Process Improvement: Popcorn Edition

Of all the things I've been missing lately, movie theater popcorn has been surprisingly high on the list. I've been consistently disappointed by the brands claiming to taste like theater popcorn. I love the convenience of microwave popcorn, but after trying numerous brands and flavors I was still left wanting. Making it by hand and using real butter and salt didn't do the trick either.

The folk at Apex aren't in the habit of just putting up with disappointing realities. It is not the way of our people. We try to make things better every chance we get. Some of our team use their spare time to teach, to work on homelessness, to craft beer, to rebuild their communities…  

I just wanted some really good popcorn.

Why doesn't microwave popcorn taste like movie theater popcorn?

There are really just a few factors that contribute to the flavor of popcorn:

  • The oil
  • The corn itself
  • The seasoning
  • The ratio of these ingredients

Movie theaters don't use the same ingredients you find at the grocery store, but you can get the same ingredients yourself and with a little practice make popcorn just as good as the theater version.  

Warning:  This article is about making popcorn that tastes great. The popcorn you'll get if you follow these instructions will be delicious but it will not be health-food.  With that caveat, let's get our ingredients.


Theaters use different types and brands of popcorn oil, but the one that consistently tastes like what you expect at the movies is butter-flavored coconut oil. My lovely wife was able to run down some of this at our local grocery store but it is also available at online retailers. At room temperature, the oil will be solid. That is normal and allows you to measure out the ingredients easily with a tablespoon.


I am not a popcorn snob. I've had very good success with Orville Redenbacher's  uncooked kernels but if you have a preferred brand of popcorn kernels use what you like. Taste is subjective, and nobody knows your tastes better than you.


This is the real heart of the matter.  The movie theaters don't use the same seasoning and salt that you find at the grocery store. Their secret? Flavacol.

Flavacol is a super-fine grained seasoned salt that - used sparingly - makes your popcorn taste as if it came straight from the Bijou. It is composed of very, very fine crystals and is extremely flavorful so you're going to want to use it sparingly. Experiment and take measurements.  Your affinity for buttery flavor and saltiness are your own and my own run towards "less is better."

It comes in a paper carton with a simple design that looks as though it was from a bygone age. Mine advertises sno-cones and cotton-candy supplies as well. A little digging reveals that the manufacturer, Gold Medal, makes all kinds of concessions related products. The ingredients are salt, flavoring, and color (yellow food dye) so I presume the name is a portmanteau of flavor + color.


My best success has been with using a glass-lidded 7 Qt. Dutch Oven to prepare the corn on the stove. You will also need a big bowl to pour the corn into once it is popped completely.

Here are the ratios I've been using to cook home popcorn:

¾ cup popcorn kernels

2 tablespoons coconut oil (butter flavored)

¼ to ½ teaspoon Flavacol (during cooking) - you may need to experiment with this measurement

¼ teaspoon Flavacol (to taste) after cooking

Cook your popcorn according to the instructions on the popcorn packaging, but use the coconut oil and Flavacol in lieu of table salt or any other butter or seasoning suggestions on the packaging. You will use a little (¼ to ½ teaspoon) Flavacol during the cooking process, then after the popcorn is finished cooking you can add a tiny bit more to the popcorn as you put it into a large bowl.  Mix thoroughly and serve warm.

Some people enjoy adding melted butter or other products to their corn. Occasionally I will add a little bit of real melted butter to my corn after popping and stir it in, but this recipe is rich enough for me as-is. You can definitely find butter-flavored topping in stores and online similar to the orange liquid they serve at the movies.  If you have one you prefer and want to tell me about it, let me know!


This is my preferred popcorn now until things get back to normal. I have even experimented with popping unseasoned microwave popcorn and adding some Flavocol, but nothing has come closer to the "real deal" than the method described above.  Now I just need to figure out how to get my floor as sticky as the movies, and schedule time so my kids can intermittently kick the back of my chair throughout the film and I'll truly have captured the home-theater experience!

At Apex we really are always thinking about how to make things better, even when it's just about how we relax. As we like to say, "There's always a better way."

You may ask yourself, "If they can help me this much with my popcorn-related processes what could they do with my struggling business workflows?" If you do ask that, thank you! There is so much we can do to help your business via Business Automation Workflow, Low Code development platforms, RPA and more...

Nothing's free, kid.

Hopefully, these tips can help you recreate a little bit of that "movie magic" in the comfort of your own home. Let us know how it goes.  And stay safe out there!

Blake Smith

Blake Smith