Popcorn, one of America’s favorite snacks, is a great staple to keep in the kitchen at all times. Besides popping a big bowl of popcorn for movie night or a midnight snack, popcorn can be turned into desserts and sweets, and even used as toppings for ice cream. Because this snack is so versatile, you may be tempted to buy popcorn in bulk and store for later. However, how long can popcorn stay in storage? Does it go bad? Well the answer is “sort of, but not really.”
If stored properly unpopped popcorn can last for a very long time. Unlike other food items that become rotten or moldy, popcorn is a grain so it has a much longer shelf life. The key to storing your unpopped popcorn kernels is to keep them in a tightly sealed jar, and stored in a cool area (such as a pantry or cupboard). If you keep your popcorn this way, you can easily pop batches of popcorn for months down the road (or even longer).
When Popcorn Goes “Bad”
The reason popcorn “pops” is because of a small amount of moisture found within a popcorn kernel. Roughly 15% of a kernel is water. When heated the water boils and then pops the kernel into popcorn, releasing steam and pressure that built up inside the kernel. If your popcorn isn’t stored in an airtight container and kept at a neutral temperature (on the cool side), you risk drying out the kernels.
A popcorn kernel without water will not pop – which is why you often find kernels at the bottom of the bowl – these guys didn’t have enough moisture to pop. DO NOT store your kernels in the refrigerator, as this will also cause the kernels to dry out.
So yes, popcorn can go “bad” if not stored properly. Of course these rules only apply to unpopped popcorn. Microwave popcorn has a much shorter shelf life due to the oils and additives in the popcorn bag. Even popped popcorn can be stored for a few weeks, as long as it is in a sealed bag without air or moisture which can cause the popcorn to go stale.