Popcorn Palooza: Part 1
Posted on January 13, 2023 Posted by Athena Scalzi 20 Comments
Someone from the internet was in a generous mood for the holidays, and sent my family a box of popcorn! Specifically a variety pack of popcorn from Fireworks Popcorn, which comes with these nine different popcorns:
Here we have High Mountain Midnight, Orchard Blossom, Sunset Fire, Red River Valley, Autumn Blaze, Baby White Rice, Savanna Gold, Harvest Blend, and Wisconsin White Birch.
I’ll be honest, I don’t really know anything about popcorn, and I never considered the possibility that there could be varieties of it. So, after seeing this variety box, I decided to see what exactly the differences were between all these popcorns by taste testing and comparing them.
I have decided to do three at a time, making for a total of three posts since there’s nine varieties. For this post, I tried Autumn Blaze, Red River Valley, and Baby White Rice.
I was excited to try the Red River Valley one, as I’d never seen red popcorn before. The Autumn Blaze was also pretty looking.
Before we dive in to the cooking and taste testing, I just want to say thank you to the person that sent these along! We really appreciate your kindness! ‘
So, I decided to cook all the popcorns in the same type of oil and in the same pan to get consistent results. I used Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and a small pot with a lid, and followed the instructions on the bottle, which say to add 1/3 cup of popcorn to 1-3 tbsp of oil (I used 2 tbsp). I did not add any salt or butter, I just tried everything plain. This was also my first time ever cooking popcorn on the stove!
For each popcorn, I would say it took about ten minutes before it started popping, and then once it started, it only took about three minutes for it all to pop (give or take a few kernels).
Up first was Autumn Blaze:
I thought it was neat you could clearly see which pieces were which color as a kernel.
I noticed that this popcorn was like, oddly small.
After I tasted it, I thought that it was extremely neutral. I’m not saying that it’s bland just because it’s plain popcorn or something, I really mean it has a very neutral flavor. It tastes like the poster-child for popcorn. I think this would be a good popcorn to turn into kettle corn.
Following that, I whipped up a batch of the Red River Valley popcorn:
Don’t ask me how or why, but somehow there was a lot more of this kind of popcorn! It filled the entire pot, where as the previous variety (and the next variety) only filled the pot halfway with popped corn! I couldn’t even fit it all in the bowl.
For this one, you can really tell that this was the red variety, as all the popcorn is dark in the center, giving it an almost burnt look.
This was the moment of truth for me. Was this popcorn going to taste the exact same as the previous corn? Or was it possible for popcorn to have different flavors?
The answer is, it was actually very different. I couldn’t quite place it at first, but I settled on that this one had a richer taste, and a bolder flavor that made itself much more known to your taste buds.
I actually preferred the more mild flavor of the previous corn, this variety tasted a bit too much on the robust side.
Finally, the Baby White Rice:
This one looked the most normal, with its uniform light brown centers.
I was surprised that this one turned out to be my favorite. It had a mild flavor that was something more than the neutral-ness of the first one, but much less than the robustness of the second one. This one just screamed movie theater to me.
After tasting all three, I wanted to see if the website had descriptions of the popcorns, and if my judgements of them had been in line with their descriptions.
Lo and behold, I found a characteristics page, and a whole comparison chart. I had been right on the money with saying that the Red River Valley one had a particularly rich/deep flavor compared to the other two mild ones.
And the characteristics page even mentioned that their popcorn is so small because large popcorn is less flavorful and has a Styrofoam-like texture!
Anyways, that’s three down, six to go! I think out of the six left, I’m most excited to try the Orchard Blossom popcorn, because it’s pink! Who doesn’t want pink popcorn?
Which one of these three sounded best to you? Are you a fan of kettle corn or caramel corn? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!
So I grew up with popcorn popped on a stove top, which just goes to show how old I am. The best tip I know for stove top popping is this. Measure your oil into the pot, add 3-4 kernels of corn and heat pan over medium heat. When you here the first pop, carefully lift lid and pour in rest of measured popcorn. Pop till popping slows, depan, & eat.
You will now be a popcorn connoisseur! Me? Large box of microwave popcorn from Costco and I’m set. I’m the person that buys the box wine and you are in the wine cellar finding your best pairing for tonight’s dinner. ;-)
As you received 9 styles I think reviewing in groups of 3 was the best way to go. This way we all don’t get overwhelmed and you don’t get popcorned out.
This first batch sounded nice. Though I like large popcorn and not ones that are too small. But interesting about smaller being more full of flavor…
I look forward to the next 2 sets of reviews.
Very nice review, Athena!
I like popcorn a lot, although I hate what it does to my teeth – after eating one bowl of the stuff, I generally spend two or three days trying to pry out all the bits of hull that are stuck between my teeth and in my gums. For that reason, I’ve never really done much compare/contrast between varieties, though I’d love to try those flavors.
