Anyone who has ever had a kitchen can most likely sing the praises of the microwave. You can have a ready-to-eat meal with the push of a couple buttons (and potentially a towel or oven mitt to remove the sometimes scorching hot tableware). And some of those buttons are even labeled specifically with the oft-microwaved food they’re designed to cook. They’re supposed to make your life easier—just press the button that corresponds with the food you’re cooking and call it a day.
But sometimes they’re not actually the best amount of time to cook those foods, and this is especially true when it comes to the popcorn button. Chances are your popcorn button does not give the correct amount of time for cooking popcorn. Microwaves do vary, but your popcorn button probably runs the microwave for around two minutes and 30 seconds or a little less. And the general consensus is that this is way too long to cook your popcorn. Using the popcorn button—or any timer—is one of the mistakes you’re making while cooking popcorn.
So how long do you microwave popcorn? Don’t use the microwave—use the popcorn. “Read the package of the popcorn to see the time that is required to cook it,” suggests Becky Beach, a food and lifestyle expert/blogger. “Each brand of popcorn is different, so pay close attention.” Some popcorn brands’ instructions won’t even give you a time but will instead say to listen for the “pops.” “You must listen to it, and when the popping slows down, take it out,” confirms celebrity NYC caterer Andrea Correale. A good guideline for this is usually that your popcorn is done when there’s a two- to three-second delay between “pops.” If you let your popcorn cook until the microwave’s popcorn timer runs out, you’ll probably end up with burnt popcorn. Get to the bottom of another popcorn-related mystery by learning why you need to microwave popcorn “this side up.”