Want to pull out your vacuum sealer for popcorn? We talk about whether it's a good idea for popcorn kernels and already popped popcorn. Also find out how long you can expect to have popcorn around before it goes bad.
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.
I want to answer two main questions today - how long does popcorn last and is sealing it with a vacuum sealer a good idea?
🤢 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 seeds for the next crop so they are built to last a while. But just as the seeds are only viable for a certain amount of time, the same is true for the amount of time they are good for popping.
Good news that time is at least a year, if not more. This depends on how you store the kernels. 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 steam. In order to have steam, you have to have water.
The challenge here is that with the naked eye you can't 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.
💡 Tip - You can vaccum seal bags of pre-popped popcorn you get at the store. My mother in law does this all the time with bags of chips. Just stick the bag into the vacuum sealer and hit the seal button to create a new seal.
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.
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 through the evening normally. If it did, unless properly stored in an air tight container it will go stale. Make sure you don't have too much moisture in your container either.
Would storing in the fridge help? No, in fact, the moisture in the fridge could cause condensation which will make for soggy leftovers.
That finally brings us to the topic of vacuum sealing.
🙋 What About Vacuum Sealing?
I tried an experiment:
- Popped some popcorn in the microwave with a silicone bowl popper.
- Added melted salted butter and popcorn salt.
- Gave it time to cool, about 10 minutes. You want all the steam released.
- Put the popcorn into a plastic bag for sealing.
- Remove air and sealed the bag.
- Place the bag in my pantry. Waited for 1 week before trying.
It worked really well. The popcorn was still like I just popped it. I had my whole family try it and they really liked it. My wife thought it was actually even better. I think the butter and salt had more time to absorb and the hulls of the yellow popcorn softened more.
If you are planning on going on a hike, camping trip, or road trip, bringing along some popcorn that you vacuum sealed would be an ideal snack. You could even try throwing in some nuts, and some M&M's and have yourself a popcorn trail mix.
😮💨 How to Vacuum Seal
The goal with vacuum sealing is to remove as much air as possible. So when you do popcorn whether popped already or kernel, you want them to be as flat as possible in the bag. Plus a flat package is easier to store.
❓ Why Vacuum Seal Kernels?
Vacuum sealing popcorn kernels will keep them from drying out too much over time. Great if you don't eaten popcorn too often or you got a bunch in bulk, like in a gallon jug and wanted to store it in smaller batches.
You could vacuum seal into individual servings, if you have the time and patience. Otherwise I would just vacuum seal enough for a few popping sessions.
🚫 Why NOT Vacuum Seal Kernels?
We got through popcorn so quickly in our house, I never feel the need to vacuum seal the kernels. So I don't really do it. A downside of vacuum sealing in just plastic vacuum sealed bags is that it's not critter proof. A mouse or heaven forbid a rat could chew through the plastic to get to the kernels.
I think a large mason jars with a tight fitting lid would be better at keeping out critters.
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