Boiled Popcorn: How to Make It!

  • Author: Sue Dorrens
  • Published: August 4, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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Popcorn makes a delicious snack; the traditional way to make it is by microwaving the kernels in a store-bought bag. But can you boil popcorn? Absolutely!

Boiling is a preferred method if you crave unpopped popcorn with a soft outer shell. Plus, it avoids unedible, unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag due to a lack of moisture inside of each kernel.

This method of cooking popcorn leads to a softer, tender texture with a longer cooking time. The boiling process heats each kernel on the bottom of the pan, which then rises and is kept away from direct heat to reduce burning.

Continue reading to explore how to boil popcorn and some general popcorn-making tips.

Can You Boil Popcorn?

Yes. Boiling popcorn reduces the amount of pressure within the popcorn and leads to half-popped popcorn.

The excess moisture from the water also prevents any foam from forming. This creates a softer texture as opposed to a crunchy texture.

Here’s how to make boiled popcorn:

  • Place the kernels into boiling water and leave them for around 30 minutes
  • Remove the kernels, and leave them to dry
  • Pop the kernels in the microwave, stove, air popper or air fryer

The Science Behind Boiled Popcorn

A kernel contains mainly starch with a small amount of water and has a strong outer shell called a pericarp. Once the temperature surrounding a kernel increases, the water inside heats up.

Once the water reaches boiling point, it turns to steam, which acquires more space than liquid. This steam causes the hard outer shell to soften but not pop, creating a fluffy consistency.

Tips on Boiling Popcorn

After boiling your popcorn, place the kernels in a popping bowl with a cover or a microwave-safe bag. Listen out for the popping sound, and remove them from the microwave as soon as it slows down. Otherwise, the kernels will burn.

Additionally, make sure that the water is already boiling before you drop in the popcorn. And check there’s enough liquid to fill every piece.

Can I Use an Oven Instead of Microwave for Popcorn?

Popcorn must be shaken vigorously throughout the heating process and kept in oil to increase the temperature rapidly for the desired crunch. As a result, oven popcorn doesn’t work the same as a microwave and won’t pop. Using an oven will just result in burnt popcorn kernels that haven’t popped.

Instead, stick to a microwave because they have the exact energy required for agitation (the process of increasing the temperature quickly).

Alternatively, you can use a stovetop to make homemade popcorn, and here’s how to do it:

  • Coat the entire bottom of a pan in cooking oil
  • Add a layer of popcorn onto the oil, ensuring no popcorn is layered
  • Set the temperature to medium-high, and shake the pot using circular motions
  • Once the first kernels pop, add a lid, and continue shaking
  • When the popping sound reduces to 2–5 seconds in between pops, remove the pan from the stovetop
  • Allow to cool slightly, and top with butter and salt

Can I Pop Boiled Popcorn in an Air Fryer?

boil popcorn in air fryer

The good news is yes! Similar to an air popper, air fryers use hot air to heat food. These appliances also require a lot less oil than an oven without any chance of carcinogens in your popcorn that a microwave can produce.

  • Thoroughly coat your boiled popcorn in oil (around 1 teaspoon per ¼ cup of popcorn)
  • Add the popcorn to a single layer in your air fryer – use tin foil as a base for your kernels
  • Set the appliance to 390F (200C) for 5 minutes.
  • Check for unpopped kernels and cook again for further 2 minutes until everything is popped

Make sure to keep a close eye on your popcorn the first time you make it so you can get to know your cooker better as every model is different.

Only use one scarce layer as popped corn will quickly fill your basket and make it harder for the other kernels to get up to temperature if you put too much in.

If you like butter on your popcorn, you can melt this in a baking pan directly after pre-heat and before you pop your corn.

How to Fix Chewy Popcorn

If you’re trying to avoid chewy popcorn, boiling it might not be the best cooking method since all kernels won’t pop. However, here are some successful ways to prevent chewy popcorn and increase the crunch:

Don’t Let the Popcorn Sit For Too Long

Popcorn is delicious, so why would anyone not want to eat it right away anyway? But leaving it to sit for an hour or two after the kernels have popped means that the popcorn will absorb any humidity in the air. This leads to a chewy texture as well as a colder temperature.

Store Your Kernels with Care

One of the easiest ways to fix chewy popcorn is to store your kernels properly. Keep them in an airtight container, or, if they’re already open in a bag, seal them shut and transfer them to a tub.

Store the kernels in a dry and cool environment, such as in a kitchen cabinet. Avoid storing them in the fridge or freezer or anywhere too cold since this will increase the moisture levels in the air, preventing them from popping.

Cook Popcorn with the Lid Off

You can try cooking with the lid off for extra light and crispy popcorn. This way steam escapes more quickly and with a well-vented lid, leaves crispy popcorn for you to enjoy.

Final Thoughts

If you want to switch up how you make popcorn, try a different method: boiling the kernels. This process creates half-popped popcorn with a mixture of softer, chewy textures and tough kernels.

Happy popcorn-making!

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