Yep, I originally posted this on our cruising blog last year - so I apologize for everyone who's already seen it, but for everyone else, this is a great money-saving tip!

Did you know that the popcorn kernel doesn't care how it gets hot? Yep, that's right. This is the big secret that the companies making microwave popcorn don't want you to know. You can make microwave popcorn for about 1/10th the cost - and it's healthier because you control what ingredients go into it. This comes via our good friends the Knutson's.

It's really simple, but it'll take a few batches to get things dialed in.

Here's all you need:
  • Popcorn. Just your regular bag or container of raw popcorn kernels.
  • Small paper lunch bags. Cheap, and you can use them more than once. WARNING:  Many black inks have metal in them and MAY start a fire in the microwave - OK, they WILL start a fire. Please don't reuse bags with printing on them!
  • Cooking spray. We just use a generic supermarket brand which is very low fat and low calorie. You can even skip this, if just making plain popcorn.
  • Topping. Whatever you want to sprinkle on top. Salt, Garlic salt, Pepper, Cajun seasoning, à¤®à¤¸à¤¾à¤²à¤¾, Plain. It's up to you.
The basic cooking procedure is really simple:
  • Spoon popcorn into paper bag. (Exact amount will come from the dial-in procedure).
  • Fold over the top of the bag and stick it into the microwave.
  • Start the microwave.
  • Stop the microwave once popping is complete.
  • Pour it into a large bowl.
  • Spray on some cooking spray, and shake. Repeat.
  • Sprinkle on some topping, and shake. Repeat.
Seriously, it's that easy. And don't throw the bag away, you can use it for 2 or 3 batches most of the time - use it until the bag splits!

Now comes the dial-in procedure.

This will take a few batches, but it's no big deal, and once you find out exactly the right amount of popcorn and time for your microwave, it'll work perfectly every time.

We start with 3 tablespoons of popcorn per bag, and use the microwave's built-in "popcorn" program to start with, otherwise start with 2:30 or so and adjust upwards or downwards as needed. Pay attention to the sound of popping in the last minute or so of the cycle. If it's still popping when the microwave is done, then you need less popcorn, or increase time. If popping stops, then stop the microwave before it burns, and you'll need to reduce time, or use more popcorn.

The dial-in procedure is that simple - either add more popcorn, increase time, or reduce the time - and after a few batches you'll find the perfect setting for your microwave.

Maybe you'll find a second batch is needed (wanted?), but that's no problem either - since this is so cheap you'll just make 2 or 3 bags without thinking about it. Put any un-popped kernels back in the bag, along with your regular dial-in amount and cook another batch.

That's it! That's all there is to cheap microwave popcorn, at about 1/10th the cost of "microwave popcorn" sold in the stores. And you choose exactly what you want to put on it - not only is it healthier, but you will come up with awesome things to sprinkle on top that the popcorn companies would never think to sell!