Orville Redenbacher's vs. Pop Secret in the Christmas-time Plato Royale

Christmas is movie time and the game this week is Orville Redenbacher's gourmet popping corn vs. Pop Secret's

jumbo pop. Not only is this stuff a fraction of the $5-a-bag price at the theater, but it doesn't have the slimy oil that approximates butter and is used at almost every cineplex. Of course, there is the problem of "popcorn lung" -- eating too much butter-flavored popcorn (or actually the chemical diacetyl, which is an ingredient), but we are assuming you won't eat two bags per day.

Orville Redenbacher

Pros: If you don't want bold butter and salt flavor, this popcorn is probably for you. Suggested popping time of two to two-and-a-half minutes is right on the money.

Cons: Dry, dry, dry. It scratches the throat going down. It also lacks flavor if you are used to the surfeit of artificial stuff that some of us love. What's really annoying about this stuff, though, is that it is billed as gourmet. C'mon. Gourmet microwave popcorn.

Pop Secret

Pros: Buttery. Soft. Two minutes in the microwave produced no kernels left behind and no burnt popcorn. Movie theater butter flavor comes as advertised.

Cons: A little salty. Butter did spray out of the bag and got all over the inside of the microwave. Suggested popping time of up to four minutes might kill the bag, so listen closely.

The Verdict: Pop Secret's buttery, soft taste makes it the undeniable winner. Of course, you could actually pop the stuff in a pan. But we know none of you new age, fast-lane, big-time execs have time for that.

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John Zur