Is This How You Get Fluffier Popcorn?

When I make popcorn, one of two things happen: I end up with a good portion of the popcorn unpopped, not-so-silently cursing those dud kernels (I also chipped a tooth once on one of them, but that was my own fault) or my popcorn ends up kind of squat-looking, not nearly as fluffy as the bagged stuff.

Which is why, when I saw a supposedly surefire, easy "hack" for fluffier, less-dud-y popcorn pop featured on blogs around the web (like here and here), I was ecstatic. I jumped (figuratively) around with glee, like a little popcorn kernel poppin' out of the pot. Exciting stuff!

The Internet-approved tip is as follows: Soak popcorn kernels in water for 10 minutes, then drain and pop as normal. The theory is that the extra moisture helps produce fluffier puffs. But does it work?

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As a test, I divided 1/4 cup unpopped kernels among two bowls. In one of the bowls, I covered the kernels by about an inch of water, let them soak for 10 minutes, and drained. Then, I popped both bowls in separate pots on the stove using the popping method outlined in this recipe. Here's what happened:


  • Total time to pop: 7 minutes
  • Yield: A little over 5 cups
  • Duds: 3


  • Total time to pop: 6 minutes
  • Yield: A little over 4 cups
  • Duds: 2
In both photos: Un-soaked popcorn (left) and soaked popcorn (right).

And as you can see from the photos above, the soaked popcorn did, in fact, produce some fluffier popcorn despite having a lower yield (Weird, right? I'm still trying to figure out this one myself). But while some pieces were noticeably fluffier, the difference throughout was negligible.

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Top Comment:
“I now only use the crimson popcorn produced by Rancho Gordo. It doesn't pop up the biggest but it's incredibly crisp with a very tender hull, delicious and very fresh. I pop on top of stove in oil with a tad of butter and add no flavorings but salt.”
— Maureen

As for the taste, I couldn't tell the difference between the two, however my boyfriend swore the soaked popcorn tasted more substantial and popcorn-ier. I don't know.

So, will I be soaking popcorn? Probably not. In the time it took for the kernels to soak, I could've already made a batch of non-soaked popcorn, even if it would've had a few more duds.

Do you have a trick for fluffier popcorn? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Muhammed R. August 31, 2020
here is the trick
Bryant J. May 15, 2020
The difference in yield was due to the soaked popcorn being slightly larger in size thus occupying more space.
beaulen February 8, 2020
We just tried this today for a science fair project. We soaked kernals for 5, 10, and 15 minutes. Each of these batches had more unpopped kernels than untreated kernels. We also found out that it's important to dry the kernels or they sizzle a lot and we ended up with mushy popcorn. On a lark we put the kernels in the oven at 150F for 30 minutes thinking this would dry them out and produce more unpopped kernels. This batch had 100% popped kernels. I think the soaking in water and drying in the oven mainly affects the husk, with the soaked husks being more flexible and maybe weaker while the dried husks became more brittle and I'm wondering if they contracted a bit. Science is real!
Maryse November 6, 2019
I tried this as a science experiment with 2nd graders today and we concluded there is no benefit to soaking. I'm sad it wasn't the answer to fluffy popcorn.
Jimmy July 17, 2018
Just tried the soak method. Results:
1-Poping starts noticeably earlier than unsoaked.
2-Yield is three quarters what unsoaked gives me.
3-Considerable amount of burnt kernel skins at the bottom of the pan, which ended up at the top of the popcorn bowl. Usually the pot barely has any.
4-Strangely I ended up with more duds, 9 vs the usual 2 or 3. Most of the duds were slightly slit open.

Will I soak again? Definitely not. Not worth the wait even had the results been better than unsoaked.

My analysis of the points above, soaking the popcorn seems to have weakened the kernel skin thus:
1-Less pressure needed to pop the kernels, so earlier popping.
2-The early pop against the weaker skin doesn't allow enough pressure to build up and the explosions are thus weaker and cause less volume or fluff; less yield.
3-The softened kernel skins fell off the kernels more readily due to moisture or possibly due to the weaker explosions that didn't trap them in the white part, the burnt skin collected the bottom.
4-The weakened shell/skin broke too early to allow any pressure to build up at all and pop the duds.
stephani March 24, 2018
The reason for lower yield is due to the fact that the popcorn kernels retain more moisture, and essentially it would take more time for the pressure and heat in the appliance being used to cause the water molecules in the popcorn to form from a liquid into steam and cause the kernel to rupture inside out.
gwenastone December 22, 2017
mine I put some oil on it and let sit, then will it be good ?
Fran December 19, 2017
One evening I discovered I had no butter! OW! Popcorn was popped and ready for butter - so, I tried Coconut oil - OMG!!! I rarely use butter anymore. The coconut oil and salt - AWESOME!
Scott C. October 2, 2017
Years ago I read that storing dried popcorn in the freezer produces bigger, fluffier corn. Seems to work well for me! Freezing also keep the corns fresher, longer.
ddalley January 29, 2017

Widows = unpopped kernals
Butterfly popcorn = best popped for gobbling
Mushroom popcorn = best for caramelising

Be careful of the shells, especially from popped mushroom kernals. The shells can easily slip between your teeth and your gums and are the greatest cause of abscesses.
saramarsh January 23, 2017
I use my 4 qt. Presto pressure cooker to make popcorn, very little oil is needed, the steam escapes out of the place where the gauge used to sit, and it's perfection every time!
Julie R. January 23, 2017
This is the exact pan I use, I call it my popcorn pan. Perfect everytime!
Emsbutler January 22, 2017
Another vote for the Whirly Pop! No duds!
Linda January 22, 2017
I once read a science article about fluffy popcorn. It said that the trick is to find fresh popcorn because it has more moisture. Soaking it would add moisture. :)
Sharon January 22, 2017
I second the whirlypop gadget. Consistently good, very little unpopped waste, easy to clean. My proportions are 1 T. corn oil and 1/3 c. kernels and the yield is one large bowl of popcorn. I don't do any seasoning in the whirlypop itself.
Olivia B. January 22, 2017
Yes! That's one of my favorite things about Whirlypop—every kernel pops!!
Johnna January 22, 2017
I take my popcorn and put it in a quart jar...or larger and add two tablespoons of water to it and shake it until I can not see water in the jar...and leaves it for at least a few days...and pop my goes into the kernel and you get better popcorn...does not matter the make of corn.
If I have not used it for a month I do it again...I like the effects maybe you will also...J
Sarag January 22, 2017
Whirlypop pop is the way to go. Or a cheap thin pot that heats up super fast ( aluminum, sorry, but it works great). I use coconut oil (less than a quarter cup), and once it's hot add in the popcorn (about half cup) and coconut sugar (about three tablespoons). It's done in a jiffy. Then I add a sprinkle of kosher salt. The best.
Lisa T. January 22, 2017
Skip the oil, use bacon fat. Highest flame, roomy pot, don't shake too much. Season as you normally would.
Elana January 19, 2017
The Whirly Pop is one of the best kitchen tools. I wouldn't be without it!
Maureen January 18, 2017
I now only use the crimson popcorn produced by Rancho Gordo. It doesn't pop up the biggest but it's incredibly crisp with a very tender hull, delicious and very fresh. I pop on top of stove in oil with a tad of butter and add no flavorings but salt.
BerryBaby January 18, 2017
I use Damaris' (Food Network) recipe and it works every time. In a pot, on the stove, using Orville's popcorn.