What Is Popcorn?

Popcorn is a type of corn kernel that pops and turns into puffs when it is exposed to heat. Corn can be popped by removing the kernels from the cob, drying them and placing them over a heat source, such as the stove. Popcorn can be popped in the microwave, with the aid of a microwave popcorn bag, or over an open flame. Home popcorn makers are also available. With these, hot air is blown into the machine to aid in the popping of the corn.

How Does Popcorn Pop?

Popcorn contains small amounts of oil and moisture inside the kernel. As the popcorn is heated, the moisture inside turns into a pressurized steam, which blows out of the popcorn as the starch in the popcorn kernel begins turning to a gelatinous consistency. Popcorn must be heated with a strong–but not too strong–heat source. If the popcorn is heated too quickly, the corn will burn instead of pop. If the popcorn is heated too slowly, the popcorn will not pop at all. To determine the best way to pop any popcorn you have purchased, read the instructions on the side of the label, which will be tailored for that specific type of product.

What Temperature Does Popcorn Pop?

According to NASA, the moisture inside the kernel turns to steam at about 450 degrees F before it bursts and turns inside-out. This is why popcorn will not pop on its own or when it is not directly exposed to a heat source. If the heat is much hotter than 450 degrees, the popcorn will singe before it pops. If the temperature is below 450 degrees, the popcorn will not pop because the moisture inside the kernels has not yet evaporated.