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Unpopped Popcorn

Unpopped Popcorn

Have you ever wondered why all the popcorn kernels do not pop even when heated to the right temperature? Commonly known as unpopped popcorn, in this article we will try to know more about such kernels and how we can pop them.
Kanika Khara
Who doesn't love large pieces of yummy and tender popcorn, especially while watching a good movie? However, while eating your way to the bottom of any bag of popcorn, you get those rock-hard, jaw-rattling unpopped kernels. Quite annoying aren't they? So, let us see why some kernels resist popping into puffy white globes, or what keeps them from popping.

What Makes Popcorn Pop?

We all know that every kernel has some moisture and oil in its starchy center, and its outer shell is impervious to moisture, which makes it hard. When these kernels are heated to a temperature, which is more than the boiling point of water, the moisture inside it turns into pressurized steam. As the hull is moisture-proof, the steam inside the kernel has no place to go, and as a result, the starch in the kernel gelatinizes and becomes pliable and soft. As one continues heating, the pressure and temperature inside the hull further increase and it ruptures. Once ruptured, the pressure inside the kernel drops, and the steam expands, causing the starch and proteins to develop into an airy foam. The foam cools fast, and the starch and proteins turn into the crispy piece of popcorn, that most of us enjoy eating. Hence, we can say that the key to a kernel explosion actually lies in the composition of its hull.

Why Doesn't it Always Pop?

As we know, it is the heat at an optimal rate that makes the popcorn pop. If the kernels are heated too slowly, they will remain unpopped as the steam will leak out. Besides this, kernels having excessive moisture in them do not pop well. For example, if you heat freshly harvested ones, which are high in moisture, you might end up eating unchewy or difficult to chew popcorn. Therefore, to pop them properly, kernels need to have the right amount of moisture in them, and should be heated at the right temperature. If either of these two requirements are not satisfied, it will not pop.

How to Pop Unpopped Popcorn?

Making popcorn from unpopped kernels is easy to do, and enables you to restrict the amount of fat used. You can also adjust the flavor by adding salt, butter, and other spices, as per your taste. Hence, the homemade version is healthy and low in calorie, and also serves as the best whole grain snack, that can satiate any salty craving.

Things Required
  • Skillet with lid: 2 inch deep
  • Canola oil: 1 tbsp.
  • Popcorn kernels: ¼ cup
  1. Put oil in the skillet, and heat for a minute or so on low-medium heat.
  2. Sprinkle the kernels into the skillet, and spread them evenly on the bottom of the pan in a single layer.
  3. Cover the skillet, and hold the skillet handle and lid carefully, and shake the pan to coat the kernels with oil.
  4. Allow the skillet to be on the burner, and shake it after every 30 - 60 seconds.
  5. As soon as the kernels start popping, start shaking the skillet continuously.
  6. When the popping slows down, turn off the burner, and remove the skillet.
  7. Once the kernels stop popping, remove the lid carefully, and transfer the popcorn into a bowl for serving.
Nutritional Facts
  • Calories in the unpopped version can range from a minimum 30 calories to maximum 500 calories. It all depends on the type you are eating, and the toppings you add to it. However, ¼ cup of unpopped popcorn has approximately 131 calories.
  • You will be surprised to know that it has more calories than a box of microwave popcorn. Generally, microwave ones have about 35-40 calories per serving.
  • It is good for health, and comprises 40 or more nutrients.
  • A popcorn kernel contains all the B complex vitamins, vitamin E, riboflavin and thiamine.
  • It has more protein than any other cereal grain, and provides more iron to our body than eggs, peanuts, spinach, or roast beef.
  • Its hull and outer layers are rich in phosphorus and proteins, and provide more fiber than potato chips, ice cream cones, or pretzels.
Try making normal or flavored unpopped popcorn at home by coating the kernels with an aqueous flavored liquid, and by using additional toppings. It is easy to make, as all you have to do is to maintain the moisture level required for popping, and within a few minutes, your delicious, crispy, and low-fat popcorn will be ready.