Brown Paper Bag Microwave Popcorn

In May 7th’s New York Daily News, I read an article about a woman who is suing ConAgra for “popcorn lung.” Agnes Mercado alleges that she has developed an irreversible lung disease by eating two or three bags of Act II Lite microwave popcorn a day for the last 16 years.

I’ll share with you a way to make popcorn in the microwave (sparing you a several-page rant on my personal feelings regarding Ms. Mercado’s microwave popcorn habit and her lawsuit) that I am fairly certain will not induce the dreaded “popcorn lung;” and should you suffer from a two- or three-bag-a-day habit, will save you, by my best estimate, approximately $1,100 a year (those bags are expensive).

Several years ago I, and a couple of million other viewers, watched the Food Network with fascination as Alton Brown demonstrated Plain Brown Popper (I’ll also spare you my feelings on cutsey recipe names); a method for popcorn popped in a standard lunch size paper bag in the microwave. Note that his recipe has five ingredients: Popcorn, oil, salt, seasoning, a paper bag, and a stapler.

Although I started with his recipe, I have narrowed it down to only two ingredients: Popcorn and a paper bag. You don’t need oil; you don’t even need to staple the bag closed.

Oh, and since this is during My Eating Well Challenge, read up on 3 reasons you should snack on popcorn from

Brown Paper Bag Microwave Popcorn

– 1/4 cup popcorn kernels (any variety)
– 1 lunch size paper bag (NOT wax-coated)

Place the popcorn in the paper bag. Close the bag by folding the top three times, about a half-inch for each fold. Have the bowl you are going to place your popcorn in at the ready.

Put the bag in the microwave and set the timer to cook for five minutes on high. It is very important that you do not leave the room while the popcorn is popping. I repeat, DO NOT walk away! Although it has never happened to me, I imagine if left too long, the bag could ignite.

Listen carefully, and when the popping has slowed to approximately two- to three-seconds in-between pops, remove the bag from the microwave. It will continue to pop a little, and it does burn quickly, so keep a watchful ear! (My popcorn is generally done in under three minutes. Yours might take more or less time depending on variety of popcorn and microwave wattage.)

Immediately open the bag by pulling apart at opposite corners, avoiding the very hot steam, and dump the popcorn into your bowl. Do not leave the popcorn in the bag, or it will burn even though it’s no longer in the microwave, and nobody is going to want to watch a movie with that aroma permeating the house.

There you have it: Approximately six to seven cups of warm, fluffy, crunchy popcorn!

Now you’ve got choices. You could toss the popcorn with butter, parmesan, Bacon Salt, chopped herbs, cinnamon and sugar, or anything you can dream up. But my favorite is just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a tiny pinch of salt.

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