Thursday, January 26, 2012

Microwave Popcorn

My sister added a post on her Facebook wall that mentioned microwave popcorn. She bought microwave popcorn before she had a microwave oven. Her post made me recall my own microwave popcorn initiation.

I was working in the BioMathematics Department at UCLA. One of the employees came with a bag of microwave popcorn that he/she had bought in a vending machine and popped in the microwave oven. The bag looked like a standard brown lunch bag.

We had a microwave oven in our apartment and I really like popcorn. So, I told my husband Charley about this microwaveable popcorn. If I had more common sense, I would have found out more about this microwave popcorn in a bag before I told him about it. We had a microwave adventure shortly after we married.

The instruction booklet that came with the Litton microwave oven included warnings about cooking with metal as well as not cooking eggs in the shells. The booklet implied that you could not tell when the egg was cooked.

My engineering husband didn't understand why this would be a problem. So he decided to conduct an experiment. He cooked the egg in the shell for a few seconds more, then cracked the shell to release some steam. He cooked the egg for a bit longer. The egg exploded and made a huge mess!

The door to the oven was only a metal plate with tiny holes. Egg penetrated every hole in the door. I had to use a toothpick to clean egg out of each hole.

I had no idea that my popcorn adventure would be anything like the egg explosion! Charley decided not to use a paper bag. I don't know if that was a good or bad decision. He instead decided to use one of my Corningware pots in which to pop the popcorn.

After a few minutes in the microwave oven, only a few kernels had popped. He added more time and still very few kernels had popped. Several more attempts yielded very little popped kernels. At this point, Charley decided to remove the lid to the Corningware pot to look at the kernels. Fortunately he used a potholder to remove the lid as it burst into flames when he touched the glass lid.

He let the lid cool before attempting to touch it again. When he lifted the lid, we saw stalactites of glass hanging from the underside of the lid. The lid had become so hot that the glass began to melt.

Popcorn kernels and ceramic pots contain very little liquid. Glass, on the other hand, has a liquid state. The glass lid absorbed the microwave energy becoming hot. Charley shortly thereafter learned that the paperbag contained oil, an essential ingredient to make the popcorn pop.

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