Had I been in slow motion, I’m fairly certain the dance I was doing could’ve been construed as graceful–my leaping described as Balanchine-esque, my hand swooshing through the air considered elegant. Alas, I was dancing in real time, not before an audience but alone, in my apartment, beneath my smoke detector. I was wildly attempting to disperse the gray haze billowing out of a bag of what was once popcorn, now just smoldering carbon. My limbs flailing and my kitchen towel flapping, I was neither Balanchine-esque nor elegant, and I was definitely not graceful. The microwave door stood ajar in mocking triumph. Again.

It’s hard not to get a little melodramatic when I repeatedly botch the simple–maybe even moronic–task of microwaving popcorn. It goes something like this: I stand just inches from the microwave, close enough to be at grave risk of inviting cancer at worst or a Ninja Turtles superpower at best. I keep my index finger poised and twitching near the STOP button as I dutifully count the seconds between mini-explosions, yet I inevitably reach one of two disparate and disappointing results. Either I panic and punch the button too early, only to watch the bag deflate along with my ego. Or I wait a little too long, prematurely congratulating myself at the sight of the puffed bag, only to be rewarded the moment I rip it open by the acrid stench of failure–and, of course, the opportunity to engage in my crazy towel-flapping jig.

After years of blackened kernels, I resorted to old-fashioned common sense, which in this instance equates to old-fashioned stovetop popping. That’s when the Wabash Valley Farm Whirley Pop entered my life. The 6-quart pot with benefits is made of thinner metal than most pans, so it heats up fast–so fast it can pop a pot of corn in the same amount of time as my darn microwave. Its vented lid allows steam to escape, ensuring the popped corn stays crisp without my having to struggle to keep a wobbly lid slightly ajar. And then there’s the apparatus’s most distinguished fixture, a turn-crank apparatus attached to the underside of the lid. I just rest one hand on a central wooden knob and with the other I turn the crank handle, which “whirls” a stainless steel arm around the bottom of the pot, keeping everything in constant motion and thereby minimizing old maids, elevating popped corn safely away from the scorching hot pot, and yielding unparalleled results. Best yet, since the Whirley Pop is dedicated to one thing and one thing alone, I just wipe it with a paper towel when I’m done–no need to scrub it squeaky clean (or dance and flap).

While the contraption’s hardly new, it was new to me, and, as such, was a revelation. I may have to work at it by standing and cranking, but it’s a small price to pay. Besides, with my mind liberated from the one-two count required by my old nemesis, I have time to do other things. Like smirk at my unused microwave.

The Wabash Valley Farm Whirley Pop comes complete with directions, recipes, and a 25-year warranty on all the Whirley Pop’s moving parts, all for just $20–a bargain when you think of how many bags of pricey microwave popcorn you’d otherwise waste. Available at Amazon.com

About Jenna Rose Levy

Saving room for dessert since birth, Jenna Rose Levy has always had an abnormal appreciation for food. After she worked at a Connecticut farm and for bakeries on the East Coast and West, there was no turning back. Jenna earned her Master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and she brings all her knowledge to work each day at Leite’s Culinaria and, on the side, to her food blog, Sweet Hearth. On the rare occasion that she isn’t doing something food-related, she can be found perfecting her Bananagrams game, planning her next globe-trotting adventure, or exploring the back roads of Boston as she trains for her first marathon.

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  1. I love my Whirley Pop. I use it to make kettle corn. When the oil is ready, I add the corn kernels and sugar. I keep cranking until the popping stops, dump it into a large bowl, and add salt. Delicious.

    1. Janet, that sounds delicious! Would you mind sharing – what is your kernel to sugar ratio?