Popcorn is a staple in the kitchen and can be used for so many things: popping big bowls of popcorn during movie night or midnight snacks, creating desserts and sweets from it such as salted caramel popcorn, even as toppings on ice cream. The versatility of this snack leads us to wonder – how long does popcorn last? Does it go bad after some time has passed? Most importantly, is it alright to store popcorn in the refrigerator?
We all know that the best way to store popcorn is in a cool, dry place. But does it really matter if we put it in the fridge? Popcorn pops better when stored at room temperature. What about freshness and flavour? While refrigeration can help maintain these qualities for up to two weeks, popping quality might suffer after just one week of storage in the fridge.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when storing popcorn:
1. Popcorn kernels without water won’t pop.
Water is the key to making popcorn pop. If they don’t have enough moisture inside, then the kernels will not be able to expand and therefore won’t get any bigger than it already is – which means no one wants that unpopped tasting dry stuff at the bottom of the bowl! Experts recommend never to store uncooked kernels in the fridge, but instead keep them on the counter where they belong.
2. Raw popcorn has a long shelf life.
Un-popped popcorn can last for a very long time. Unlike other food items that become rotten or mouldy, it’s a grain so your unprocessed kernels will have an extended shelf life if stored properly in tightly sealed jars and placed at room temperature (such as on the pantry shelves).
Although not as prone to spoilage like other foods, popcorn still needs some care and consideration for its lifetime. If you store it in an airtight container with cool conditions (such as your pantry) then the unpopped kernels can last a lot longer than one would think.
3. Microwaveable popcorn doesn’t last as long as the natural kernels.
Because of the added oils and preservatives, microwaveable popcorn is a much shorter shelf life than natural popcorn. In order to keep it fresh, do not leave open bags of popcorn on your countertop for more than two days at most – even if you plan on microwaving some right after popping.
Microwaveable salted caramel popcorn (and other flavoured variants for that matter) should not be stored in the refrigerator either. Despite having preservatives, the cold temperatures of the refrigerator can affect the kernels’ quality and turn it stale.
4. Freeze the popcorn instead.
A popular myth is that putting your popped corn in the fridge will make it go bad faster. However, freezing may actually help keep popcorn fresh for longer periods of time if you use an airtight container and wrap tightly with some plastic or foil before storing away from other food items like dairy products.
Flavoured popcorn, such as salted caramel popcorn, is also best kept in the freezer. Freezing prevents the cooked kernels from turning soft and gummy since they are already laced with flavourings, oils, and syrups.