I'm a sucker for single-use kitchen appliances. Just look in my cupboards to see a vast wasteland of pizza makers, risotto makers, ice cream topping mixers (don't even ask) and more. But one cheap little gadget is the smartest purchase I've ever made: Colonel Popper is a silicone bowl that makes perfectly popped popcorn in your microwave. I paid $25 for mine, but right now you can get a Colonel Popper for $19.
Here's how this thing works: Pour a little oil in the base and add a scoop of popcorn kernels (a quarter of a cup is good for two servings). Add a dash of salt if you're so inclined, slip the silicone lid on, and then nuke it for a couple of minutes, stopping it when you hear the popping slow down. (If you've ever made popcorn before, you can figure this part out -- it's not rocket science.) Take it out of the microwave and eat; you can serve it in the same bowl you popped it in so there are fewer things to clean.
And here's what's cool: It works amazingly well. The lid creates a solid seal, locking in the steam as the popcorn heats and air-popping the kernels in the microwave. At least, I think that's what's happening. I have a degree in aerospace engineering (really!), not food science. In my experience, Colonel Popper pops most of the kernels and the ones that don't pop you can add to the next batch and try again. The bowl and lid are dishwasher-safe, and the bowl collapses flat for storage, so it takes virtually no room in your cabinet.
It's also cost-effective. At the grocery store, a typical six-pack box of microwave popcorn comes out to about $1 per two-person serving. But a big bag of popcorn kernels will run you half that; the popper pays for itself in a month or two (depending upon how much corn you tend to pop). And the popper gives you control over portion size -- you can pop a bowl for one without wasting any kernels.
I know that there are cheaper silicone popcorn popping bowls on Amazon, and to the naked eye, they look virtually indistinguishable from Colonel Popper. But I've spent time reading the user reviews, and many of the other bowls seem to suffer from a variety of problems. Colonel Popper, on the other hand, has a rating of 4.5 stars on Amazon, and I can assure you that I've used this popper for a year and never had a bad batch of popcorn.
If you're living in self-quarantine, at least do it with some quality popcorn.
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