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Popcorn on the Cob


Popcorn on the Cob

By Anna Goolsby, Marketing Assistant

Appropriate for: Pre-K to 2nd Grade

Science is everywhere, including your kitchen! My favorite snack is popcorn – no matter if you’re watching a movie or just hanging out with your friends, popcorn is the perfect treat. Not to mention, who doesn’t excited about blowing something up before they eat it? Exactly. Hang up your lab coat and tie on an apron – it’s time to for a delicious experiment!


  • Microwave Oven
  • Glass Measuring Cup
  • Water
  • Dried Corn on the Cob (You can find them here or at your local organic grocery store!)
  • Paper Bag
  • Seasonings (You choose!)
  • Bowl


  • Place your corn on the cob in the brown paper bag, fold the bag a few times to keep the steam in (we’ll talk more about why this is important later), and set it aside.
  • Take your glass measuring cup and fill it about one third of the way with water. Put your cup of water in the microwave and “cook” for one minute. This will create a humid environment in your microwave, which will help with building steam.
  • Quickly and carefully remove cup of water and replace with your bagged corn on the cob.
  • Time to focus! Instead of using your popcorn setting, use your ears to tell you when your popcorn is ready to remove. This typically takes about 2 minutes, but you’ll know it’s ready when the popping slows down.
  • When you feel like it’s ready to check, remove your bag from the microwave (careful, it’s hot!) and take a peek. Remember, there’s hot steam so don’t put your face or hands directly over the opening of your bag.
  • Pour your freshly popped cob and kernels into your bowl and marvel at your tasty treat! While it’s hot, carefully pull out the cob and season as desired.

The Science

Popcorn isn’t just a tasty treat, it’s also a delicious demonstration that the laws of physics and chemistry are EVERYWHERE – even in your snack bowl! Inside each little kernel is a teeny tiny droplet of water surrounded by a hard outer shell (the hull). When you introduce heat, like in your microwave or on a stovetop, the water turns into steam which builds pressure inside the kernel, resulting in the all-too-familiar POP. Steam is an essential ingredient in making fluffy, fully popped popcorn which is why the secured bag and steamy microwave is so important.

Learn more about the science hidden in your popcorn’s kernels here»

Further Exploration

  • What would happen if you don’t use the paper bag? Would you still get as much popcorn? Why or why not?
  • Check out this fun video exploring the physics of popcorn!
  • CHOW DOWN on even more food science all month long with hands-on activities and live science demonstrations at Adventure Science Center! #ChowDown




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