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How long does popcorn last? Does it go bad?

Popcorn is a favorite tasty, and nutritious snack that is enjoyed by all ages, anytime and everywhere. This delicious snack makes a good food item on-hand whenever your hunger strikes. Nutritionally, popcorn is classified as whole grain that is low in fat and high in fiber. 


The fun begins when the kernel is heated. The heat traps the moisture within the kernel, causing it to expand. If the kernel cannot any longer withstand the pressure, it pops open. Be it salty, cheesy, savory, sweet, and buttery popcorn, it just makes moments fun and worthwhile.


Let’s say you have some popcorn that has been sitting around for days. Or, you have some dried kernels that you haven’t touched for how long you can remember. You might have already forgotten the time when you bought it. So you might wonder if you should throw it away or if you can still eat it. 


Right ahead in this post, you will learn about storing popcorns, its shelf life, and spoilage. Here we go!

(Also Read: Best Popcorn Kernels you can Buy in 2020 & Guide & Reviews / Best Popcorn Popper Reviews 2020 & Air, Microwave or Oil? / 10 Jaw-Dropping Popcorn Food Combinations That Are Actually Delicious)

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How to store popcorn?


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If you have an unopened pack of already-popped popcorn, be it a package of dry kernels or in a microwave pack, you should keep it in a dry and cool place. Hence, your kitchen cabinet or pantry would be the best place for it. Make sure that it is stored away from the stove or away from sources of steam or water.


Apparently, the kernels of the popcorn do not dry out quickly. Just make sure that the container is in storage where the temperature is below room temperature. Furthermore, you can use a vacuum-seal container for the dry kernels. 


On the other hand, if you have an opened pack of popcorn, make sure to keep it sealed all the time so that its quality will retain for a longer time. This will protect your popcorn from picking up moisture from the air and prevent it from getting soggy. However, vacuum-seal containers may not work well for popped popcorns as it could affect their texture.


After popping some popcorn kernels, reheating it, or microwaving, it is not a good idea. You will just make it worse, and the popcorn dries out and become stale to taste. 


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Here is a tip. Choose the dry and plain kernels, so if you want to keep them in a while. This way, you can add butter or flavor oils to it anytime.


Can I refrigerate popcorn? 

Do not refrigerate popcorn kernels. Why? Refrigerating it speeds-up moisture loss and prevents the kernels’ ability to pop. 


And it is also not recommended to store popcorn in the refrigerator because it can absorb moisture that can make it stale.


Does it go bad?


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Keeping popcorn for a long time can go bad under poor storage conditions. Popcorn can go bad, and it becomes less delicious. It may be safe to eat it. But, would you even risk it, though? Remember that any food can get spoiled. You can’t immediately tell if it has already been contaminated. To avoid such spoilage incidence, store your popcorns properly to avoid wastage.


How long does it last?

The shelf life of your popcorn is affected by several factors. Basically, it depends on the variety you got and whether it is already popped or unpopped. There are popcorn products that can last for a few days, while some can last for almost a year. Let’s go through them one by one:

  1. Ready-to-eat popcorn. This type is also known as commercially-popped popcorn. Packs of these popcorns always come with an expiration date, “best-by” or “best-before date.” 


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Can I still eat this popcorn after the date on the label? That is fine even if it is already 2 months after the date. But, expect that popcorn’s quality might have already started to dry out and lose its flavor. 


Once you open the package, the quality drops quickly. You will have up to a week, or maybe two, if you store it properly. 


  1. Unpopped popcorn. This also refers to dry popcorn kernels. You can keep a pack of unpopped popcorn kernels indefinitely as long as it is kept in airtight storage to retain the kernel’s moisture. However, it would be best to pop and eat them within six months to a year after getting them. Why? As time passes, these popcorn kernels lose their moisture. The moisture in it is responsible for its ability to pop. If the kernels lose their moisture, they won’t pop consistently as expected, and they become less fluffy in texture. 

If you’re after better results, use fresh kernels because they give a more massive pop than the old kernels.


  1. Popped popcorn. A pack of already-popped popcorn can last for two to four weeks as long as it is unopened. But once you already open the package, the shelf life shortens to one to two weeks.


  1. Microwaveable popcorn. Microwavable popcorns are unpopped popcorn kernels that are packed inside a microwaveable packaging. Unlike plain popcorn kernels, they have a shorter life span. How so? That is because these are popcorns that are packed with that will aid in popping inside the microwave. It is the oils that shorten the shelf life of the kernels.


  1. Gourmet popcorn. These are popcorns that come with delicious toppings and flavors. The shelf life of gourmet popcorns varies depending on the kind of seasoning it was used for flavoring. 


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To be clear on the shelf life and expiration dates of popcorn, don’t forget to read the label.


How to know if it has gone bad?


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Vava Vladimir Jovanovic/Shutterstock.com


If it has gone stale, it is most likely because you did not seal the package correctly. You can tell if your popcorn has gone bad by checking its taste and texture. 


Mold growth can happen in popcorn but only in rare cases, especially when stored in an airtight container and in a dry place. However, if it has been reserved for an extended period, moisture to creep into the storage container. A moist environment is the best environment for any harmful microbes to thrive. If you aren’t sure how long you’ve had your popcorn but want to eat some, just do a quick check to be safe.


A low-quality popcorn has a soft, chewy, and less fluffy texture instead of crunchy. It may taste okay and still safe to eat, but you won’t get that enjoyable popcorn experience. You can tell it is not in its peak quality for flavored popcorn when its flavor had changed. 


One more thing if your dry kernels are not in its prime quality is its ability to pop. If you saw more unpopped kernels while cooking, that could indicate that it’s already old or not stored properly.

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