Disaster rarely gives you a heads up when it is going to strike. I was reminded of this last night when I created a small thermonuclear explosion in my kitchen last night.
After completing an article for WPMU Dev, I sat down with my girlfriend to watch a movie. We decided to have some popcorn too. So far, so good.
Rather than open a pre-made pack of popcorn, we opted for a packet of “fresh” popcorn via the microwave. The brand we had was Butterkist; which is the most popular popcorn brand in the UK.
Cooking Butterkist in the microwave is very simple. The instructions note that you simply put the popcorn in your microwave and heat the packet for three and a half minutes. Easy peasy lemon squeasy.
I placed the popcorn box in the microwave, set the timer for three and a half minutes, and went back into my living room.
It is at this point of the story where the fun ends and the madness begins.
I heard an insane amount of popping so I ran into my kitchen and opened the microwave door. Waves of smoke hit my face. The only thing I have ever burnt in my life is toast; so I was really surprised at the volume of smoke that left the microwave.
I thought some of the popcorn could be salvaged. As you can see from the image below, I was very wrong. Everything was burnt to a crisp.
Surprisingly, my smoke alarm did not go off. But I took no chances and opened both doors to let all the smoke out. I also switched on the extractor fan from my cooker. Despite doing this, the kitchen continued to smell like the ass of a barbecue all night long.
Considering how much smoke was created through this, I was surprised that my microwave was not in a worse condition. Apart from the plate being a little burnt, everything was ok. A quick clean today was able to make everything look new again.
The Butterkist box says that popping times vary between one and a half and three and a half minutes; however the box states that it should take three and a half minutes to cook.
Closer inspection of the Butterkist box highlights a warning: “DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED WHILST COOKING”.
In my defence, I was not concerned about leaving the popcorn unattended as last week I cooked a packet of Butterkist in my mums microwave (while we were staying over watching her dogs). She also has a modern microwave and the advised three and a half minutes cooked the popcorn to perfection. Plus my girlfriend cooks microwave popcorn all the time at her house and I have never seen this happening.
For whatever reason, my own microwave decided to declare war against the popcorn box and nuke it in half the time.
Obviously, I need to take some blame for this as the box does say to not to leave the packet unattended. However, I have been using microwaves all my life and never seen this happen. If a box tells me a meal will be ready in X amount of minutes; it never causes a nuclear explosion. Sure, sometimes the meal is slightly colder or slightly warmer than it should be, which indicates that it should have been cooked for a longer or shorter period of time. Though I have never seen a recommended cooking time cause such havoc.
If I had cooking the popcorn for another minute, I suspect there could have been a fire.
For all you popcorn fans out there, I advise you to be careful the next time you microwave popcorn. As I have learned, there is a fine line between a delicious snack and all out carnage in the kitchen :)