Why does corn pop in the microwave?

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popcorn explosion

From the corn on the cob whose kernels are so neatly arranged to the bowl of popcorn whose slightly crazy side we enjoy, something has happened: such a transformation is only possible because the kernels, removed from the cob, burst when cooked in a microwave oven. 

Grain POP takes a closer look at this phenomenon, which is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the taste buds. 

From grain to bowl of popcorn

The kernels on the ears of corn contain water. When this water is heated, it turns to steam, and the pressure rises until the kernel containing it bursts: popcorn is born! 

How long does it take to heat corn kernels in the microwave to make popcorn? 

In just 2 to 3 minutes, the kernels turn into a large quantity of popcorn that's sure to please any appetite! 

At what temperature should popcorn be heated in the microwave? 

It's important not to use too much power, otherwise your recipe may fail: set your microwave to between 800 and 1000W for the perfect version of microwave popcorn!

Great discoveries


From the discovery of America in 1492, the cradle of corn cultivation, to the discovery of the microwave oven during the Second World War, the history of popcorn has been written throughout history and across continents. 

How was it discovered that corn bursts when heated? 

We owe this fabulous discovery to Charles Cretor, an American confectioner from Illinois, who had the ingenious idea of replacing the peanuts he usually roasted in his travelling steam engine with corn cobs: what a surprise it was to see the yellow cobs transformed into an explosion of tiny white flakes! 

The Chicago World's Fair in 1893 is remembered as the date when his machine was officially presented. 

Origins of the microwave oven

Percy Spencer is credited with discovering the potential of microwave cooking. During the Second World War, this American engineer from Raytheon was working on a microwave generator for radar

Like Charles Cretor 60 years earlier, the engineer improvised as a chef when he discovered that his experiments with microwaves in his kitchen had melted a sweet in his pocket. The patent for electromagnetic microwave food processing was filed in 1950. 

Why does corn "pop" when it pops?

Popcorn explosion

Two students at the École Polytechnique, Emmanuel Virot and Alexandre Ponomarenko, have looked into the matter1 and found a way to add their two cents to the tale of the popcorn kernel's fabulous e-pop-ée: they have demonstrated that the "pop" comes from theescape of pressure that causes the cavities of the corn kernel to resonate when it pops

Observers were quick to point out that this phenomenon produced by cooking corn in the microwave is "at the crossroads of several fields of physics: thermodynamics, biomechanics, acoustics". Here's how to feed your mind as well as your body!

How to microwave popcorn step by step?

microwave popcorn

To enjoy your meal, follow these step-by-step instructions: 

  • Pour the contents of the popcorn bag into a dish; 
  • Place in the microwave oven and heat for 2 to 3 minutes at 800 to 1000W;
  • Season your popcorn with a little salt and pepper... And enjoy! 

For an even more indulgent blend, you can use ingredients such as oil, or make your own caramel popcorn, with your own butter-and-sugar-based caramel, to be consumed in moderation.

If you're worried about staining the pages of your paper cookbook, or if you simply want to try out new recipes, there are many online suggestions, complete with explanatory images. A commentary can also be a useful addition to the recipe explanation.


There's an easier way than consulting wikihow to find out how to turn corn on the cob into microwave popcorn: discover GrainPOP flavored popcorn bags!

You'll be able to try out a range of ready-made recipes and enjoy a delicious meal in just a few minutes! Trust us, corn on the cob will soon be one of your favorite vegetables, and popcorn will be the star of your menu, from aperitif to dessert!


  1. Funny science: we've figured out why popcorn 'pops' - Science et vie (science-et-vie.com)

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