Geek Trivia

A Kernel Of Popped Corn Is Known As A?

Which Prominent Astrophysicist Is Strongly Against Extraterrestrial Communication Efforts?

Answer: Flake

The shape a popped piece of corn takes on is known as the popcorn’s “flake”, a nod to how the shape of the popped corn is unique like a snowflake. You’ve simply called it popcorn your whole life, however, as we certainly have, so why have a name for it at all?

Outside of the popcorn industry, the use of the term “flake” to refer to popcorn in its popped state is next to nonexistent. Within the industry, though, assessing and analyzing how popcorn pops is an important and profitable endeavor. Further, referring over and over again to “popped popcorn” or “popcorn in its popped state” would get rather tedious and “flake” is much faster to say and write.

Commercially there are two important flake types: mushroom and butterfly (a.k.a. snowflake). How important? Important enough for food science researchers to pen lengthy analyses of popcorn like we find with the 2011 publication from University of Nebraska researchers “Composition and Sensory Evaluation of Popcorn Flake Polymorphisms for a Select Butterfly-Type Hybrid”. Popcorn flake shape is serious business in the industry.

The kind of popcorn you eat at the movie theater and pop at home is the butterfly type. Butterfly flake is characterized by a very irregular shape with wing-like protrusions off the central body. Butterfly flake popcorn is regarded as better popcorn for consumption when eating the popcorn is the focus (such as at the cinema). The other commercially important kind of popcorn is mushroom flake popcorn. Mushroom flake popcorn is characterized by having a round and consistent shape characteristic of a puffball mushroom. This style of popcorn flake is prized by confectioners as it is far more stable and keeps its shape when, for example, turned into caramel corn. It is widely used when the primary experience isn’t eating fresh popcorn but eating popcorn as a base for something else (such as popcorn balls or caramel corn). You’ll also see mushroom popcorn appear in some packaged popcorns as, despite it not having the same mouth feel as the butterfly type, it ships much better.

Image courtesy of Bunchofgrapes.