Unpopular opinion: Burnt popcorn is good

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Burnt popcorn.

Ally Formeller, Columnist

The buttery, salty, slightly stale scent of movie theater popcorn is one to savor. The taste is even better. The crunchy, soft popped kernels practically melt in your mouth, and the butter and salt linger, leaving you craving more. Although the smell and taste of microwave popcorn don’t quite replicate that of movie theatre popcorn, it has the same savory flavors and persistent scent.  

As much as I love the taste of fresh, salty popcorn, I like it burnt, too.

The ashy taste is something I seek out. I won’t say it’s better than the yellow pieces from the butter, but it adds another layer to the flavor of popcorn. To be fair, I don’t want my popcorn to be completely charred and black. Just a little blackened and ashy is perfect. 

The smoky, bitter scent of burnt microwave popcorn doesn’t bother me, either, although it’s not exactly a favorite of the people I live with. In my defense, I’ve never burned popcorn to the point where the smell lingers. 

But there’s a reason that the burnt, ashy taste of popcorn and other foods is attractive to some people. The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids in foods, which reduces sugars. This reaction “browns” or caramelizes food and helps us recognize when food is cooked. 

The Maillard reaction also gives food a distinct savory flavor. If you’ve ever toasted a marshmallow, you’ve borne witness to this process.

Ranging from raw to charred food, burnt food is still in a technically acceptable range of browned food to taste good to some people, and I happen to be one of those people. 

That being said, I don’t like all my food burnt. Burnt toast or overcooked steak isn’t my thing. For me, burnt popcorn is the exception, not the rule.