Why Do Some Popcorn Kernels Not Pop? ( Mystery Solved )

  • Author: Alex Cooper
  • Published: March 13, 2023
  • Time to read: 3 min.

Popcorn is one of the most popular popcorn snacks. Popcorn kernels are often popped in a popcorn maker or microwaved, and then eaten as-is or with salt and butter. But what about popcorn kernels that don’t pop? Why does this happen, and how can we prevent it? If you’re looking for popcorn answers, keep reading!

It actually comes down to one simple reason: water.

Popcorn is popcorn because of the moisture content. The popcorn needs to be about 14% water in order to pop, but some kernels can contain as little as 12%.

When a kernel doesn’t pop, it means that there wasn’t enough water for the popcorn’s starch and protein coatings to expand during popping. Water-soaked popcorn becomes too moist which can also prevent the kernel from popping.

As well as the water content within your kernels, the hull can also have an effect on whether your popcorn kernel will actually pop. The hull of a popcorn kernel is the crispy outside layer that encases what’s inside.

When heated, it turns into an airtight seal to help contain any water escaping from within (unless there are leaks). At 212 degrees Fahrenheit, water trapped in kernels boils and becomes steam which pushes against the tightened outer shell; as soon as pressure reaches 347 degrees F – POP!

So that’s basically it. In order for the popcorn to pop, there needs to be enough water available in a kernel’s starch and protein coatings – without it, they simply won’t expand during popping.

Why do some kernels not pop?

There are several reasons why some popcorn kernels may not pop:

  • Moisture content: Popcorn kernels contain a small amount of water inside their hulls. If the kernel is too dry, it may not have enough moisture to create the necessary pressure buildup to pop. Conversely, if the kernel is too moist, it may not pop properly.
  • Temperature: Popcorn kernels require a specific temperature range to pop. If the temperature is too low, the kernel may not pop at all, or it may only partially pop. If the temperature is too high, the kernel may burn before it has a chance to pop.
  • Age: Popcorn kernels can become stale over time, which can affect their ability to pop. As kernels age, they lose moisture and become harder, which can make it more difficult for them to pop.
  • Quality: The quality of the popcorn kernel can also affect its ability to pop. Low-quality kernels may be more likely to have defects or inconsistencies that can prevent them from popping properly.
  • Storage: Popcorn kernels should be stored in a cool, dry place to prevent moisture from building up inside the hull. If the kernels are stored in a humid environment, they may not pop properly.

Overall, popcorn kernels that do not pop are usually due to one of these factors or a combination of them. However, it’s important to note that even under ideal conditions, there may be a few kernels that do not pop.


Why don’t all popcorn kernels pop?

Not all popcorn kernels pop because of natural variations in the kernels themselves, as well as differences in the conditions under which they are popped. Popcorn kernels contain a small amount of moisture inside their hulls, and when they are heated to a specific temperature, the moisture turns into steam, creating pressure inside the kernel. As the pressure builds, the hull eventually ruptures, causing the kernel to “pop” into the fluffy, white snack we all know and love.

However, there can be variations in the moisture content of different kernels, as well as differences in the temperature and timing of the heating process. Some kernels may be too dry or too moist, which can affect their ability to pop. Additionally, if the temperature is too low or too high, or if the popcorn is not heated for the right amount of time, some kernels may not pop at all or only partially pop.

There can also be natural variations in the thickness and durability of the hulls, which can affect how easily the steam can build up pressure inside the kernel. In some cases, the hull may be too tough or too thin, making it difficult for the kernel to pop.

Overall, while most popcorn kernels will pop under the right conditions, there can be natural variations in the kernels themselves, as well as differences in the popping process, that can affect their ability to pop uniformly.

Check out everything you need to know about popcorn kernels next.

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