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How to Store Unpopped Popcorn

How to Store Unpopped Popcorn

People seem to be confused about how to store unpopped popcorn kernels so they will pop up well. It's actually pretty simple: since popcoorn depends up a specific amount of moisture inside each kernel to pop up when heat, it is important to keep the popcorn from drying out!

The Bottom Line

Store unpopped popcorn in a a sealed container in a cool preferably dark place, away from heat sources or sunlight.

Cool means in the general range of 50 to 74 F ( 10 C to 24 C).

Sealed container: A glass mason jar with a screw on lid is idea, but other non-porous containers . Vacuum food bags are also good!

Locations: Long term: cool basement is ideal. Avoid refrigerators because moisture in the container could condense if the environment was humid when you opened the container before resealing. Definitely do not store in the freezer. Freezing water expands so it could rupture the internal structure of the kernels.

For most of us, a kitchen pantry is fine, and you will see no noticeable diminishment in popping or quality for many months.

Best popping method

We've tested every imaginable popping device: air poppers, stove top, mini-movie theater style kettles and by far the best quality and consistency with with an inexpensive silicon microwave popper. They last for years and do not even require any added oil (although you can add oil, butter or flavorings if you like). See the box at right!

And the best corn for popping? We're partial to Hoosier Hill, which is a great all-round variety at a great price and delivered to your home. Note: that they call it a "Mushroom" type but it really is a mix of mushroom and butterfly types.

Recovering old popcorn

If you have old popcorn which has dried out, You may be able to resurrect it. Try adding 1 tablespoon of water to a quart of popcorn kernels. Cover and shake at frequent (say, every 10-15 inutes) intervals until the popcorn has absorbed the water. Then, after 3 or 4 days, test pop a few kernels to see if it is ready. If it isn't, add a little more water and repeat the process until the popcorn pops well.

The details (if you want them!)

Popcorn requires a fairly specific amount of moisture in order to generate the steam to pop the kernel open. Perdue University tells us the ideal moisture content of popcorn is 13% to 14.5%, with 13.5% being optimum. Too much or too little variance from they level at which you buy the popcorn will harm the popping and quality! Farmers let the ears dry, usually on the stalks until they reach this level.

This moisture is important because when you heat the kernels, the moisture inside the kernel turns to steam in an explosive reaction and turns the seed inside out. Too much moisture and the kernel rots. To little and the kernel fails to pop or only partially. tells us:

Around 212 degrees the water turns into steam and changes the starch inside each kernel into a superheated gelatinous substance. The kernel continues to heat to about 347 degrees. The pressure inside the grain will reach 135 pounds per square inch before finally bursting the hull open.
As it explodes, steam inside the kernel is released. The soft starch inside the popcorn becomes inflated and spills out, cooling immediately and forming into the odd shape we know and love.

Types of popcorn

There are 2 general types of popcorn:

  • Butterfly-type kernels that pop open and look like they have 2 wings or more sticking out. This is the most common type used at home and in movie theaters.
  • Mushroom-type kernels that pop up as big round balls and are best for making kettle corn since there are no "wings" to break off while stirring in the kettle.

Want to grow your own popcorn?

Here are some seed companies who sell popcorn seeds to retail consumers.

Variety Kernel color Days to harvest Source
Heirloom rainbow Multi-colored 100 days Harley Seeds (via Amazon)
Mini Blue Dark blue 100 days Dave's Gardens (via Amazon)
Gourmet Mushroom F1 Yellow 103 days Harris Seeds
Robust Yellow 110 days Dave's Gardens (via Amazon)
Ruby Red Dark red 110 days Johnny's Select
Shaman's Blue Purplish blue 112 days Johnny's Select
Strawberry Dark red 100 days Stokes Seed Inc.
Tom Thumb Yellow 85 days Johnny's Select
Top Pop F1 Yellow 100 days Harris Seeds