I Worked at a Movie Theater for 5 Years and This Seasoning Is the Key To Cinema-Quality Popcorn

published Dec 11, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

From the ages of 16 to 22, I spent most of my weekend nights at the movie theater. I sold tickets and cleaned theaters (where I learned how truly disgusting some people are), but I spent the majority of my time in the concession stand, slinging popcorn, candy, and sodas the size of your head. I worked at this 15-theater movie spot during a film heyday — “Avatar,” “The Avengers,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 and 2,” “Twilight,” etc. — everyone was going to the movies, which meant it was extremely busy, and I had to make and serve popcorn quickly.

Although the popcorn popper might seem a lot of fun, it was 400 degrees and shot burning-hot, oily kernels out while you were trying to rake it into popcorn tubs. My mother also used to complain that I’d come home in my maroon vest and bowtie (an embarrassing uniform for a teenager) smelling of popcorn.

To this day, I have a sense of when popcorn is about to burn. Also, I can walk into a movie theater and tell if that popcorn is fresh or if it’s been sitting there for four hours. I’m not paying $15 for a stale box of popcorn after eating it for free for five years — no sir.

Unfortunately, the theater I worked at was a COVID pandemic casualty. Its doors are shuttered for good. But, I did stumble upon one of the main popcorn ingredients on Amazon: Gold Medal Prod. 2045 Flavacol popcorn salt.

Here’s a quick explanation of how I used it at the theater: I would put the kernels into the kettle, dump a scoop of flavacol seasoning into the vat, press the button that dispensed the oil, and closed the lid. Sadly, I do not remember the oil we used and I have a suspicion that it only came in huge 30-pound boxes, but butter and coconut oil will suffice at home.

This seasoning is very salty, so most reviewers recommend using half a teaspoon to a half cup of kernels. A little goes a long way. I would personally add it to whatever butter or oil combo you are doing. You could try to sprinkle it over the finished popcorn, but I think it’ll be difficult to get any even coating.

It might take a bit of trial and error, but I can attest — as someone who used to eat this every shift — that it tastes miles better than any prepackaged, microwavable “movie theater” popcorn. This is the real deal.