Nugget of Knowledge: Science behind popcorn

Popcorn pops in two shapes: snowflake and mushroom

Nugget of Knowledge

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – According to, we have four basic types of corn.

The first is field corn; our livestock eat it.

Flint corn is sometimes called Indian corn. It comes in many colors and is mostly used for decoration.

We’re most familiar with sweet corn or corn on the cob. It’s the kind we eat. It’s almost all soft starch, and it will never pop.

And, finally, popcorn!

Popcorn is a whole grain, and it’s the only grain that pops. Its hull has just the right thickness to allow it to burst open.

Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water inside a pocket of soft starch. The hard outer surface surrounds the starch.

As you heat the kernel, the water expands, turns to steam, the pressure builds and the hull bursts open. Like magic, you’ve got popcorn.

Compared to most snack foods, popcorn is low in calories. It’s only 55 per cup, popped in oil. It’s also very high in fiber, very low in fat, with no salt and no sugar.

Most popcorn comes in two basic shapes when it’s popped: snowflake and mushroom.

Movie theaters and ballparks use snowflake because it looks and pops bigger. Mushroom popcorn goes into candy because it doesn’t crumble.

Americans on average, eat 68 quarts of popcorn a year.

The unpopped kernels at the bottom of your bowl are called “old maids”.

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