Science Fair Project - What Makes Popcorn Pop
What Is Popcorn - How is Popcorn Different from "Corn"
Popcorn is actually very much a corn, like the field corn that is grown in many areas of the United States. It is grown in much the same way, and harvested in a couple of ways. The traditional farmer's combine can do the job, which not only picks the ears of corn off the stalk, but shells the corn off the cob at the same time. The kernels are then put in a dryer so they can be reduced to the optimum moisture level, much as field corn is dried.
Alternatively, it can be picked with the ear intact and kept for drying for several months (up to a year), and then shelled and sorted for an adequate size kernel for popping.
Popcorn differs from normal field corn in that it has a smaller kernel, and the shell forms a tight seal around the soft starchy center. Generally the kernels of field corn are much larger than those of popcorn.
Slow Motion Kernel Popping
Questions Answered on Popping Pop Corn
How Does Popcorn Pop?
The soft starchy middle of popcorn kernels have been dried to achieve the proper moisture levels for popping. The kernel is gradually heated for popping in a variety of ways. It can be heated directly with hot air in a hot air popper, or in a bed of heated oil or fat (this is the common approach used at the movie theaters, for example). This also flavors the final popcorn product as well.
Microwave popcorn heats in a slightly different manner as a microwave heats not only the oil, but the moisture in the popcorn kernel directly. For this reason microwave popcorn tends to pop more completely (fewer unpopped kernels) and the volume of the popcorn tends to be slightly larger as well. You can see more about the design of microwave popcorn in this early patent filing. If the subject fascinates you, you may even want to try a science experiment of the statistics of popcorn popping. Enjoy your popcorn!
How Does Your Family Pop Popcorn?See results without voting
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