Chewy popcorn is never a family favorite and yet it happens more often than necessary. The reasons why popcorn gets chewy may surprise you.
The most common reason popcorn is chewy is that steam is trapped in the pan while popping the popcorn. Also, cooking the kernels in too much oil will impact the crispiness of the popcorn. There is an easy solution to try to fix chewy popcorn by baking it in the oven for a few minutes.
Once you learn the reasons why popcorn gets chewy, you can avoid these mistakes next time you pop some popcorn.
Does Moisture Impact the Kernels?
As the popcorn kernel heats up, the moisture inside the kernel heats up and turns into steam. The steam can collect in the pan which will lead to excess moisture if it is not ventilated properly.
This will impact the popcorn kernels that have popped as they will absorb the steam and can possibly become chewy.
If you are using a pan with a lid, it can help to place the lid slightly off the edge of the pan to create a gap to let the steam escape. I find that in the past when I used heavier pans and lids, like cast iron, there was not as much moisture.
Better yet, you can put foil over the pan and poke holes in it to vent and not use the lid at all. You need to have a pan that has sides that the foil can grip to or else the oil will just roll down the sides of the foil onto your stove. I only know this because that happened the first time I tried this method.
Is Too Much Oil Bad for the Kernel?
Chewy popcorn can also occur if you have too much oil in the pan. Once all the kernels have popped, if there is oil remaining in the pan, it will impact the already popped kernels and they can get chewy.
I have done this more times than I would care to admit when I was young because I was in a hurry and put in too much oil. It is important that you do not rush your popcorn making and ensure the right amount of oil is in the pan.
Most recipes call for ½ cup of popcorn with 2 tablespoons of oil.
I am not big on measuring so I just put in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan and then put enough popcorn to reside in the oil but not bathe in oil. I have been cooking popcorn for years so until you have your recipe down pat, I recommend you measure.
Remember that shaking the popcorn pan coats the kernels in oil and keeps the burning at bay. It is so important that you shake the pan, or the entire bottom layer of popcorn will probably end up burning.
Does Leaving Popcorn Out Affect the Texture?
Leaving popcorn out on the counter without being in an airtight container can add moisture that you do not want in your kernels. This is especially true if you live in a humid part of the world.
How Do You Properly Store Your Popcorn Kernels?
You need to ensure your popcorn kernels are stored properly so they will be ready for popping when you put them in the pan. If the kernels have too much moisture, you are not going to get that crispy, fluffy popcorn.
Popcorn container options:
- Mason jar
- Glass container with snap lid
- Plastic container with snap lid
It is important to ensure these containers are airtight to keep your kernels fresher longer. Ensure they are clean and dry and have no cracks.
You will need to store your kernels in a cool dry place, such as a cupboard or pantry. Do not store the kernels above the stove in a cupboard because heat rises. Create a label and put it on the container with the date you purchased the popcorn.
You can also use a vacuum seal to store your popcorn. You can seal one side of the film, add ½ cup of popcorn (or as much as your family needs), and seal the other side.
You can write the date you purchased your popcorn with a marker on the vacuum seal bag. These bags cannot be used in the microwave to pop the popcorn.
Popcorn kernels are best used within a year from their purchase date if stored appropriately.
How to Fix the Chewy Popcorn?
There is a way to try to fix chewy popcorn and it is simple.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Place your chewy popcorn on a baking sheet and place it in the oven for 2-3 min.
- Pull out the baking sheet and test a couple of kernels to see if they got crispier. If not, put it back in the oven for another 2-3 minutes.
There is a difference between what happens to popcorn that is chewy from the moisture in the pan not being ventilated and popcorn that has too much oil. Popcorn that has too much moisture will probably firm up quickly.
Popcorn that has too much oil will leave oil on the baking sheet and may start to burn if left in there too long. If after two attempts to firm up the oil it does not get crispier or starts to burn, it may be time to start over with fresh kernels.
We can all agree that chewy popcorn happens too often and now that you know to ventilate the pan and not to put too much oil in the pan, chewy popcorn will happen less often.
It is also important to store your kernels properly to get as much shelf-life out of them as possible.
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