Featured Science & Tech — 03 November 2015

Why Do  Popcorn Pop

Popcorn is something that cheers us all up while we are a movie hall watching our favorite flick or at home cheering up our sports team on television. It is a great snack that almost everybody loves to have occasionally. However, some people get really amazed by the way these popcorn pop up while cooking. Even in the present century, some individuals believe in the spirit present in popcorn that gets angry and causes such bursting sound. While this may be a hilarious or hypothetical explanation behind the popping of popcorn, here is the actual scientific explanation for you.

Popcorn actually belongs to the grass family and is a type of maize or corn. While there are multiple types of corn, it is only this specific whole grain that pops up to create the bursting sound. This happens because popcorn’s pericarp or hull is of the right thickness that could allow it to burst. If you check every popcorn kernel, then it has a circle made of soft starch. This layer stores a water drop of small size.

The layer of soft starch is surrounded by a harder surface. It is only about 13 to 14 percent of moisture that has the ability to pop a kernel. This happens when it heats up and causes the water to expand and turn into steam at about 212 degrees. The starch starts taking a gelatinous form as the kernel heats up some more. When the pressure reaches a specific level, the hull bursts and causes the popping sound.

On bursting, you can see the steam releasing and soft starch being spilled out. Since the spill cools down very quick, we cannot generally notice the process. Finally, we get the desired fluffy shape of the kernels after they are swollen. This is the final product that we all find delicious and interesting to munch on. Now you can enjoy the process of cooking popcorn more, as you know the science behind it.


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Ruchika Pahwa

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