How Can I End up with Fewer Unpopped Popcorn Kernels?

Rhonda Rivera

There are multiple ways to end up with fewer unpopped popcorn kernels, including making sure the microwave is functioning properly and changing popcorn brands. Heating the kernel too slowly is a common cause of unpopped popcorn kernels, which may be the fault of your microwave or stove. Every company evaluates the quality of its popcorn and may have different standards, so sometimes fixing the unpopped popcorn problem is as simple as changing brands. Sometimes changing the popping method can also decrease the number of unpopped kernels. If you are feeling thrifty, some people save all of their unpopped popcorn kernels and pop them again later.

Salt, which is often used to top popcorn.
Salt, which is often used to top popcorn.

Unpopped popcorn kernels can be caused by heating the kernels too slowly. To avoid this, do not stop the microwave when popping a bag of popcorn, even for just a few seconds. Also ensure the microwave is operating on the correct power percentage, such as 80 to 100 depending on the popcorn package’s instructions. An old or malfunctioning microwave may also be at fault if it can no longer heat to the correct temperatures. When popping popcorn on the stove, follow the package’s instructions carefully.

Less expensive popcorn often yields fewer popped kernels.
Less expensive popcorn often yields fewer popped kernels.

Attempting to pop popcorn a second time around is not recommended because it is a potential fire hazard. Some people have no issues repopping a bunch of kernels, however. To minimize the risk, it is best to clean off all the popcorn’s oils with water and then let the kernels dry. Place the kernels in a brown lunch bag and fold it closed. Heat the bag in the microwave for about one minute, using no oil. Most popcorn bags advise against repopping, though, and you can save time by simply switching to a better popcorn brand.

You can change your method of popping popcorn. If the microwave does not work, try using a different kind of popcorn to cook on the stove. There are a lot of different popcorn popping techniques, some of which work better than others.

If all else fails, buy a different brand of popcorn. The quality of the popcorn used factors into how well it pops, and some of the cheaper brands have been found to leave nearly 50 percent of kernels unpopped after following the package’s instructions. In addition, most popcorn kernels have been harvested then dried because fresh popcorn does not pop well. If the popcorn is over-dried, however, this too will cause it not to pop. Consistently getting a large amount of unpopped popcorn kernels might indicate that the company’s standards are not as high as others.

Attempting to pop popcorn in a microwave a second time is considered a fire hazard.
Attempting to pop popcorn in a microwave a second time is considered a fire hazard.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I used to think microwave popcorn was the best way to go, but I recently bought an old fashioned hot oil popcorn popper. It works a lot like the ones at concession stands. I put a special popping oil and some seasoned salt in the pot and turn on the stirrer. I then add regular popcorn and wait for it to start popping. What's good about this method is that the popped kernels fly out of the pot and into the cabinet, so the unpopped kernels have somewhere to go.

I also got decent results from my old hot air popper, but the unpopped kernels would usually get blown out into the bowl and make their way to the bottom. You really have to be choosy with the brand of popcorn if you use a hot air popper.


I used to have this problem with cheaper brands of microwave popcorn. When I started buying the name brands, I got much better results. What I do is set the microwave timer for the maximum number of minutes mentioned in the instructions. I then stand by the microwave and listen for the popping to slow down to about one pop every one or two seconds. There are still going to be some unpopped kernels, but I won't run the risk of burning the bag.

Post your comments
Forgot password?