Home Household & Pantry Snap test: We tasted five microwave popcorns; this one came out tops

Snap test: We tasted five microwave popcorns; this one came out tops

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A woman having popcorn and watching TV.

Popcorn is the perfect snack when you’re feeling peckish, but not sure what you’re craving. If you hate cooking or delayed gratification, microwave popcorn is the answer. Martha van Zyl did a trolley dash, grabbing six bags of ‘instant’ popcorn from her local PnP and Woollies, and got popping.

The contenders

First, we tested butter-flavoured microwave popcorn from these three brands: Pick n Pay and Woolworths’ own brands, and Act II. Secondly we tried the (plain) salted versions from Pick n Pay and Woolworths. Lastly, we sampled Act II’s sweet and savoury (salty) Kettle Corn.

Price

At the time of writing, Pick n Pay’s microwave popcorn costs R13.99 each, Act II’s R16.49 each, and Woolworths bags average R17.33 each. I say average because Woollies don’t sell single packets, so we settled for a box of three (R51.99). As an alternative, Woolworths also sells its popcorn in convenient microwavable boxes at R54.99 for three. (PnP also introduced boxes.)

Popping time

The Pick n Pay and Woolies’ microwave popcorn took about two-and-a-half minutes to reach the point where the popping frequency decreased. Cook it for much longer, and you’re crossing into scorched territory. Act II was done popping in about 15 seconds less.

Flavour

The popcorn from Woolworths and Pick n Pay looked and tasted the same. The butter flavour was subtle and it required additional seasoning. The plain salted variant was more savoury and had a slightly smoother mouthfeel than the creamier butter flavour, but I suspect most people would still add some salt or other seasoning to both flavours.

Act II’s butter-flavour microwave popcorn was very obviously coated in something resembling butter. In addition, it had a more pronounced butter taste and a buttery mouthfeel. It’s a tasty treat, but could also do with an extra sprinkling of salt.

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The microwave popcorn that won

My favourite by far was Act II’s Kettle Corn, scoring 5 out of 5. It’s the perfect balance of sweet and salty, or as Act II says “A little sugar. A little salt. A little something for any craving”. Unless you definitely know what you’re craving, it’s a great snack solution. Act II also takes the honours for its salt and butter microwave popcorns, respectively.

Final thoughts

It’s safe to assume Pick n Pay and Woolworths’ popcorn come from the same facility, but packaged specifically for their respective brands. Once you remove the exterior packaging, they look (and taste) the same, and take the same time to pop.

I’ll definitely grab some more Act II sweet and salty Kettle Corn next time I do groceries.

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Bonus serving suggestion

If you’re craving something sweet, but you only have savoury popcorn in the cupboard, here’s a tip: Pop that corn in the microwave. Then melt two tablespoons of sugar over low heat, until caramelised. Be careful – it’s dangerously hot! Put the popcorn in a glass dish and pour the caramel over it evenly to prevent it from forming sticky clumps. Let it cool down. Devour.

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