If you have a paper lunch bag, a dried corncob, and a microwave, you can pop your own popcorn on the cob in just a few minutes.
A few notes: You don’t have to use butter or oil if you want to skip that step. We’ve also popped a cob with just one paper bag for 2 minutes. Experiment to find out what works in your microwave so that your cob doesn’t smolder and burn. It can help to listen for when the popping slows down, and remember, the bag is hot when you open it!
But what’s going on inside each kernal? From Popcorn.org:
“Popcorn needs heat to pop. Most popcorn will pop when the kernel’s internal temperature reaches 400-460 degrees Fahrenheit. Bound within the endosperm or starch is moisture. When the kernel is heated, the moisture turns to steam. Because the pericarp or hull is hard and flinty, pressure builds up within the kernel. The starch inside the kernel becomes soft like gelatin and the moisture vaporizes until the pressure in the kernel reaches 135 pounds per square inch. The pressure increases until the pericarp or hull ruptures and the gelatinized starch granules puff out. The kernel literally turns inside out. The starch or endosperm is the white part of the popped kernel and the pericarp or hull is the darker, flaky bit at the center of the kernel.”
Watch more popcorn videos including Popcorn Under A Microscope, a science and history short by NPR’s Skunk Bear.
Related reading: The Serious Eats Guide to Corn.
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