Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Jan 5, 2014 12:36 PM

Need some help with popping popcorn.

I purchased a new gas stove with the 17000BTU front burners. My old gas stove had the regular burners. My old aluminum popcorn popper, circa 1960(?) has always worked well on the old stove. My DH is the official popper and insisted on using the front power burner. The popcorn is coming out tough and some are partially popped. I have told him to use the gentle back burner, but he won't. Is there a scientific way to pop corn? I use white kernels only, like the taste. But want my tender popcorn back. We need an education in how to pop popcorn... Help!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Cooks Illustrated recently said to heat fat with three kernels, when they pop add all the kernels, turn of heat for 30 seconds. This gets all the kernels equally warm. Then turn heat to med-high and finish popping.

    (Paraphrased from memory.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Becca Porter

      This is what I do and it turns out great nearly every time. The burner needs to be at medium high heat not too hot. Add oil and 3 kernels, cover. When they pop, pour in the remaining kernels and shake the pot to coat with oil, cover and shake occasionally. When the kernels start popping, I vent the lid to let some of the team out which can make the popcorn tough.

      Scientific way to pop corn = heating of water. "Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. Popcorn needs between 13.5-14% moisture to pop. The soft starch is surrounded by the kernel's hard outer surface. As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand. Around 212 degrees the water turns into steam and changes the starch inside each kernel into a superhot gelatinous goop. The kernel continues to heat to about 347 degrees. The pressure inside the grain will reach 135 pounds per square inch before finally bursting the hull open. As it explodes, steam inside the kernel is released. The soft starch inside the popcorn becomes inflated and spills out, cooling immediately and forming into the odd shape we know and love. A kernel will swell 40-50 times its original size!"

      Also make sure your popcorn is not old as it will not have enough moisture.

    2. I have read that it is better to have a higher rate of temperature change than a lower one, in that if you gradually hit the popping temperature the kernel may not pop as fully.

      If you have issues with burning you might want to try using a Whirly Pop. I use mine on a 23K burner, and it's done in under a minute with no burnt kernels.

      1. In addition to the new stove, the freshness of the corn is a factor. Store your popcorn in a glass jar (preferably with a metal lid since plastic may be partially air-permeable) in the fridge or freezer to keep it fresher. If a large proportion of the kernels are "poopcorn", fill the jar with water, then pour the water out, shake the jar to get all the kernels damp, and return, sealed, to the fridge. The kernels absorb some of the water over a period of a few days. After that, transfer them to a clean, dry jar for continued refrigeration.

        1. I have always had great success with this technique -

          I hope it works for you!

          1. (-: We can give you advice, but can you get your DH to take it? I suspect (like you) that the flame is too high. Can't he turn it down on the front? I can easily understand why he wouldn't want to pop popcorn on a back burner.

            I use my soup pot, which has a heavy, stainless steel bottom. I pour in about three tablespoons of olive oil, and three popcorn kernels. I cover and heat on high (or medium high on my "power burner"). When the kernels pop, I add half a cup of kernels, cover again (there's a steam outlet on the lid), and shake every once in a while. I pay attention -- if things smell wrong, I take it off heat. If the popping seems oddly fast, I turn down the heat.

            When the popping slows down to one every five seconds or so, I take it off heat, still covered. I give it a good shake to make sure the unpopped kernels have contact with the still-hot heavy bottom.

            If you've remodelled your kitchen, there's a chance that you haven't had popcorn in quite awhile. Old popcorn won't pop as well as new popcorn, so keep that in mind with your experiments.