Air fryers and microwaves are two popular kitchen appliances that many people have in their homes nowadays. And if you're a fan of both, you may be wondering if you can cook food such as microwave popcorn in an air fryer too. Using it to make air-popped popcorn would be a great way to get your hands on a quick and easy snack for movie nights, am I right?! So let's explore whether you can cook microwave popcorn in an air fryer - or whether that's a terrible idea.
Air fryers have become increasingly popular in recent years because they have the magical ability to cook food with hot air instead of oil. They are a healthier option if you love crispy, fried food but not the oil it comes with, as air fryers can make perfectly crunchy food with a lot less oil than a deep fryer.
An air fryer works like an oven but cooks food faster due to its compact size and even heat distribution. And that's what I love most about my air fryer - it even makes roast potatoes in just 15 minutes!
In addition to fries, an air fryer can be used to cook a variety of dishes, such as crunchy air fryer gnocchi, luscious burgers, buttery fingerling potatoes, snacky tater tots for dipping, mouth-watering cauliflower bites drenched in your favorite sauces - and even cookies! But can you also make popcorn in an air fryer? Let's find out!
In this blog post, we'll explore whether or not you can cook microwave popcorn in an air fryer, how to cook microwave popcorn in an air fryer, as well as tips for making the best popcorn at home.
Making Popcorn at Home
When it comes to making popcorn at home, I used to only make popcorn in the microwave because I was scared of using the stovetop. But over time, I stopped using the microwave for everything but popcorn, melted butter, and the occasional mug cake. When our microwave broke, I decided to venture into the magical land of air fryers instead.
🍿 Can You Pop Popcorn in an Air Fryer?
The short answer is yes, you can cook both plain popcorn kernels and microwave popcorn in an air fryer. However, there are a few things you should consider before popping a bag of microwave popcorn into your air fryer basket.
Air Fryer vs Microwave
Air fryers and microwaves work very differently - while microwaves use radiation to heat up food, air fryers use hot air to cook food. So the cooking time and temperature setting required for popcorn will vary, and due to the different technology they use, some foods cannot be prepared in both appliances.
Most notably, microwave popcorn bags are specifically designed to be cooked in a microwave. The packaging and instructions are tailored to this cooking method, so you can't simply pop the entire bag into an air fryer.
However, there are also a few simple tricks to cook popcorn kernels in an air fryer and create delicious, fluffy popcorn that is just as delicious as movie theater popcorn!
Bonus Tip: You can also use a stovetop popcorn maker or a popcorn machine to make popcorn at home (detailed tips further down!).
Air Fryer Popcorn vs. Microwave Popcorn
So, how does air fryer popcorn compare to microwave popcorn? Here are a few things to consider:
- Taste - Air fryer popcorn has a slightly different taste than microwave popcorn. Some people prefer the taste of air fryer popcorn, while others prefer the taste of microwave popcorn, so best try it out for yourself and see what you think!
- Texture - Air fryer popcorn has a slightly different texture than microwave popcorn and is generally crispier than the microwave version.
- Time - Air fryer popcorn can be more time-consuming to make, while microwave popcorn can be popped in just a few minutes.
🧑🏫 How to make Microwave Popcorn in an Air Fryer
If you love the taste of microwave popcorn but want to use your air fryer, simply follow this easy air fryer popcorn recipe:
- Preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C).
- Grab a bag of microwave popcorn, cut into the bag and pour the popcorn kernels into a bowl. The paper bag should not be placed into the air fryer to avoid a fire hazard. Line the air fryer basket with aluminum foil and crimp the sides to secure it.
- Add a little oil to the bowl and stir to evenly coat the kernels. Make sure to use an oil that won't burn at high temperatures, such as coconut oil or avocado oil. Then place the kernels in a single layer at the bottom of the air fryer basket.
- Transfer the basket to the air fryer and cook the popcorn for 10-15 minutes, shaking the basket occasionally.
- When the popping slows down, turn off the air fryer and carefully remove the basket.
- Pour your air-fried popcorn into a bowl, season as desired and add your favorite popcorn toppings such as cinnamon sugar, ranch seasoning, melted chocolate, caramel sauce, or many more!
- And there you go - you're ready to dig into a delicious snack that tastes just like movie theater popcorn!
🤓 Expert Tips for Making Air Fryer Popcorn
- Season your popcorn after popping it to avoid burning it. You can definitely also put pre-seasoned popcorn kernels into an air fryer for an even more flavorful popcorn. Just be sure to use seasonings that won't burn at high temperatures, such as garlic powder or dried herbs. And remember to always check the packaging to make sure the popcorn and seasonings are suitable for air frying.
