It can be difficult to sustain the light, crunchy texture that makes popcorn so delectable. Depending on your environment, air is usually too moist or too dry to preserve the crunchy texture of freshly popped kernels. Dry air makes popcorn brittle and flavorless over time, while moist air turns it dense and tough. Proper storage extends the shelf life of popcorn, enabling you to prepare snacks ahead of time or assemble delicious gifts tins of the ever-popular treat. The key to keeping popcorn fresh is regulating its exposure to moisture.
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Keep Unpopped Kernels Room Temperature
Store unpopped popcorn in a room-temperature environment. While some people believe that refrigerating unpopped kernels enhances their flavor, the colder temperature actually dries them out. Unpopped kernels still contain some moisture, which is vital to the popping process. The water in a dry kernel expands when you heat it, which causes the kernel to burst in to a light, fluffy piece of popcorn. Kernels that are too dry do not expand properly. Store unpopped popcorn in an airtight container or the microwave-ready bags it came in, and place the container in a dark, dry environment such as a pantry or cabinet.
Reserve Most Flavoring Ingredients
Store popped popcorn without liquid flavoring ingredients, such as butter or hot sauce. Add moist flavorings at a later date immediately before you serve the popcorn. Even a little excess moisture ruins popcorn's airy texture during storage. Reserve salt, as well. Salt draws moisture out of food, which alters the popcorn's texture. It's safe to sprinkle dry, salt-free seasonings, such as dry herbs or spices, on popped kernels before storage. Allow the popcorn to cool to room temperature before you cover and store it so you don't trap residual steam in the container, which would dampen the popcorn.
Select the Best Container
Keep popped popcorn in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid, to minimize its exposure to air. A resealable plastic bag works for storing popcorn, but a rigid container with a tight lid is a better choice. Plastic bags are relatively thin compared to rigid containers, so the bags are less effective at protecting the popped kernels from air. Metal tins -- like the tins in which commercial flavored popcorn is sold as gifts -- may be suitable for storing popcorn as long as the lids are tight-fitting. For the freshest results, apply a sheet of press-and-seal plastic wrap to the top of a popcorn-filled tin before placing the lid on the container.
Keep It Dark and Dry
Place the container of popcorn in a dark, dry environment such as a pantry or cabinet. Exposure to light may dry popcorn over time. Choose a storage space away from the sink or stove, the areas of the kitchen where steam is most likely to develop and make the environment unusually damp. It is safe to store popped popcorn up to two weeks. Eat it within one week for the best texture and flavor.