woman and young boy looking at cream popcorn popper

Popcorn Not Popping? Here Are Some Possible Reasons

Popcorn not popping is one of the most disappointing things ever, so we took it upon ourselves to explain what causes this so you can avoid it in the future.

Picture this: It’s Friday night, the family’s all together, and you’ve just put some kernels in your stovetop popcorn popper to make popcorn for your weekly movie marathon.

But a few minutes in, you open the lid and discover that most of them didn’t pop (cue horror music). Now what?

In this blog post, we explore potential reasons behind popcorn not popping and what you can do about it. Let’s get into it: 

Why Is My Popcorn Not Popping?

Here’s what could be causing your kernels to stay unpopped:

Excess Moisture (or a Lack of It)

man scoops kernels from a glass jar

One likely reason your kernels aren’t popping is because they lack moisture. Every kernel has water inside it. When exposed to enough heat, the water turns into steam. This steam makes the kernel’s shell — its hull — pop and turn into the fluffy white goodness you know as popcorn. 

So if you take moisture out of the equation, your kernels won’t burst. This is usually the case for old kernels, but it can also happen when you keep exposing them to sunlight.

Too much moisture, however, can also stop your popcorn from popping. It needs to be at around 14% moisture. Anything lower or higher, and the kernels won’t pop properly (if at all).

Now how can you even tell whether a kernel is too moist or not moist enough? 

You can use a moisture meter or hygrometer if you have one, but your fingernail also does the trick. All you need to do is press it into a kernel. If it leaves a dent, it’s got too much moisture. If your nail doesn’t leave a dent but the kernel still doesn’t pop, it’s too dry.

Not Enough Oil 

Woman smiles while young boy pours oil into a cream popcorn popper

While you don’t need oil to cook air-popped popcorn, it’s necessary when you’re making stovetop popcorn. Without it, the kernels either won’t pop or will burn.

You also want to make sure you’re using enough oil — one with a high smoke point like coconut oil. As a rule of thumb, we like to use 4 tablespoons of oil for every ½ cup of kernels.  

Related: ​​What's the Best Oil for Popcorn? 

Too Much Heat

If your popcorn is burning and not popping, that’s a sign to take it easy with the heat. Using too high a heat can cause the kernels to burn before they have the chance to pop fully. You can avoid this by setting your stove to medium heat. 

What to Do With Popcorn That Won’t Pop

man, woman, and young boy smile while making popcorn

There are two ways you can fix kernels that don’t pop.

The first method is for dry kernels — simply place them in a mason jar, add a teaspoon of water, cover the jar, and shake it to distribute the water around. Then after you’ve waited a day, take 3-4 kernels out of the jar and try popping them.

The second method is meant for overly moist kernels. Just let them dry for a couple of hours and then pop a few. 

TAKE NOTE: Don’t expect either of these methods to be 100% foolproof. You might also need to do several rounds of trial-and-error before you’re successful. At the end of the day, though, it’s better to have some unpopped kernels than to risk burning an entire batch of popcorn.

Say Hello to Popcorn Perfection

Now that you know what can keep popcorn from popping, you’ll have better luck avoiding it in the future. Just remember to store your kernels in an airtight container away from sunlight, use the right amount of oil, and avoid setting your stove to high heat. 

It also helps to use our stainless steel popcorn popper. With a multi-clad metal bottom and patented spinning mechanism, it’s designed to evenly distribute heat and ensure every kernel pops perfectly.

For more popcorn tips and snacking inspiration, be sure to check out our other blog posts!

Featured Products

  • A cream colored popsmith stovetop popper on a wooden shelf. [42324529381569]

    The Popper

    Original Price: Current Price: $199.00