Why is My Popcorn Not Popping?

Tired of failed attempts and wondering “Why is my popcorn not popping?”. All you need to do is remember the scientific reasoning behind the kernels not popping. Either there’s too little water in the center or the outer covering of the grain is too hard to be breakable.

Have you ever seen the steam leaving from the nozzle of the tea kettle? The case is exactly similar to popcorn. Under normal circumstances, when seeds are exposed to heat, the water inside the center is converted into steam; this steam induces pressure up to the outer layer, known as the hull of the kernel, making it explode or pop.

Either of the two conditions may become the reason behind your question “Why is my popcorn not popping?”. If the water content in the seed center is negligible or too little, it will not be converted into steam and will not exert any pressure on the hull.

Another scenario behind your query “Why is my popcorn not popping?” is that the outer covering, or hull, of the kernel, is too hard to break under the influence of steam pressure. Even if the center is adequately moist, the hard exterior coating creates a watertight seal that does not allow the steam to leave and retains inside, making the popcorn mushy.

How to Check the Appropriate Moisture of a Kernel?

From a single method, you can verify the moisture as well as the extent of the hardness of the hull. If a nut isn’t popping, place your fingernail and try to make a dent in it. If the kernel breaks, it signifies the presence of excess water. And if the seed doesn’t break with the force of your fingernail, it indicates the absence of water.. It is inferred from both cases that the kernels didn’t pop as they were expected to.

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Food Moisture Meter

An innovative method to check the damp content of the popcorn seed is using a food moisture meter, also referred to as a food moisture tester or food moisture scanner. It is easily available in hardware stores. The scanner may be shaped as a small remote control with two small vertical pins present on the top that function to be inserted in the food whose water content requires verification. Instead of using a fingernail, it would be appropriate to add this scanner to the collection of your kitchen tools to ensure the appropriate hygiene practices.


When scrunching on popcorn, you may have noticed the last kernels and reflected “Why is my popcorn not popping?” Sadly, nothing can be done for those leftovers because the corn grains that pop up possess a water content of up to 14 – 15%. Water content more or less than that doesn’t allow the kernels to pop up.