Why is my popcorn chewy and rubbery? The main reason popcorn turns out chewy is because steam is trapped in the pot while the popcorn kernels are popping. Fix this by using a well-vented lid or leave the pan slightly open to make a light and crispy popcorn.
Why does this happen?
Time for some farmer-meets-science information about popcorn. Each popcorn kernel of popcorn contains a small amount of water stored inside a circle of soft starch.
As the kernel heats up, the water expands, building pressure against the hard starch surface. Eventually, this thin outer layer gives way, causing the popcorn to explode. As it explodes, the soft starch inside the popcorn becomes inflated and bursts, turning the kernel inside out and releasing steam.
Yep. As your popcorn kernels heat up, the moisture inside the kernels heats up and turns into steam. That steam can collect in the pot or the popper. That can lead to excess moisture in the pot or popper if they are not properly ventilated.
If you're using a pot with a lid, it helps to lift the lid slightly to let the steam out. Or place the lid slightly off the edge of the pot, to create a gap in the seal between the lid and the pan, in order to allow the steam to escape.
Mixing oil and water
Oil also matters in the popping process. The old saying that oil and water don’t mix is true - but actually popping popcorn in oil helps in this case. The oil can coat the popped corn and then helps repel the moisture from the kernel, essentially acting as a protective barrier to your crunchy snack.
But be warned: Using too much oil can also be the reason for chewy popcorn. (We have run into this while testing popcorn oils.) In general, 1 tablespoon of oil for 1/4 cup or so of popcorn kernels tends to be a good ratio to keep your popcorn from getting too chewy.
Proper heat and shakin'
Regardless of how you pop your popcorn, it is important that you heat the kernels evenly. If you have your heat too high and don't agitate (or shake) your pan steadily, the kernels can be too still and you can burn one side of the kernel. That will mean your kernel will pop too early - or not pop at all. (Boo!)
But if you heat the kernel too slowly, the moisture can leak out of the kernels and the popcorn starch will overcook and taste a little rubbery.
So remember to shake, shake, shake your popcorn pot to keep your kernels moving and the heat distributing evenly.
Popcorn sitting out in the open too long
Make sure you pop your popcorn before you're going to eat it. (Meaning, not an hour or two before, unless it's part of a specific recipe.) Freshly popped popcorn can absorbs humidity from the air, which means it can lose its crispness and it can become chewy.
Sounds weird, but it is true. This can be a real hurdle for folks living in humid areas.
Store your popcorn kernels properly
One of the biggest problems - and one of the easiest problems to fix - is how you store your popcorn kernels. Keep your popcorn kernels in a tightly sealed container or bag in your pantry, kitchen cabinet, or somewhere cool and dry.
Don’t leave the container with popcorn open, and don’t store it in your refrigerator or freezer or in a moist basement. Why? Because storing your unpopped popcorn properly means you are preserving the moisture level in the popcorn kernels and helps make sure that they pop.
Want to stock up on our delicious popcorn kernels and make popcorn at home? Buy your popcorn here.