The most common ways to prepare popcorn are in a pot on the stove and in the microwave. Both forms on the stove and in the microwave provide the rapid bursts of heat that corn requires to explode. The oven is not the ideal popcorn maker. However, it is possible as long as you satisfy certain conditions.
What makes pigeon popcorn explode?
Pigeon maize kernels are starch and moisture inside an airtight shell. When heat is applied to the grain, the moisture inside the grain turns into steam. The steam expands until it exits through the grain, causing the grain to explode. Meanwhile, the heat and humidity inside the grain converts the starch into liquid. When the grain explodes, the starch bubbles like soap bombs. When it touches the air, it changes from a bubbling mass that is more liquid than solid, to a solid full of air chambers, similar to styrofoam. The grain when exploited is 40 percent larger in volume than the original grain.
The role of heat
Poplar maize explodes from 445 to 450 degrees F (229, 4 to 232, 2° C). Originally, Native Americans used popcorn to dig directly into fires or mix it into hot sand that had been heated in a bonfire. The result was popcorn tougher than popcorn to which modern consumers are accustomed. At the beginning of the 20th century, Charles T. Manley discovered the right combination of heat and oil necessary to make corn explode as spongy as possible. He realized that oil was a better heat conductor towards grains than air. The oil also made the distribution of heat more uniform so that the grains exploded before burning on one side.
The role of moisture
A specific level of moisture is essential when corn is exploited. The optimum moisture content in corn is 13.5 percent. Commercial popcorn producers use kilns to dry the moisture content of the corn when it is harvested - which is typically between 20 and 25 percent - at the ideal moisture content. They then vacuum-seal the corn inside jars or seal it in airtight bags to keep the moisture content unchanged before the corn is mined.
Problems in the oven
The problem with trying to exploit the corn in the oven is that the hot air from the oven does not heat the grain effectively. Air, in general, does not transmit heat efficiently like oil, and the air at rest of an oven is not the current of intense hot air, used in a hot air machine for popcorn. In the oven, the grain takes time to reach the explosion temperature.While the grain is heating, it is also drying up.
Optimal preparation in the oven
The best way to prepare popcorn in the oven is to make the conditions as similar as possible to the preparation on the stove. Heat a Dutch oven or other pot that retains heat in the oven at 450 - 475 degrees F (232, 2 to 246, 1° C). Add oil that has a smoke point of at least 475 to 500 degrees F (246, 1 to 260° C) and heat it. Add the corn to the pot, close the lid and return the pot to the oven. Corn may not explode as well as in a stove, because the heat of the oven is not as concentrated as the heat of a burner. Possibly burn because you can not shake the pot with the oven closed. But at least some grains will explode.