REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Partially Popped Popcorn

Trader Joe's Partially Popped Popcorn with Butter & Sea Salt

What is happening?!?!?!?!

Cars are driving themselves.

Cookie Monster is a life coach.

Pink chickens are running around Portland.

And now this. Partially Popped Popcorn.

Like the rest of the above news, I am terrified, curious, and impossibly hopeful. Could this be re-animated Corn Nuts, one of the most brilliantly underrated gas station snacks of all time? Or is it the gunk at the bottom of my half-burnt popcorn bag? The stuff that drilled me with two cavities? Will it be brilliant? Will it be terrible? Will it be edible? (I don’t have dental insurance, people.)

Trader Joe's Partially Popped Popcorn with Butter & Sea Salt Tumble

Bust open the bag and gaze in wonderment at the poofs. They are smaller than I imagined (think: tinier than a marble, yet larger than a ladybug), but they make up for their diminutive size in aroma: just a slight crevice in the bag and wafts of butter, salt, and slightly sweet corn breeze into the air.

Less poofy Styrofoam associated with over-popped movie kernels, Trader Joe’s special “mushroom kernel” has a slight crisp-crackle before giving way to an inside that is both crisp and smooth with each kernel having a different level of partial puffiness. The kernel bits still have a special skill of getting snagged between teeth, but it seems that my former fear of actually chomping out a tooth has no basis in reality or logic, which seems to be a common trend with most of my thoughts.

Each corn bit is coated in a salty, buttery film that strikes a balance between the nutty butter and sodium while allowing the corn’s sweetness to come in at the end. What’s better is that this film is actual butter (in fact, the entire ingredient list is as follows: popcorn, canola oil, butter, and salt). It leaves a gentle trace on one’s fingers in much the same way as Cheetos might. This butter-salt mix combines with little crumbles of corn, leaving you with salty-sweet fingers to lick at the end of your journey and, as a result, less sorrow when you find your bag is empty. Less sorrow is good.

Trader Joe's Partially Popped Popcorn with Butter & Sea Salt Bowl of Habit Forming Goodness

Well, what a pleasant surprise. I dig these partially popped nubs. They are inverted and wackadoo, and, depending on your propensity for corn-like goodies, the full bag might be in your digestive system less than 15 minutes from the moment you crack it open. The plain butter-salt flavor may be boring for adventurous tasters, but when/if you get a hankering for a simple salty snack, these are worth a shot. If you pick them up and find yourself uninterested in their Plain Jane flavor, perhaps you could put them on mac ‘n cheese before you pop it in the oven or sprinkle them on an ice cream sundae for a crunch. I imagine it all going excellently.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Popcorn Traditionalists. I’m not saying these are better than regular popcorn. I’m just saying Orville Redenbacher should be distressingly anxious about his business right now.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/3 cup– 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Partially Popped Popcorn
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 6 oz. bag
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Butter, butter everywhere. But not too much butter. Poofy. Crispy. Crunchy. Something new, delicious, and a little wonky. Low ingredient count. Corn=counts as a vegetable (right??). Cookie Monster as a life coach.
Cons: Generic butter-and-salt flavor may put some to sleep. Kernels have chance of getting stuck in teeth. Probably not REALLY a vegetable. Lack of dental insurance. Questionable pink chickens.

REVIEW: Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop! Butter Pop Up Bowl

Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop! Butter Pop Up Bowl

I’m surprised the Pop Up Bowl wasn’t invented until now. My mind boggles when I consider all the inventions someone thought of (and capitalized upon) before this quite practical invention. You know, stuff like curly straws, dog goggles, and miniature Sharpies. I am certain when I say that no canine ever in the entire history of puppy-kind ever really desired goggles. OK, maybe the cosmonaut dogs shot into space by the USSR needed some, but those little guys already had a lot on their plates, what with having to demonstrate Soviet might beyond the stratosphere and all. Reducing glare probably wasn’t a priority.

Orville Redenbacher offers the new Pop Up Bowl with their Butter, 94% Fat Free Butter, and Movie Theater Butter microwaveable varieties. The Pop Up Bowl is basically a standard microwave popcorn bag, except it is made with a red, plastic tear-off cover on one side that gives you direct access to your snack when removed.

Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop! Butter Pop Up Bowl Lid

The “bowl” does actually stand up by itself, and it’s very cute. Thick red-and-yellow stripes and a festive, gold band make the Pop Up Bowl look like something from an old-timey movie theater… which is nice if you’re nostalgic for that sort of thing. It’s nothing like the oversized, top-heavy cups they give you at the movies now with a Quantum of Solace Aston Martin or Johnny Depp’s pirated-up face on it, so that’s a plus.

The Pop Up Bowl’s plastic covering was a little harder to tear off than I anticipated. It’s attached with industrial strength glue and is stuck to the corner pocket of the bowl in such a way that it twists up and doesn’t just shear off when you tug it. This can be a bit of a problem when you take into account the fact that this is a heaping bowl of popcorn, filled with kernels ready to fly everywhere at the first errant yank.

Truthfully, it wasn’t that big of a production to get the bag open, but I think they could’ve made it a little simpler to remove, since that’s the whole point. If Orville Redenbacher went through all the trouble of touting the “Easier Snacking, Sharing & Clean-Up” motto, they could at least keep you from spilling your popcorn everywhere.

Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop! Butter Pop Up Bowl Bowl

Despite the cleverness and practicality of this concept, I can’t really think of a real reason why we needed the Pop Up Bowl. Sure, it saves you the effort of having to wash a plastic bowl and makes popcorn feasting a little cleaner, since you no longer have to reach deep inside a greasy bag and get butter all over every inch of your hands… but as nice and as water-saving as those perks are, we’d be fine without them.

Maybe the creation of this Pop Up Bowl speaks more to the fact that despite record-setting opening weekends for movies, audience numbers are way down. People are staying home, renting movies and enjoying their popcorn on the couch. But I realize Orville Redenbacher can’t comment on that. “Easier Snacking, Sharing, Clean-up, and Destruction of the Movie Studio Business Model” doesn’t seem like it would fit on the label.

(Nutrition Facts – ½ bag (about 7.5 cups popped) – 120 calories, 2 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 240 milligrams of sodium, 300 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, 8% iron.)

Item: Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop! Butter Pop Up Bowl
Price: $3.49 (on sale)
Size: 3 bags
Purchased at: Ralphs
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Cleaner than a normal popcorn bag. Dogs in space. Bowl does actually stands up on its own. Movie theater nostalgia. Aston Martins.
Cons: Functional but unnecessary. Dog goggles. Plastic lid can be difficult to tear off. The modern movie studio business model. Johnny Depp dressed as a pirate, again.