A lack of moisture is the number one reason why your popcorn pops too small. It’s normal for a popcorn kernel to pop to 40 to 50 times its original size. But when the moisture level of kernels is too low, they’ll pop to a disappointing size.
There’s no need to stress about your popcorn’s size, though, as there are some easy ways to make it pop bigger, including adding a little water to the kernels.
So, if you’re struggling to make popcorn that’s impressive in size and taste, look no further, as this guide will ensure you never make small popcorn again.
How Do You Make Popcorn Pop Bigger?
Big popcorn should melt in your mouth and be fluffy and morish. A few of our tried and tested tips to make popcorn pop bigger are:
- Soak the popcorn kernels – if your popcorn kernels are old and have lost some of their moisture content, try soaking them in a bowl of water for 10 minutes. Then all you need to do is drain them and pop them as normal.
- Buy fresher popcorn kernels – As a general rule, popcorn kernels are best when they’re popped and eaten within 6 to 12 months of purchase. If soaking old popcorn kernels doesn’t work, it’s time to buy new, fresher kernels.
- Preheat the oil – you can pop popcorn in a variety of oils. But you should always preheat the oil to 400 to 460°F as this is the optimum temperature to pop popcorn. This temperature will give you perfect big puffs of popcorn every time.
- Store kernels in an air-tight container – bulk buying popcorn kernels is a great way to save money and ensure you’ve got a good supply of popcorn to always satisfy your cravings.
Many brands sell their popcorn kernels in bags. Once these bags are opened, the air gets inside them, and the kernels will gradually lose their moisture. Always transfer kernels to a zip-lock bag or air-tight container.
Why Does My Popcorn Not Pop Big?
It’s not always easy to work out why your popcorn doesn’t pop big. It could be for a variety of reasons, including one of the following issues:
- The kernels are old and dry – the ideal moisture content of popcorn is between 13% and 14.5 %. Kernels that have been sitting in the back of your cupboard for a while are likely to have lost some of their moisture and may not pop as big as they once would have.
- The kernels haven’t been cooked at the right temperature – If the temperature of your popcorn maker isn’t high enough, your kernels either won’t pop, or they’ll only partially pop, leaving you with small, unappetizing popcorn.
- The kernels are too moist – it’s not just a lack of moisture you have to worry about. Too much moisture is just as much of a problem. A quick and easy way to test to see whether popcorn kernels are too moist is to prick them with your nail. If there’s a visible dent in the kernel, it’s too moist to pop.
- You’ve used too much oil – oil is heavy. If you put too much oil in the pan with your kernels, they’ll soak up the excess and become too moist. Generally, you need 2 tablespoons of oil per half a cup of popcorn kernels.
Why is My Popcorn Small and Chewy?
Small and chewy popcorn is the worst kind of popcorn and is far from enjoyable. The main reasons why your popcorn is small and chewy are:
- Trapped steam during cooking – this is most likely to happen when you cook popcorn on the stove. When the steam builds up in the pot, moisture is created. As your kernels go to pop, the popcorn will absorb this steam, which will result in small and chewy pieces of popcorn. You can prevent this from happening by using an alternative way to cook your popcorn. Or, if stovetop popcorn is your favorite, use a pan with a hole in the lid that lets the steam escape.
- You didn’t shake the popcorn – This is another problem that’s more likely to occur with stovetop popcorn. You should give popcorn a shake while it’s cooking as it helps to distribute the oil and the heat evenly. Forgetting to do this will result in a bowl of chewy popcorn that varies in size.
- The oil quantity is wrong – we’ve already explained that too much oil can cause small popcorn. But it can make your popcorn chewy, too. Similarly, if you don’t use enough oil, it won’t coat the popcorn appropriately and will make it chewier to eat.
- Poor heating method – popcorn should be cooked over medium heat. Too high heat will force the popcorn to pop prematurely. Using low heat will increase moisture loss and result in chewy popcorn.
- You make your popcorn too early – perhaps you’re serving popcorn up at a party or will be handing out bags of popcorn as wedding favors. It’s great to be prepared, but if you pop your popcorn too early or don’t store it correctly, the air will dry it out and make it chewy.
The best thing you can do is pop popcorn as close to the time you want to eat it as possible. If you do need to pop it early, make sure you store it in an air-tight container to keep it fresh, tasty, and crispy.
Small popcorn is a sign that something has gone wrong in the cooking process. There are many different reasons why your popcorn isn’t as big as you expected it to be. The good news is that there are lots of solutions to this problem. So, the next time you wonder why your popcorn pops too small, head back to this guide to find out how to make it pop bigger.