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Why Is My Popcorn Chewy?


Does your homemade popcorn feel stale to the bite? If so, you might be wondering why this keeps happening and how to avoid it.

Friends, you’re not alone in this! Getting the right texture for your popcorn can be tricky and frustrating sometimes!

The top reason your homemade popcorn is chewy is most likely because of trapped steam. To make the popcorn crispy, try leaving the lid of your pot ajar while the kernels are popping.  

Other reasons for chewy popcorn could be using too much oil, putting the kernels in prematurely, the list goes on, and we’ll talk about them all in detail here!

Too Much Steam

A bowl of popcorn

Science time!

Every popcorn kernel contains a tiny pouch of water inside of it. When heated, that pouch of water inside the kernel turns into steam, which creates enough pressure for the kernel to eventually pop.

Once the kernel pops, steam will start to build up. Without proper ventilation, you’ll create excess moisture inside the pot. This extra moisture is what makes your popcorn feel stale and chewy.

To prevent this from happening, remember to leave the lid of your pot slightly open once the kernels start popping. The opening will allow some of the steam to escape, preventing moisture build-up and making your popcorn crispy and scrumptious!

Too Much Oil

Popcorn in the wooden bowl

Oil-drenched kernels will pop poorly. And eventually, when they do pop, they’ll be swimming in loads of oil, which will make your popcorn soggy and less crunchy. 

To avoid this, stick to using less oil. The recommended oil to kernel ratio is two tablespoons of oil per half cup of kernels. That’s one tablespoon of oil for every one-quarter cup of kernels.

The Kernel Is Too Old

Popcorn and popcorn kernel

Popcorn kernels have a shelf life of about six months to a year. Go past that, and they will eventually lose their pocket of moisture inside if left out for too long. If you try to pop them, they might pop horribly.

With all things food, remember that fresh is best. So if you buy yourself a pack of unpopped kernels, be sure to not let them sit out for too long on the shelf!

Reheating Chewy Popcorn

Even day-old popcorn is still good popcorn—if you’re desperately hungry, that is. But you can make popcorn infinitely more edible with the help of a few tricks!

Here are some ways to revive popcorn that has gone stale.

By microwave

A glass bowl of popcorn in microwave

The easiest way to reheat stale and chewy popcorn is by microwaving it.

One thing to note is that not all microwaves are equal. Different models require different settings. But it’s good to follow some general rules when microwaving stale popcorn:

  1. Put the stale popcorn in a microwave-safe container and place a moist, microwave-safe paper towel on top of it.
  2. Place the popcorn in the microwave.
  3. Heat it for 20-30 seconds.
  4. Take it out of the microwave and check if it’s crispy enough.
  5. Once you’re satisfied with the crunchiness, your popcorn is now ready to serve!  

By oven

Using oven

Reheating your old popcorn using an oven restores the crispiness way better than a microwave does. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Start by preheating your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. While the oven is preheating, place parchment paper on an oven tray and spread the popcorn over the sheet.
  3. Toss the popcorn in the oven and heat it for about 5 minutes.
  4. Check once in a while to ensure the popcorn doesn’t overcook.
  5. Once the timer runs out, slide the tray out and check if the crispiness is to your liking.
  6. Transfer the popcorn to a bowl and serve it hot and fresh!

By pan

Reheat popcorn by pan

If you feel like a microwave won’t cut it, you can reheat your stale popcorn in a pan or deep pot if you don’t have an oven. The steps are pretty much the same as popping fresh kernels. 

  1. Preheat your pot or pan, and then drizzle in some high heat oil (grapeseed, canola, safflower, etc.).
  2. Let the oil heat for a short while, and then add the popcorn.
  3. Put the lid on but keep a bit of ventilation open to avoid trapping in too much moisture.
  4. Once the popcorn is crispy enough, take it out of the pot and serve it in a bowl.

Other Popcorn Mistakes To Look Out For

Chewy popcorn isn’t the only common problem some of us have. Sometimes, it may even be a combination of these issues below. 

Using the wrong oil

Oil and popcorn kernel

You can’t just use any oil for popcorn—you have to use neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point. Some good options for oil are canola, safflower, or vegetable oil. 

If you use olive oil or butter, which have relatively low smoke points, your popcorn will end up with a burnt taste.

Unpopped kernels

Popcorn kernel

Seeing kernel seeds at the bottom of your bowl is too common for popcorn eaters. But what if we told you that it’s possible to have a bowl filled with fully popped kernels?

The key to popping all the kernels is to distribute heat evenly. And the way to do that is by using a stainless steel bowl—a technique used by renowned chef Alton Brown

By using a stainless steel bowl, the kernels and oil will gather at the bottom where the heat is highest, while the popped kernels remain at the top, allowing the heat to focus on the unpopped ones.  

Using regular salt

Salted popcorn

Regular table salt has fairly large grains which won’t stick to the nooks and crannies of your popped kernel. 

To create a perfectly salt-infused popcorn batch, it’s always good to use popcorn salt. 

If you don’t have any at home, you can simply grind down kosher salt to powder using your food processor. 

Conclusion

Mastering your popcorn-making skills is one sweet party trick you can show off to your friends when you have them over! 

Keep the above tips in mind, and you might just concoct the best-tasting movie theater snack ever!


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