When I was growing up, we would make popcorn on the stove and the popcorn was yellow when popped. Then when I was a teen, we bought an air popper and we purchased kernels that popped white but I never noticed the shape, it was just popcorn to me.
Popcorn comes in two shapes, either butterfly or mushroom. There are also small, medium, large, and jumbo-sized popcorn kernels. Additionally, hulless popcorn is available which has a hull that bursts into tiny pieces when cooked, unlike other popcorn kernel hulls.
Depending on what you plan to do with your popcorn besides eating it, there are many reasons why one popcorn type may be better than the others and we will discuss this more below.
What are the Shapes of Popcorn Kernels?
To make it easy, you purchase popcorn kernels and once you pop it, we call it popcorn (aka flake). Once you cook the kernels, you will see that there are different shapes that come from the kernels that look identical to one another. Let us look at the different shapes.
The butterfly (aka snowflake) earned the name because the kernel pops on its sides, giving it “wings”. Butterfly flakes are commonly used in movie theaters as it holds the butter and seasoning well.
The mushroom popcorn is, of course, shaped like a mushroom. This popcorn type is sturdier and tends to hold on to candy coatings, such as caramel, well. When coated properly, it provides a crispy texture that goes well with sweet candy coatings.
A hybrid is just a corn cob that comes with both the butterfly and the mushroom shape in its popped kernels. There will be times when the cob will produce 100% of either butterfly or mushroom kernels. Hybrids tend to be great for all-around purposes because they give the best of both worlds.
Note: If you are making kettle corn them mushroom kernels are best. If you want to make garlic and herb popcorn, then use butterfly popcorn as it holds the seasoning the best.
What is Hulless Popcorn?
Hulless popcorn has become quite popular, especially for those with braces.
Hulless popcorn is a type of popcorn kernel that tends to be quite small. As such, when it pops, the hulls of the individual kernels are so small that they will easily break apart and are softer and more tender. This means you have a better chance of them not getting stuck in between your teeth.
Note: Because the popcorn kernels are smaller than normal kernels you may need to increase the amount of kernels you decide to make so you have enough to share.
What are the Sizes of Popcorn Kernels?
Who knew that popcorn kernels varied in size once they are popped? Many people assume all popcorn kernels are the same size but if you put them next to one another you will notice the differences. What size of popcorn kernels can you purchase?
If you purchase hulless popcorn, then most of the time it comes in a small size. Read the description as it will let you know that the kernels are small. That way you are not surprised when you pop your normal ½ cup of kernels, but you do not get as much popcorn.
I would say normal store popcorn comes in average/medium size. This is the popcorn that most people are used to buying at the store. This size of kernel you can use in your standard recipes.
You will notice popcorn that is considered large/jumbo will normally mention it on the packaging label. You can tell the difference from your small and medium kernels as these are thicker than the others. They pop large so you might need a bigger bowl than what you are used to for your popcorn.
What are the Colors of Popcorn Kernels?
Popcorn kernels not only differ in shape and size but also in color.
Yellow popcorn kernels are the most common ones because they are often found in grocery stores and microwavable popcorn bags. This is the color that popcorn is often associated with because corn is usually yellow and popcorn itself also usually comes in a shade of yellow. Of course, you can also find yellow popcorn in movie theaters because these tend to be the most versatile in the sense that they do well with any kind of flavoring. Depending on how small the kernels are, they may be in hulless.
White popcorn is also quite common. Like yellow popcorn kernels, white kernels are also popularly used in movie theaters and in microwavable popcorn packages. These kernels, when popped, tend to be more tender than yellow popcorn and are perfect for those who prefer a softer texture in their popcorn. And because they also come in hulless variants, they are great for those with braces and sensitive teeth.
Believe it or not, there is red popcorn. Then again, we are only talking about the kernels and not the popcorn flake. The red color only stays in the kernel because, when popped, this popcorn turns yellow or white. That means that you should not expect the flake to have a red color. Red kernels are smaller than yellow and white kernels and that makes them great for those who prefer hulless popcorn.
Blue is another type of popcorn that is like red in the sense that the blue color is only seen on the kernels. When popped, these kernels turn white. The difference between blue kernels and white kernels is that blue kernels tend to have a crunchier texture that is perfect for those who want to add candy coatings to their popcorn. And just like red kernels, blue kernels are small enough to be considered hulless in some cases.
Finally, we have purple popcorn kernels, which are like the red and blue variants in the sense that they are smaller than yellow and white kernels and may be small enough to be hulless. The best part about purple popcorn is that, when popped, it contains the most flavor out of any popcorn variant. As such, it is perfect for those who may want their popcorn plain because you can taste the popcorn flavor without any additional flavors on top.
Note: New types of popcorn are introduced by different companies in various parts of the world, and we try to get our hands on the latest information as we hear about it. We will let you all know about any new information or do not be shy about sending us an e-mail for us to try it out.