why do popcorn kernels pop when heated
Popcorn has been a popular snack for thousands of years. Remnants of the tasty treat have been found in Mexico dating back to 3600 BC. Popcorn pops because each popcorn kernel is special. Here s a look at what makes popcorn different from other seeds and how popcorn pops. Popcorn kernels contain oil and water with starch, surrounded by a hard and strong outer coating. When popcorn is heated, the water inside the kernel tries to expand into steam, but it cannot escape through the seed coat (the popcorn hull or pericarp). The hot oil and steam gelatinizes the starch inside the popcorn kernel, making it softer and more pliable. When the popcorn reaches
of 180 C (356 F),б inside the kernel is around 135 psi (930 kPa), which is sufficient pressure to rupture the popcorn hull, essentially turning the kernel inside-out. The pressure inside the kernel is released very quickly, expanding and starch inside the popcorn kernel into, which cools and sets into the familiar popcorn puff. A popped piece of corn is about 20 to 50 times larger than the original kernel. If popcorn is heated too slowly, it won t pop because steam leaks out of the tender tip of the kernel. If popcorn is heated too quickly, it will pop, but the center of each kernel will be hard because the starch hasn t had time to gelatinize and form a foam.
Originally, popcorn was made by directly heating the kernels. Bags of microwave popcorn are a bit different because the energy comes from microwaves rather than infrared radiation. The energy from the microwaves makes the water molecules in each kernel move faster, exerting more pressure on the hull until the kernel explodes. The bag that microwave popcorn comes in helps trap and moisture so the corn can pop more quickly. Each bag is lined with flavors so when a kernel pops, it strikes the side of the bag and gets coated. Some microwave popcorn presents not encountered with regular popcorn, because the flavorings are also affected by the microwave and get into the air. Does All Corn Pop? Popcorn that you buy at the store or grow as popcorn for a garden is a special variety of corn. The usual cultivated strain is Zea mays everta, which is a type of flint corn. Some wild or heritage strains of corn will also pop. The most common types of popcorn have white or yellow pearl-typeб kernels, although white, yellow, mauve, red, purple, and variegated colors are available in both pearl and rice shapes. Even the right strain of corn won t pop unless its moisture content has a moisture content around 14-15%.
Freshly harvested corn pops, but the resulting popcorn will be chewy and. Two other common types of corn are sweet corn and field corn. If these types of corn are dried so they have the right moisture content, a small number of kernels will pop. However, the corn that pops won t be as fluffy as regular popcorn and will have a different flavor. Attempting to pop field corn using oil is more likely to produce a snack more like Corn NutsБ, where the corn kernels expand but don t break apart. Do Other Grains Pop? Popcorn is not the only grain that pops! Sorghum, quinoa, millet, and amaranth grain all puff up when heated as the pressure from expanding steam breaks open the seed coat. Half the fun of popcorn is watching it turn from a hard, little yellow seed into a white fluffy treat. Few foods take such a dramatic turn as popcorn does while it s cooking. Standing in the kitchen waiting for your popcorn to finish, an awesome spectacle is unfurling before you. For centuries people have been fascinated by popcorn. Early Native Americans believed a spirit lived inside each kernel of popcorn. When heated, the spirit grew angry, burst out of its home, and fled into the air as a disgruntled puff of steam.
A less charming but more scientific explanation exists for why popcorn pops. Popcorn is a whole grain. It is made up of (also known as hull). Of the only popcorn pops. Popcorn differs from other types of corn in that its hull has just the right thickness to allow it to (eventually) burst open. Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. 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 superheated gelatinous substance. 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 single kernel can swell to 40-50 times its original size! The first bit of starch that emerges forms a leg of sorts, which catapults the kernel like a gymnast as the remaining starch spills out. This is why popcorn jumps as it cooks.
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