What does this have to do with frugality?
I love going to the movies. I love horror movies. I love the whole experience of it (minus waiting in the line to pee after the film). These days, I need to save my dollars, and going to the movies with my family (which can easily be a one hundred dollar affair, including dinner) is not an option. When I really thought about what I loved about the movies, it has always been the popcorn.
Although I always cringed at the idea of spending six bucks on a bucket of popcorn (sometimes twelve bucks, if I had to buy two!), I never thought there was a way around it.
For several years, I have tried to figure out what it was about movie popcorn that made it so good. I slaved in my kitchen with pots and pans, air poppers, and the like. The results were “sorta kinda but not really” at best. Never did I even come close to something that would make watching a movie at home become a reasonable experience. Then, finally, the perfect storm.
How to actually do it
It turns out that there is nothing to it. Best of fall, it’s CHEAP! One year, my buddy Douggie bought me a Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper. This was the first piece that was actually missing from my arsenal. The trick with the whirley pop is that it continuously (well, you do, actually) stirs the popcorn while it cooks. This keeps the popcorn from scorching, and keeps it evenly heated.
The other trick is that it has ventilators on top. This is very important as the reason why your popcorn is getting mushy is most likely that your popper is retaining moisture. The reason corn pops is that the kernels are full of water. When this water explodes, the popcorn pops. That explosion of steam needs to go somewhere. The whirley popper throws the steam into the air.
The next part of the trick is the oil. I have used several types of oil, and found that the best oil to use is coconut oil. Yeah, it sounds exotic, but you can probably find it in your grocery store near the popcorn supplies. It will set you back about two and a half bucks, but it will last forever. I have found it in my local bulk food store but if you MUST order it online, you can try here but the pricing and the shipping could be prohibitive. Your best bet would be to ask around, or keep your eyes open on your local shopping expeditions.Flavacol. While you can order it online, I found it at my local GFS for less than two dollars. I have had this carton for months, and I have not really made a dent in it. While you can find it online, try to search your local stores for it, and you’ll save a wad on shipping.
So, that leaves the last part of the equation. The popcorn. I have tried all the gourmet popcorns, the pricey Orville Redenbacher popcorn, and while popping corn in a big pot or in an air popper showed a difference in these brands, the whirley pop does such a good job, the the differences are imperceptible. This means that you can buy a 99 cent bag of jolly time or a 99 sack of popcorn that the bulk food store and end up with great movie popcorn.
Once you have gotten your groove on, there is one more thing you can do to make your movie theater popcorn experience that much better. When you put your oil in your whirley pop, put in about 3/4 of a teaspoon of flavacol with with the oil. The popcorn will be PERFECT, but the cleanup will be a little worse.
You can also use the whirley pop to make fun stuff like caramel corn and kettle corn. The popper comes with a booklet of various ways to make your popper a sticky mess, but have alot of fun at the same time.