There is a science as to why kernels pop and when certain conditions are not met, you will have popcorn kernels that do not pop. Luckily, there are solutions available to get those kernels back to popping readiness.
When a kernel is too hard, it will not pop and needs water to add moisture to the kernel. Softness in the kernel means it has too much moisture and it needs to be dried. There may be leftover kernels in the pan and those kernels have hulls that are imperfect, and those kernels will not pop.
Time to understand how to solve the lack of popping and watch with amazement the next time you watch your kernels pop because you understand the science behind it.
The Reasons Why Popcorn Kernels Pop
The name of the kernel that is used for popcorn is called “Zea mays everta”. There are two shapes of kernel, butterfly and mushroom.
The butterfly kernel pops with what looks like wings and the mushroom kernel has the crown on top when it pops. The science behind why popcorn kernels pop or do not pop is the same regardless of whether you have a butterfly or mushroom kernel.
Popcorn kernels pop because there is water trapped inside the kernel. Once the kernel gets hot enough to turn the water inside into steam, pressure builds up and eventually, the hull explodes inside out. The result is a fluffy piece of popcorn.
How Do You Turn Your Hard Kernels into Popcorn?
One of the reasons why popcorn may not pop is because the kernels are too dry. The pop is caused by the moisture inside the kernel heating up and creating steam. If there is not enough moisture, the kernel does not pop.
There is an easy way to fix this problem:
- Find a mason jar and put the popcorn in the jar.
- For every 1 cup of popcorn you put in the jar, add a teaspoon of water.
- Put the lid on the jar and shake it every 5 minutes until all the water is absorbed by the kernels.
- Let the jar sit for 1-3 days to absorb the water.
- After 1-3 days, try popping a few kernels.
- If they pop, then you are all set. If they do not pop, repeat the process.
Why Do Kernels Need to Toughen Up to Pop?
Another reason why popcorn may not pop is because the kernels are too wet. The water can soften the hulls, which is then unable to hold enough pressure to pop.
Also, the water keeps the kernels from getting hot enough. The temperature at which water turns into steam is much higher than the temperature at which water boils.
If the kernels are wet, the boiling water rolling off the hull will keep it from getting hot enough to pop.
Here is the solution to fix this issue:
- Put the popcorn on a paper plate.
- Leave it on the plate for a day.
- After 1 day, try popping a few kernels.
- If they pop, then they are dry enough. If they do not pop, repeat the process.
Old Maid Kernels – Why Do They Get Left Behind?
Ever notice the kernels that remain un-popped at the bottom of your bowl? Well, those kernels are called “Old Maids”.
The reason why they do not pop is, you guessed it, water. To get kernels to pop, you need the right water content, and “Old Maid” kernels are missing the correct ratio.
Another factor affecting the kernel popping is the hull, or the outside layer of the kernel. As the kernel heats up, the structure of the hull changes and becomes tight, which keeps the water in the kernel.
When the pressure inside the hull from the water rises, it causes the hull to pop. If the hull is imperfect, then the water is able to escape and the kernel will not pop, thus becoming an “Old Maid”.
4 Ways to Store Your Popcorn Kernels
It is best to use an airtight container to store your popcorn kernels.
- Mason jars
Mason jars are a great way to ensure your container is airtight. They are used for preservation/canning, so we know they do the best job.
- Glass jars with clasp closed lids
These glass jars with snap lids will also keep your kernels airtight. Just remember when you go to pull your kernels out that you do not leave the top off for hours.
- Plastic containers with airtight lids
These are usually less expensive than the glass jars but do just as good of a job. They are a budget-friendly solution and a family-friendly version if dropped, which I really appreciate.
- Vacuum seal
We love our vacuum seal and it is the easiest way to get the perfect portion of kernels. Measure out ½ cup of kernels and seal one side of your film, then place your kernels in the open end and seal again.
When you are ready to pop, just grab the bag as it is already portioned out. These vacuum-sealed portions cannot be used to pop popcorn in the microwave. Make sure you label your jars or vacuum bags with the date you purchased the popcorn.
Now that you have your kernels sealed in an airtight container, you need to store them in a cool dry place. Place your container in a cupboard or pantry. You can place your vacuum-sealed bags in a container or basket for easy storage.
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