Chemistry of Popping Popcorn

Chemistry of Popping Popcorn

If you’re like me, you loathe having to pick out the unpopped kernels from a big stack of popcorn. Now, one of the most powerful techniques in chemical science, X-ray diffraction, could lead to a much more satisfying experience next time you settle down with a bucket of popcorn. The technique has provided new insights into why some popcorn kernels pop and why others are dysfunctional.

According to Bruce Hamaker, crystallographer Rangaswamy Chandrasekaran and colleagues at the Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research and Department of Food Science, Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, moisture loss from popcorn kernels is the underlying cause of much disappointment and broken teeth for fans of the puffed corn product. There can be no worse sensation than when reaching the bottom of a bucket of popcorn you pluck out a few unpopped kernels rather than the expanded seeds. Indeed, unpopped kernels could be said to be one of life’s great tragedies. More…

Meanwhile, the chemistry of popping popcorn aside, here’s a video showing you how to make popcorn with your iPhone:

UPDATE: Lifehacker has a nice simple method on how to filter out the unpopped kernels from microwaveable popcorn.

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