Popcorn has been a favorite snack since the 1800s, and today, popcorn is a staple in movie theaters, stadiums, and other sports events. Suppose you want to make popcorn at home but only have cooked corn available. Can you use the cooked corn to make popcorn?

You can’t make popcorn using cooked corn. Popcorn is best prepared when its kernel is dry. Cooking softens the corn’s hull and interferes with the formation of popcorn puffs. In the end, you’ll be left with unpopped grains. 

Read on for a comprehensive answer as to whether you can make popcorn from cooked corn. 

Can Cooked Corn Prepare Popcorn?

Cooked corn cannot prepare popcorn. Pre-cooking corn softens the kernel, resulting in leakage of the trapped moisture. Steam won’t form, and there won’t be enough pressure build-up to rupture the hull and create the pop. 

When preparing popcorn, the popping results depend on the kernel’s state. Cooking softens the kernel’s hull and affects the moisture content inside the kernel. As a result, the expansion will be poor, and the grains won’t pop. Even if they pop, the popcorn will likely be chewy. 

The hull has to be sturdy enough to hold steam for some time. Once enough pressure develops, the pressure shutters the pericarp, and flakes form. Cooked corns have porous, weak hulls that won’t retain steam and promote pressure build-up. In the end, the cooked kernel will remain unpopped. 

How Is Popcorn Formed?

Popcorn is formed when moisture inside the kernel ruptures the hull and forms flakes. Temperatures of about 350 °F (177 °C) vaporize the kernel’s water and gelatinize its starch. The steam build-up creates intense pressure severing the hull and releasing the gelatinous starch.

After that, the gelatinous starch cools down, forming white crunchy stuff known as flakes. These savory flakes are what snackers refer to as popcorn. Popcorn flakes tend to be 40–50 times the original grain size. 

These flakes can either be butterfly-shaped or mushroom-shaped. The former is much tender and fragile, while the latter is firmer. 

What Conditions Favor Popcorn Formation?

The conditions that favor popcorn formation are temperatures of 356°F (180˚C) and 14% moisture content in the kernel. Any oil used in popcorn formation should have a high smoke point of about 350°F (177°C). 

The kernel must first be in perfect shape for popcorns to form. Popcorn grains have three essential parts: 

  • Pericarp (hull) 
  • Endosperm  
  • Germ 

Water and starch make up the endosperm. 

The pericarp must be strong enough to contain pressures of about 135 psi (9.2 atm). When this pressure is exceeded, the hull will rupture, forming popcorn. Of course, most dry hulls meet this requirement unless you cook them. 

When it comes to popping popcorn, the trapped water plays the most crucial role. Ideal popcorn kernels have moisture levels of about 14–20%. It’s this moisture that turns into steam and eventually ruptures the hull. 

High water content (above 20%) will turn the popcorn gummy, while low water content (below 14%) will dry out the kernels. There won’t be any pops if the grains dry out. 

Temperature is another crucial aspect when popping popcorn. As this piece in the Washington Post explains, only 4% of kernels remain unpopped at 356°F (180°C). Reduce this temperature to 338°F (170°C), and 66% of corn grains won’t pop. 

Temperatures above 500°F (260°C) will burn any oil you use to cook popcorn and form smoke. 

How Can I Prepare Popcorn?

You can prepare popcorn using the dry method or the wet method. Use dry heat for popping corn in the dry process. In the wet method, you use oil or butter to distribute heat evenly around the kernels. The heat source could be a microwave, stove, or air popper. 

Movie theater, microwave, and other commercial popcorn utilize oil during popcorn production. The reason is simple: oil distributes heat evenly, allowing the kernels to pop at a similar time. 

You’ll want to use oil that’s healthy and have a high smoke point for making popcorn. Examples of oil that meet this requirement include: 

  • Coconut oil 
  • Avocado oil 
  • Olive oil 
  • Sunflower oil 
  • Grapeseed oil 
  • Canola oil 

It’s impossible to prepare popcorn with natural butter since it burns at high temperatures. Instead of regular butter, consider using clarified butter. This butter won’t burn when popping corn kernels. 

How Do I Make Homemade Microwave Popcorn?

Mix corn kernels with vegetable oil in a glass bowl to make microwave popcorn. Afterward, sprinkle some salt and cover the glass bowl with a ceramic plate. Place the bowl in a microwave and cook at full power for three minutes. Stop cooking if you hear 2-second pauses between pops. 

Remove the glass bowl from the microwave and let it cool. Do away with the lid to facilitate faster cooling.

Remember that you can use a paper bag in place of a glass bowl. 

How Do I Make Homemade Stovetop Popcorn?

To make stovetop popcorn, place vegetable oil into a pan and heat. Put 3 popcorn kernels into the pan and wait until they pop. Afterward, add the rest of the kernels while maintaining an even layer. Wait for the popping sounds. Then, begin shaking the pan back and forth. 

Remove the pan once you hear 2-second pauses in the pops. 

Ensure that you use a heavy-bottomed pan. Such pans distribute heat evenly and allow the kernels to pop simultaneously.

Can You Use Different Flavors When Cooking Popcorn?

You can use different flavors when cooking popcorn, but this will alter the popcorn’s taste. Your popcorn’s calorie count and texture will also change depending on the toppings. It’s best to add flavors before popping for them to stick to the popcorn. 

Typical toppings include: 

  • Caramel 
  • Garlic 
  • Truffle  
  • Ginger 
  • Wasabi 
  • Cinnamon 
  • Cocoa powder  

Not all toppings suit popcorn. Some, such as butter, will make your popcorn soggy if used excessively.

Which Corn Can You Use To Make Popcorn?

You can use the Zea mays everta to make popcorn. Zea mays everta has a rigid hull and suitable moisture content (14%), making it an ideal popping candidate. Strains like sweet and dent corn cannot make popcorn because they’re too moist and have soft pericarps.

That said, not all Zea Mays Everta grains can make popcorn. Only suitable kernels are capable of popping into flakes.

Old kernels tend to lose moisture and, in turn, their popping ability. On the other hand, fresh kernels have so much moisture and won’t pop.


You can’t make popcorn from cooked corn. Cooking makes the corn’s hull porous, enabling leakage of steam. In the end, there won’t be enough pressure build-up to rupture the hull and form flakes.

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