Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Question of the Week

Today is National Popcorn Day! 

Do you know why popcorn pops?

Answer:  Popcorn must have 2 important properties to pop:
  • The moisture in each kernel must be close to 13.5%.
  • The kernels must not be cracked or damaged in any way.

How does it work?  When popcorn kernels are heated, the moisture inside turns to steam.  The steam expands and breaks the outer hull, turning the kernel inside out with a popping noise.  Voila! you have fluffy popcorn.

What can go wrong?  If the kernels do not have enough moisture, the steam does not build up enough pressure to pop.  If there is too much moisture, the kernels pop into dense spheres instead of fluffy popcorn.  If the hulls are cracked or damaged, the steam will escape gradually... with maybe a hiss, but not a pop.

What about other grains?  So why can't we pop wheat, rice or regular corn? Popcorn hulls are nonporous, allowing pressure to build up as the moisture is heated.  Other grains have porous hulls which allows the steam to escape gradually.  Pressure does not build up so no popping occurs.

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