Does Storage Temperature Affect Popcorn Popping

Popcorn is a type of corn that expands and pops when heated. Popcorn is usually made by heating the kernels in a pot or in a microwave. The heat causes the water inside the kernel to turn to steam, which expands the kernel and makes it pop.

But does the temperature of the kernels affect how much popcorn you get? To find out, we conducted an experiment. We microwaved three batches of popcorn kernels at different temperatures – low, medium, and high – and measured the yield for each batch.

The purpose of this experiment is to find out whether the temperature at which popcorn kernels are stored will cause there to be more or fewer un-popped kernels when using a hot air popcorn popper. Popcorn kernels have moisture inside them. When they’re heated, the steam from that moisture expands and causes the kernel to explode. According to Popcorn.org, loss of moisture can lead to less yield (popcorn.org, 2014).

The hypothesis for this experiment is that if the kernels are heated before popping, then there will be less un-popped kernels because moisture has already been lost.

To test this hypothesis, three different batches of popcorn kernels will be popped. The first batch will be microwaved for 30 seconds before being put into the hot air popper. The second batch will not be microwaved, and the third batch will have boiling water poured over them and then be put into the hot air popper. The popcorn that is popped from each batch will be counted and compared to see which method, if any, caused there to be less un-popped kernels.

If it is found that heating the kernels before popping does in fact cause less un-popped kernels, then this information could be used by popcorn companies to optimize their products and popping methods. This experiment could also lead to further research on the topic of how different types of heat affect popcorn yield.

Popcorn is a favorite snack for many. But what makes the best popcorn? Experiments have been done to determine the best brands, popping method and yield of popped kernels.

Popcorn connoisseur Mariana Larano compared popping results with kernels stored at varying temperatures. She stated that refrigerated or frozen popcorn had more un-popped kernels than popcorn kept at room temperature (Larano, 2002).

Larano’s experiment is not the only one that has looked at temperature and its affect on popcorn yield. Popcorn expert Orville Redenbacher conducted an experiment in which he found that frozen popcorn had more un-popped kernels than refrigerated or room-temperature popcorn (Redenbacher, as cited in Larano, 2002).

These studies suggest that heat plays a role in the popping process. It is possible that the extra heat from microwaving refrigerated or frozen popcorn could help to Pop better results. However, further research is needed to determine the optimal popping temperature for microwave popcorn.

To find out which brand of microwave popcorn produces the least amount of un-popped kernels, Boyd popped two different types in the microwave. While doing so, he made note of why some kernels don’t pop at all. There can be insufficient moisture inside the kernel or a crack in its hull that allows steam to escape before it builds up enough pressure to make the kernel explode (Boyd, nd).

Boyd found that the two brands of microwave popcorn he tested had similar results in terms of the percentage of kernels that popped. However, he did find that the brand with the higher popping temperature had a slightly higher yield of popped kernels. Boyd attributed this to the fact that the higher popping temperature caused the moisture inside the kernel to expand more quickly, resulting in a higher Popcorn Yield.

Packaged perishable food items, such as bread and vegetables, have an expiration date. We may freeze, refrigerate, or can the product if it’s feasible to do so in order to extend its shelf life. Popcorn is one of those things that my family has utilized the freezing process to enhance its usefulness. I didn’t consider how the popping process affects the final result of popped corn until recently.

Does the freezing process have an effect on the yield, texture, or flavor of the popped corn?

We know that popcorn is a whole grain kernel that when heated to a certain temperature will expand and pop. The moisture content inside of the kernel is what turns to steam and causes the pressure to build until the hull ruptures (USDA, 2015). If we were to freeze the kernels, would that change the moisture content and in turn affect the popped corn? To test this hypothesis, I purchased four bags of unpopped popcorn kernels from my local grocery store.

I placed two bags into my freezer set at 0°F/-18°C and left two bags out on my counter at room temperature (approximately 70°F/21°C). After 24 hours, I took one bag of kernels from each location and placed them into separate microwavable Popcorn PopPacks. I popped the PopPacks in my microwave according to the package instructions. Once both PopPacks were finished popping, I poured the contents into separate bowls and began my observations.

The first observation I made was in regards to yield. The PopPack that was popped from the frozen kernels yielded approximately 2/3 cup of popcorn while the PopPack popped from the room temperature kernels yielded a little over 1 cup of popcorn. So, it would appear that freezing the kernels does have an effect on yield, with the frozen kernels yielding less popcorn than the room temperature kernels.

The next observation related to texture. The popcorn popped from the frozen kernels was much harder and crunchier than the popcorn popped from the room temperature kernels. This difference in texture could be due to the fact that water expands when it freezes, causing the kernels to pop larger and thus be more crunchy (“The Popcorn Board”, 2016).

The final observation related to flavor. The popcorn popped from the frozen kernels had a more “stale” taste than the popcorn popped from the room temperature kernels. This difference in flavor could be due to loss of moisture in the frozen kernels, causing them to not pop as well and resulting in a less fresh taste (“The Popcorn Board”, 2016).

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