Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Popcorn

Dan & I went out to visit my parents tonight, and my Dad informed me that two people he talked with this week said they didn't like the popcorn at the theater recently.  We have had a couple of complaints in the theater too, so it is apparent that we have an issue to resolve.

Let me explain...

Having perfect popcorn has been an unusual little struggle. When I first took over management of the theater in 2007, we were using the cheapest seeds and coconut oil being sold by our concessions vendor. It wasn't that bad which is why our previous excellent manager was okay with it, but I was always annoyed at how dense the kernels looked and felt. The kernels absorbed too much oil and didn't pop out into fluffy pieces. So, when we purchased the theater I decided to step it up a notch and buy Orville Redenbacher only, because the seeds are high quality and consistent.  The results were good.

Then we had mysterious bad tasting individual pieces of popcorn. It took us a while to figure out that the seal on the bottom of our kettle was cracked so the coconut popping oil was getting in there and scorching (the kettle heat only remains on for a couple of minutes at a time, so this posed NO danger), and then leaking out onto the popcorn. Well, the damage to the kettle was irreparable and they don't sell just kettles so we had to crack open our wallet and buy a brand new popper, which was super expensive (I wanted to cry when I clicked "submit" with my credit card info, but then wanted to rejoice when it actually showed up and we threw the old popper out).  Our shiny new machine pops fast and the kernels come out perfect, so we are happy.

Our new machine popping its inaugural batch.

At the same time as this was happening, I was still not 100% happy with how dense and fragile our kernels seemed to be. It seemed like they would absorb too much oil and break down into "old maids" far too easily.

So a few months ago we taste tested a new type of popcorn seed,  a mushroom type seed.  It is much fluffier and sturdy than our normal "butterfly" seed. When we taste tested I was totally sold, it was so delicious and crunchy and didn't absorb nearly as much oil as the old seeds. Maybe it was because I was pregnant that I was so enamored by it. That probably did have something to do with it, considering that after 12 years in a movie theater I really can't taste or smell popcorn.  Anyhow, I decided to mix the mushroom type seeds with our regular Orville Redenbacher seeds to make a nice mix. It actually is the best popcorn I have ever had. I would like to keep serving it, but our customers have spoken.

I think the problem is that the mushroom seeds have a bit  of a spongy texture because the kernels are so big (kind of like fat french fries, where the insides are soft and not crunchy like shoestring fries), so folks think the popcorn feels stale when the chew it, even though it is hot and fresh.  We have literally had people watch their popcorn being popped and then come out to say it is stale 30 minutes later. That's not good.

The good news is that our new popper rules, and because it pops at a higher temperature (because the elements are still new) the kernels aren't absorbing as much oil, which results in fluffier kernels.

I have 2 bags left of the mushroom seeds, so I'll mix them in with the Orville Redenbacher seeds (in a small ratio) until they are gone, and after that we will be strictly Orville Redenbacher.

Next quality control project: to come to a definitive conclusion regarding the butter topping. The butter topping is not quite the bane of my existence, but close. It's a fickle substance. I'll post on that later.

That was quite a lot of words dedicated to the subject of popcorn, and believe it or not, I have only scratched the surface. I hope you have enjoyed reading it, and have come to a much deeper understanding of the subject. I also hope that I haven't typed "pooper" instead of "popper" at some point in this post. I've caught myself typing that 3 times, and now my eyes are tired.

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to having a bag this weekend, while enjoying Rango.