- Cover the air fryer basket with aluminum foil (or aluminium foil if you're British! ;)) after adding the kernels. As they pop, the kernels will be bouncing around the basket, and the aluminum foil will make sure the popcorn doesn't touch the heating element of the air fryer.
- Preheat your air fryer before adding the popcorn to ensure that it's hot enough to cook the kernels evenly. Popcorn generally needs to be cooked at high temperature, and letting the air fryer get to temperature first will give you better results.
- Place the kernels into the air fryer basket in a single layer to avoid lots of unpopped kernels at the bottom of the basket. If you are looking to cook a large amount of popcorn, work in small batches.
- Shake the basket occasionally while cooking to ensure that all the kernels pop evenly and don't burn. Start shaking about 1 minute after you start hearing popping noises.
- Use caution when removing the basket from the air fryer as it will be very hot after cooking. When shaking, some hot kernels may try to escape, so best to use oven mitts and cover the basket with a large saucepan lid.
- Use a high-quality brand of popcorn for the best results. Orville Redenbacher's and Angie's Boom Chicka Pop are two of my favorite brands.
- Add your favorite seasoning or toppings to the popcorn after air frying it to make it more flavorful.
- Store any leftover popcorn in an airtight container at room temperature to keep it fresh for longer.
When making popcorn in an air fryer, using oil is important to get that perfect crunch without burning. Instead of dumping oil like on the stove, coat the kernels with 1 tsp of high-temperature oil or generously spray with cooking spray. I love using neutral-tasting avocado oil for my air fryer popcorn!
Don't toss those unpopped kernels! You can give them a second chance by lightly coating them with oil and popping them again. But if you're in a rush, it's easier to just start fresh. Happy popping!
1/2 cup of popcorn kernels make enough popcorn for 2 portions, roughly 3-4 cups of popped popcorn, depending on the size and brand of kernels.
💡 Alternative Ways to Make Popcorn at Home
Using a stovetop popcorn maker
Heat the popcorn maker over medium heat on the stove. Add 2-3 tablespoons of oil to the bottom of the pot as well as 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels, then stir them around to coat them in oil. Cover the pot with the lid, and shake it gently back and forth over the heat. Once the popping starts, keep shaking until the popping slows down significantly, then remove the pot from the heat. Let it sit for a minute or two to allow any remaining kernels to pop, then pour the popcorn into a bowl and add any desired seasonings, such as salt, butter, or sugar.
Using a popcorn machine
Pour 2-3 tablespoons of oil into the bottom of the popcorn machine, then add 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels, and turn on the machine. Wait for the kernels to start popping. Once the popping slows down, turn off the machine and collect the popcorn in a bowl. Lastly, add any desired seasonings, such as salt or butter, to the popcorn and enjoy!
👉 Other Recipes for your Air Fryer
If you're looking to get more use out of your air fryer, here are a few additional things you can cook in it:
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Crispy Air Fryer Gnocchi
- Fingerling Potatoes
- Tater Tots
- Cauliflower Wings
Air fryers are versatile kitchen appliances that can be used to cook a variety of foods. While they may not be a replacement for a microwave, they can be a great addition to your kitchen arsenal.
To learn more about the different uses of your air fryer, find out whether you can put water in an air fryer.
Air Fryer Popcorn Recipe
- 1 air fryer
- 1 bowl
- aluminum foil to coat the air fryer and prevent the kernels from falling through the air fryer basket
- oven mitts
- 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
- 1 tbsp oil avocado, coconut or canola oil
- 1 pinch salt or to taste
- additional seasonings to taste optional
- Preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C).
- Pour the microwave popcorn kernels into a bowl, add oil, and stir to coat.
- Place the kernels in a single layer at the bottom of the air fryer basket lined with aluminum foil.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes, shaking the basket occasionally.
- Remove the basket, season as desired, and enjoy!
- Season your popcorn after cooking to avoid burning, or choose seasonings and flavorings that don't burn at a high temperature.
- Line and cover the air fryer basket with aluminum foil to prevent popcorn from falling through the basket holes or touching the heating element.
- Preheat your air fryer before adding the popcorn to ensure even cooking.
- Place the kernels in a single layer to avoid unpopped kernels.
- Shake the basket occasionally while cooking to ensure even popping.
- Use caution when removing the basket as it will be hot.
- Use a high-quality popcorn brand like Orville Redenbacher's or Angie's Boom Chicka Pop.
- Store any leftover popcorn in an airtight container at room temperature to keep it fresh.
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