Have you ever thought about what happens when you pop popcorn? How does a small hard kernel become a big puffy piece of popcorn? Does the unpopped popcorn weigh the same as the popped popcorn? Satisfy your curiosity with this popcorn science experiment.
Popcorn Science Experiment
What You’ll Need:
- Popcorn kernels
- Containers for weighing
- Saucepan and lid
- Oil (we use peanut oil but any neutral oil will do)
Cover the bottom of your saucepan with one layer of popcorn kernels. How many kernels did you use? (We used 70.) Use a kitchen scale to weigh your kernels. Place a container on the scale and tare (or zero) the scale. Add the kernels to the container. How much do your unpopped kernels weigh? Record this number.
Get ready to pop your popcorn. You’ll need to weigh your oil before popping. Place your pan on the scale and tare (or zero) the scale. Add enough oil to just cover the bottom of the pan (that was 1/4 cup for our pan.) Record this number.
Have an adult follow the recipe for the Perfect Stovetop Popcorn below.
Weigh your popped popcorn. Place a large bowl on your scale and tare (or zero) the scale. Pour the popcorn into the bowl. Record this number.
Compare the weights of your unpopped and popped popcorn. Do the kernels and oil weigh the same as the popped popcorn? Why or why not?
You can also try this popcorn science experiment with an air popper to eliminate the oil variable. (A small amount of oil remains on the pan and lid. This will affect your weights slightly.)
The Science Behind It
Of all of the different types of corn, only popcorn pops. It has the right moisture content and hull thickness to make the yummy snack we’re so fond of. As the popcorn kernel heats up, the water inside changes to steam and exerts pressure on the hull of the kernel. Eventually, the hull bursts open, the inside of the kernel spills out, and it cools into fluffy white popcorn. It’s the loss of water that causes the change in weight between the unpopped and popped popcorn. Read about the science and history of popcorn and more details about what makes popcorn pop from the Popcorn Board.
How Much Popcorn Popped?
According to the Popcorn Board, 1 ounce (28 grams) of popcorn kernels will make 1 quart of popped popcorn. Is this figure consistent with your experiment? How much popcorn did you pop?
Perfect Stovetop Popcorn
- Add enough oil to just cover the bottom of the pan.
- Add a single layer of popcorn kernels to the pan.
- Place the pan over medium high heat. Wait until the popcorn kernels begin to pop.
- Shake the pan until the popcorn finishes popping – about 3 minutes. When the popping slows to 2 seconds between pops, it is finished.
- Remove from heat.
- Add salt and any additional toppings.
More Science Experiments for Kids
- Set up this banana experiment to determine which banana will ripen first.
- Learn how to build a lemon battery in this sponsored post.
- Conduct this layering liquids density experiment with fruit juices.
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