Perfectly Popped

What’s POPPIN’? Sounds like…snacktime!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Ding! Popcorn’s ready! But oh no! It’s either burnt or there’s tons of unpopped kernels . . . or BOTH!! How do you guarantee perfectly popped, fluffy goodness every time?

Enter Marcelo Akita Saito at the State University of Maringà in Brazil and colleagues!

The researchers popped nearly fifty types of corn…and listened carefully! When heated, the kernel gives off a vibration in the form of a sound wave. The soundwave helps measure how quickly the heat travels through the kernel. The team recorded the soundwave and used it to compare how well heat transfers to different corn types, causing it to expand. 

Results? The OUTER layer of the kernel plays a big role on how heat transfers to the INNER layer. That hard little shell that always gets stuck in your teeth is important! It was found that thicker is better when it comes to pop-ability! 

Finding perfect popping potential can help farmers grow higher quality popcorn.

You too can make perfect popcorn – just LISTEN! 

Reference: Saito, M. A., Alves, A. V., Barth Pinto, R. J. et al. Influence of agronomic and kernel-related properties on popping expansion in popcorn. Agronomy Journal, 1-13 (2021).