Find out how long you can expect to have popcorn around before it goes bad.
In this post we will look at both unpopped kernels and bags of pre-popped popcorn.
Just because popcorn is a shelf stable snack that doesn't necessarily mean it lasts forever. Whether that be kernels themselves or bags of already popped popcorn.
The question you probably have today if you are reading this, is how long does it last?
🤢 Why Would It Go Bad?
We have to answer this question by looking again at what type of popcorn we are talking about.
Kernels are built to last. They are seeds in fact for the next crop. But as seeds are only vital for a certain amount of time, the same for them to serve as popcorn can be limited.
But it's a long time. At least a year if not more. This depends on how you store them. Are you leaving them out in the open in a jar with no lid? Are you storing them in a air tight jar in a cabinet?
It's not so much that the popcorn is going bad but the kernels could become less reliable overtime when popping. The main culprit is water loss. There is still moisture inside those kernels even if they are dried out. The reason popcorn pops is through steam. In order to have steam, you have to have water.
The challenge here is to the naked eye you can really tell that the popcorn has lost too much moisture. If you find are finding that the popcorn is not popping very well and you are left with a lot of unpropped kernels, then it's possible that it's too old.
On the other end of the spectrum if water gets into your kernels they won't pop right either. You can try to dry them out on a towel, but if too much water penetrates the kernel it won't pop. When farmers harvest their popcorn they look for it to be a certain moisture content for storage and ability to pop.
With something like popcorn it's hard to know how long it's been hanging around a supermarket shelf. You can check for a best by date on the package. Or choose to buy your popcorn from a local source that turns over it's inventory regularly.
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If you are buying bags of popcorn that are already popped then you need to look at the date on the bag and see when it is best to eat. Check several bags at the store and see what dates you are seeing and aim for the freshest.
Once the bag is opened your biggest trouble with be it becoming stale. No one wants chewy popcorn! You need to keep it air tight as possible. The best way is if you own a vacuum sealer, using that to reseal the bag. The weather is a big factor in how long you have. The more humid is it, the more likely it will go stale faster. Where I am from in Michigan, on a hot July day, things go stale fast, but on a cold, dry January day, not so much.
Even with your best methods, you really need to eat it in a few days or up to a week.
One issue to know when buying already popped popcorn is that you are going to pay more money for it than if you pop yourself.
But also it will never taste as good. The reason is that when popcorn is popped the smell that it releases is fleeting. It won't last in a bag. Since smell is a big part of how we taste food, without that popcorn smell it simply won't taste as good. I always recommend learning how to pop it yourself.
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What about leftover popcorn that you make yourself? How long does that last?
In our family it does not last until through the evening. If it did, unless properly stored in any tight container, vacuum sealed if you can. Make sure you don't have too much moisture in your container either.
I would try to eat it by the next day. But you might get a couple extra if you store it really well. There is no need to put it in the fridge, that won't help. In fact, the moisture in the fridge could cause condensation which will make for soggy leftovers.
There are actually some recipes out there that use leftover popcorn, like grits that I have been meaning to try.
🗄️ How to Store Kernels
Whenever I buy popcorn kernels I like to transfer them out of the bag they came in, into a Mason jar with a lid. Or a plastic container that has a lid that snaps on tightly. Not only is this good for the popcorn, if you end up with mice in your house at some point, you won't be giving them a free meal.
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