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An Update on Popcorn

Crispy Popcorn

26 May 2022

It is too difficult to make moist popcorn

I wrote here that I spray a mist of water on popcorn to make it a bit more moist, and to make a mixture of tumeric, Stevia, and salt adhere to the popcorn. Since then I have come to the conclusion that it is too difficult to increase the moisture to an appropriate level.

Fortunately, I have discovered a method of making popcorn that I prefer. Specifically, make the popcorn crispy instead of moist.

We have genetic preferences with food

Humans and animals have preferences for flavors, odors, and textures of food. When popcorn first comes out of a hot air popcorn maker, it is acceptable to all of us, but it is not exactly what we want from a food. As a result, most people will put something on the popcorn to make it more emotionally pleasing, such as butter, flavored oils, salt, honey, or spices.

I spent a bit of time experimenting with increasing the moisture with a mist of water, but the spray bottle would put too much water on some the kernels and too little on others. Also, sprinkling it with a mixture of tumeric and salt (with some Stevia to compensate for the bitterness of the tumeric), would often result in some kernels that were too salty.

I now create crispy popcorn

I purchased the spray bottle in the photo to the right. It creates a very fine mist, and it can be used in any position, including upside down, which makes it very convenient for spraying foods, although it does not claim to be intended for use with food, so I hope no dangerous chemicals are leeching out of the plastic components.

I fill the bottle with water that has been saturated with salt. This allows me to spray the popcorn with minuscule amounts of salt, thereby giving me much better control over its saltiness, which in turn makes it easy to avoid excessive amounts of salt. I no longer put salt into the mixture of turmeric and Stevia.

I continue to have the problem that some popcorn kernels get a lot of turmeric, and others get none, but that does not bother me because I am not very sensitive to the level of turmeric. However, I am very sensitive to the level of salt on foods.

For some reason, there is not much of a difference between "too little" and "too much" salt. By comparison, when adding sugar to foods, the range between "too little" and "too much" is very large, so it's much more difficult to add "too much" sugar. Actually, we can eat pure sugar and honey without any problem. Adding "too much" sugar to something often makes it taste better.

I begin by popping the popcorn into a bowl that is large enough so that the popcorn is only about 1 to 2 kernels in depth. I then spray the popcorn with a slight mist of saltwater, and then sprinkle it with a mixture of turmeric and Stevia. Then I give it one more mist with the saltwater to help the turmeric adhere to the popcorn.

Update: I was using the hot air popcorn machine to dry the popcorn by putting a cardboard tube into the popcorn maker (photo to the right) to make it easier to direct the hot air onto the popcorn while keeping my hand cool, but the machine would sometimes shut off from becoming overheated, so now I use my hand-held heat gun.

It is more comfortable to hold; it is less noisy; and it makes the popcorn become crispy at a faster rate because it produces hotter air.

The four photos below show the difference in the texture of the "normal" and crispy popcorn. The two photos below show that when an ordinary kernel of popcorn is crushed with a flat object, it tends to remain in one piece and become compressed, rather than break into pieces. It ends up resembling a smooth piece of Styrofoam.

The photo above shows an "ordinary" popcorn kernel from a hot air popcorn popper.
The same popcorn kernel after I crushed it with a flat object.

When a crispy popcorn kernel is crushed, it shatters into jagged pieces rather than compress. The two photos below show one of the jagged pieces from one crispy popcorn kernel that I crushed with the same object and in the same manner as the kernel in the photos above. It was difficult to get a photo of the shattered kernel because it was bright white, so I had the light shine from the side. It looks like a torn, jagged piece of Styrofoam, rather than a smooth piece of Styrofoam.

The photo above shows one of the shattered pieces of one crispy popcorn kernel.

The photo above is a close-up of the center section of the photo to the left.

The crispy popcorn is more fragile than a corn or potato chip because popcorn has some very thin sections, so it has to be handled with care to prevent it from breaking into pieces.

Why would I prefer extremely dry popcorn?

Considering that I dislike the dry popcorn from a hot air popcorn machine, it seems bizarre that I would enjoy the popcorn by making it even more dry.

My explanation for this apparent contradiction is that I prefer the dry, crispy popcorn for the same reason that almost everybody loves crispy corn chips and potato chips, and why so many people like to fry their foods in hot oil.