Like PamG, I, too, grew up with popcorn made on the stovetop, and I remember having epic battles in the snack aisle of the grocery store with my mother because she refused to buy that brand that had a disposable pan with a crinkled tinfoil top that would expand as the popcorn popped. Jiffy Pop, maybe? Can’t recall, but whatever it was named, my Depression-era mother couldn’t fathom spending extra money on popcorn just to watch that tinfoil bubble expand, even though I thought that more than justified the extra cost.
Thanks for letting us ride along on your taste-testing journey vicariously, Athena – my teeth and gums are especially grateful not to experience it directly! I look forward to your reports on the other six varieties!
This is cool. I’m looking forward to the next two posts. I like the idea of the second one making more popcorn and the richer flavor.
This is an excellent idea for a series, and I appreciate you sharing the results of your tests.
If you decide you want more popcorn in your life, I recommend getting a Whirly-Pop. It makes the process easier than using a regular pan.
Darn. Now I can’t stop thinking about popcorn!!! I just love popcorn. On the stove is the best. Although I usually just get the ones in the grocery store. I’ll have to look for some different kinds.
Lol. My mom would never buy Jiffy Pop either. So I bought some when I was living on my own. It burned terribly!!!
DELETE THIS AFTER
TYPO = We really appreciate your kindness! ‘
SUGGEST = We really appreciate your kindness!
I applaud the generosity of your internet benefactor and commend your willingness to do the product comparison on our collective behalf :) My wife is the popcorn lover in our household whereas my thoughts leaped to a passage from one of the Discworld novels:
“‘What you do is, you take some corn, and you put it in, say, a Number 3 crucible, with some cooking oil, you see, and then you put a plate or something on top of it, and when you heat it up it goes bang, I mean, not seriously bang, and when it’s stopped banging you take the plate off and it’s metamorphosed into these, er, things…’ He looked at their uncomprehending faces. ‘You can eat it,’ he mumbled apologetically. ‘If you put butter and salt on it, it tastes like salty butter.’”
Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures
please also test in hot air popper…
then there’s the toppings… everything popcorn-ish tastes better with lightly sprinkled olive oil and/or fresh ground pepper and/or a modest frosting of large grain salt…
you could invoke ‘mad scientist mode’ to try the various combinations of cooking-seasoning-coating
I’ll volunteer as a lab rat for anything involving sugary excessive coatings
heck… is there such a thing as a “popcorn cookbook”…?
How fun! I love side-by-side taste tests. I just saw the popcorn episode of The Food That Built America and was amazed at how much research went into developing popcorn. I’ve never tried to make popcorn on the stove–sounds like an adventure!
I hope that there’s sufficient in each jar that you can take the 3 “winners” and have one final showdown at the end!
Based on this review and information on the website, I put 15oz each of the Harvest Blend and Baby White Rice in my cart to purchase…until I realized shipping alone ($10) was more than the price of the two products ($8.30.)
If want to experiment more, Rancho Gordo’s Crimson Popping Corn is one of the best I’ve encountered in a long time.
Also, PamG’s advice on how to make popcorn is spot-on.
I am excited about the popcorn review series. The cherry on top would be if you recommended popcorn and movie pairings.
I think this is the second time I’ve put that variety pack in a cart and then didn’t buy it when I discovered I couldn’t find out the shipping without giving them my personal info. Note to companies: Always have an estimate shipping by zip code button at your cart!
Nice review! I had some Fireworks popcorn myself a while ago, and really liked it. My favorite was actually the Red River Valley, but that’s also a “sometimes food”, not what I’d reach for first if I just wanted some standard popcorn.
@Randy: Oh shit, Rancho Gordo has popcorn?
@Colonel Snuggledorf: Yeah, it’s Jiffy Pop. Don’t feel bad, though: Jiffy Pop sucks. The disposable pan is just aluminum foil, so it’s basically impossible to cook it without scorching it; you need a substantial metal pan for heat dispersion/inertia.
And yep, @PamG is correct on cooking technique here. The one thing I’d add is to use the heaviest-bottomed pan you have, if there’s a selection available. There’s a reason that movie-theater popcorn poppers have kettles that weigh as much as a big dumbbell.
Okay, now I’m going to have to look this company up and order a sampler pack! Personally, I’m addicted to my Stir Fry popper.
Popcorn is actually foam. In the last couple of weeks I was reading about an experiment in popcorn popping using infrared emitters and they were talking about the foam aspect. I thought that was pretty cool.
The one thing that I really wanted to know that they didn’t talk about was energy costs of this IR system vs other methods. Granted, it’s a prototype, I still would have liked to have seen the info.
Howard_NYC (not so many refrigerated trucks):
Yes, there is a popcorn cookbook. In fact, there are at least a few. Here’s the first one on the search page:
I love popcorn! After reading your post I decided I’d order based on your taste buds but I see they offer a sampler – yay! It’ll be a science project, comparing your reviews to my choices.
Well I nixed that idea. Paying over $40 for shipping of a $16 item is a no-starter.