’t have a microwave, you can pop the popcorn in a lidded pan or pot on the stovetop. Just don’t try to pop them in the oven; contrary to what some people say, it won’t work.

Yes, microwave popcorn is best popped in the microwave. That’s what you’re supposed to do with it. Then again, they say that desperate times call for desperate measures. And if you’re anything like me, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make popcorn when you crave it.

How Is Microwave Popcorn Made

Before we get to the technique for popping microwave popcorn on the stove, let’s take a minute or two to understand how it’s made.

Basically, microwave popcorn consists of regular, dried corn kernels mixed with salt, butter, and palm oil, along with a number of flavors and colors from natural or artificial sources.

The popcorn is packaged in a grease- and heat-resistant paper bag. (To make the paper resistant to grease and heat, manufacturers coat it with a number of man-made chemicals that have prompted health concerns among some consumers.)

When you put a bag of microwave popcorn in the microwave oven and turn it on, the energy from the microwaves causes the water molecules in the kernels to move and pop the corn. The butter and palm oil melt from the heat and mix with the salt, seasoning the freshly made popcorn before you’ve even removed them from the package.

Can You Pop Microwave Popcorn on the Stove?

Absolutely yes, you can pop microwave popcorn on the stove. All you need is a deep, lidded pan or pot and a splash of cooking oil with a high smoke point. The details are below.

First, whip out a lidded sauté pan or pot and add a dollop of cooking oil. Use cooking oil with a neutral flavor and a high smoke point—canola oil, grapeseed oil, or vegetable oil will do.

Next, get the corn kernels out of the paper bag. To accomplish this, cut the bag crosswise with scissors and then tear it lengthwise with your hands. Put the corn kernels, along with the fat they’re covered in, in a small bowl and set aside. This is greasy business; wash up with soapy water after you’re done.

Heat the cooking oil in the sauté pan or pot over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. If you aren’t sure if it’s hot enough, add a kernel and see if it pops. Throw in the kernels with the help of a spoon or spatula and swiftly cover with the lid.

The trick is to leave a small opening in the lid so the moisture can escape. (But not so big that the popcorn pops out.) The popcorn, after all, should be dry and crunchy, and not wet and mushy.

Every 10 seconds or so, hold the cooking vessel and lid and shake it vigorously back and forth and up and down. When the popping slows down or stops altogether, you know you’re done.

Remove the cooking vessel from the heat, take off the lid, and pour the hot popcorn into a large bowl.

Can You Pop Microwave Popcorn in the Oven?

Okay, so you can pop microwave popcorn on the stove. But can you do it in the oven?

No, you can’t pop popcorn in the oven (or a toaster oven). To make popcorn pop, you need the high heat of a popcorn machine, the microwave, or the hot oil in a sauté pan or pot with a lid.

It isn’t a good idea to pop microwave popcorn in the oven because the paper, as heat-resistant as it is, may catch fire. Not only can this damage your oven, but it can also present a serious fire hazard for your home. In other words, don’t try this at home. 🙂

In Conclusion

Microwave popcorn, as the name suggests, should be popped in the microwave. If that’s not possible, you can pop the corn kernels on the stove as long as you don’t try to do it in the oven.

And now that you know how to popcorn on the stove, you can just buy corn kernels and mix them with salt and butter yourself the next time you’re craving some!

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.