Specifically, for a still unknown reason, humans love crispy foods. We love crispy chicken skins, crispy potato skins, and the crispiness that deep frying gives to battered fish, French fries, apple fritters, and hundreds of other food items. Some people deep fry cookies, fruit, chunks of lasagna, pieces of pizza, and candy bars.

When we heat certain fruits to a certain temperature, they become less tart, which is why a deep-fried strawberry will taste better than the underripe berries that most markets are selling.

We get the same effect by heating the fruit in a toaster oven, baking it into a pie, or cooking it into a jam, but those techniques will not provide us with a crispy coating.

Are fried foods healthy?

Considering that we love crispy foods, we ought to fund a variety of research programs to resolve the issue of whether fried foods are unhealthy, as some people claim.

When I was a child, we were told by "nutritional experts" that butter was dangerous, and that we should switch to margarine. Now we are told to eat butter rather than margarine. We were also told that high fructose corn syrup was healthy, but now we are told to avoid it. We ought to resolve these issues rather than continue to suffer from contradictory health advice.

Are all types of fried food harmful? Or is fried food harmful only when we set the temperature "too high"? How many times can we use the oil in a deep fryer before it should be replaced? Are all of the oils and fats equally unhealthy for frying? Would fried foods be healthier if the frying was conducted in an oxygen-free environment?

Are there better methods of making crispy foods?

Even if we discover that fried foods are healthy, there might be some methods to make certain foods crispy that don't leave the food oily and messy. In the case of popcorn, I use hot air to make the popcorn crispy, rather than fry it in oil.

Perhaps we could use hot air, dehydrators, freeze-drying, or dehumidifiers to reduce the moisture in certain other foods, such as the skin of a chicken, or the flavored batter that a piece of fish has been dipped into. Those techniques would increase the cost of our meals, and it would probably be impractical for consumers to do them in their home, but in a different culture, such as my fantasy city of Kastron, it would be practical for the businesses and/or restaurants to do it.

Actually, the businesses and restaurants in Kastron could afford a machine that sprays items with a fine mist of boiling saltwater, or boiling syrup, so that the water evaporates without the need of any, or much, hot air. That would make it easy to give nuts, popcorn, and other items a light coating of salt or sweetness.

The concept of putting food through processing techniques that make it more expensive, such as giving a chicken a blast of cold air to freeze only the skin, and then putting it through a freeze-drying process to make the skin dry and crispy, brings up an issue that everybody should spend some time thinking about. Specifically, what do we want from life?

My suggestion is that we be less concerned about increasing the size of our home and the quantity of our material items, meals, sex, children, awards, leisure time, travel trips, and trophies, and be more concerned about increasing the quality of our homes, health, meals, material items, friendships, marriages, jobs, work environments, swimming areas, city parks, transportation systems, recreational activities, and other culture.

My suggestion to achieve appropriate salt levels

When we prepare foods, including crispy popcorn, my suggestion is to add less salt than it seems to need. The reason is because if we give the food the proper amount of salt, the first few bites will seem perfect, but as our body absorbs the salt, we lose our desire for salt. As we get near the end of the meal it can feel as if there is too much salt.

The people who eat so quickly that they finish a meal before their body has absorbed any salt will not notice this, so this advice is useful only for those of us who eat at a slow pace.

To truly get the proper amount of salt in our meals, we would have to eat meals in separate portions. The first portion would have the most salt, and the salt would decrease in each of the following portions.

Sugar (or any sweetening agent, including Stevia), has the opposite effect on us. When we are very hungry, we don't need the food to be sweet, but as we eat, our body becomes less attracted to food, which causes us to become more sensitive to bitterness and blandness. Increasing the sweetness of the food will make the food taste better, thereby causing us to continue eating, rather than become annoyed by the sweetness.

If we did not have access to sugar or sweetening agents, this characteristic would cause us to stop eating after a while, but since most people enjoy the titillation of eating, they counteract their natural tendency to eat an appropriate amount of food by switching to sweeter foods, and ending a meal with extremely sweet desserts.

In some of my documents I suggested that the restaurants in Kastron provide only a portion of a meal, and that we move from one restaurant to another to get a complete meal. When restaurants are following that concept, the portions that they serve at the beginning of a lunch or dinner would be the most bitter and bland, the least sweet, and have the highest levels of salt, and as the meal progresses, they would decrease the salt, reduce the bitterness and blandness, and increase the sweetness.