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Review: Orville Redenbacher Smart Pop Buttery 100-calorie microwave popcorn

A box of Orville Redenbacher Smart Pop Buttery 100-calorie microwave popcorn mini bags.

For the past four years, the last place I wanted to be on a summer evening was inside my apartment. My old place – now reduced to a hole in the ground and several dumpsters worth of splintered timber – had massive south-facing windows, minimal ventilation, and no air-con.

But this year is different. My new apartment has — praise be to Freon Jebus — air conditioning! Finally, I can sit back and watch a DVD on the couch at home without three noisy fans drowning out the dialogue.

And what, really, is a movie without popcorn? In this case, out with the $5 movie theatre popcorn, and in with the cheap, cheap microwave popcorn.

I’ve been trying to be careful about calories for a while now, so there’s much appeal to Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop buttery flavour popcorn. I’m especially keen about the 100-calorie mini bags, a handy snack size when keeping tabs on calories.

See that burned spot at the top? That kept happening when I zapped Orville mini bags in my microwave, which is fairly powerful. Always err on the side of caution and stop the popping sooner rather than later.

But does it taste any good?

Yes, actually. The buttery flavour isn’t overwhelming, but it’s present. The texture is dry and crisp, without the oily softness of butter and oil. There’s enough salt to satisfy, but it doesn’t leave you desperate for water. As a bonus, your hands don’t get all slimy with grease. I like.

For the sake of comparison, I also zapped a mini bag of regular Orville Redenbacher buttery flavour popcorn. Instead of 100 calories per Smart Pop mini bag, it has 190 calories per mini bag. Also, instead of 1 gram of fat in the Smart Pop mini bag, it has 11 grams of fat. (Yes, that’s a massive difference.)

But the taste comparison? The regular buttery popcorn does, indeed, taste far more greasy. It tastes more like movie theatre popcorn, and the other parts of the popcorn experience – greasy hands and lips, kernels soft with fat – also make it more like the real deal.

Compared side-by-side, I’d give the flavour edge to the regular popcorn. It’s just more, um, popcorny, if that makes sense.

And yet, on its own, the Smart Pop is a perfectly good alternative, especially given the calorie/fat difference.

There's not much in a mini bag of Orville Redenbacher Smart Pop. It's good for a small snack, but it likely won't satisfy your rumbling belly.

RATINGS AND DETAILS

Cost: $2.50 (on sale) for a 124-gram box, which contains 4 mini bags.

Value for cash money: On its own, good. Compared to theatre popcorn, spectacular.

Availability: Widespread.

Nutrition?: The bestest part. Per 31-gram bag: 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, 110 mg of sodium, 0 mg of cholesterol, 3 grams of fibre, 2 grams of protein. That’s pretty damned great for a snack.

Portion size: There really isn’t very much in one mini bag. As a snack, they’re perfect. As a DVD accompaniment, one bag wouldn’t last me through the opening credits.

The verdict: Smart Pop mini bags help remove some of the guilt I’d feel about sitting down with an entire bag of regular popcorn. Yes, regular popcorn tastes better, but not better enough to justify the huge difference in fat over the Smart Pop.

An up-close shot of Smart Pop "Buttery" microwave popcorn. It's dry and crisp, not soft and oily.

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