What Makes a Great Popped Popcorn?

We all crave a salty snack from time to time, and popped popcorn can hit the spot. High quality popcorn is tender and fluffy with the flavors of toasted corn. Specifically, the puffed kernels are off-white in color. Kernels should be larger and fluffy, mostly all popped, with few burnt pieces. The aroma and flavor profile combines toasty corn notes with some popcorn butter or neutral oil. There are no cardboard off notes. The snack is salty with low sweetness. The kernels lightly crunchy to bite, and tender to chew. There’s a moderate rate of dissolve and it’s popcorn, so some will stick in your teeth.

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Tasting terms

  • aroma

    The smell that emanates from food. Along with appearance, texture, flavor and taste, aroma is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate a product. Example: Brownies should have an aroma that includes chocolate as well as egg, toasty and sweet notes.

  • flavor

    A combination of a food's basic taste and its accompanying aroma, flavor is the distinctive taste of a food or ingredient while it is in the mouth. Along with aroma, appearance, texture and taste, flavor is one of the five dimensions considered by ChefsBest Master Tasters. Example: Chocolate chip cookies should have a moderate chocolate flavor accompanied by a slightly lower level of complex dough flavor that includes egg, flour, vanilla and brown sugar notes.

  • off notes

    Inappropriate flavors, such as rancid or oxidized oils, freezer burn, plastic, metallic or other flavors acquired from a food’s packaging and storage. Example: Canned pineapple that picks up a metallic flavor from its can or stale flavors from freezer burn in a frozen entrée are types of off notes.

  • chew

    The texture of a food as it is being chewed, as opposed to the texture of the first bite. Example: High-quality beef jerky should be tender but have a long chew.