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I'm in a part of the tropics where weavels and other similar critters seem to get everywhere. Last time I bought popcorn kernels, they'd somehow got infested before I'd even opened the packet (same thing happened once before with ants in an unopened pack of sugar).

I've read that a good fix for such (potential) infestations is to keep grains in the freezer, which kills any eggs and prevents any more getting in, and it seems to work.

Can I cook the frozen popcorn the usual way in a pan straight from the freezer, or do I need to adjust the recipe and approach in any way?

I've got a feeling thawing the corn is probably a bad idea as it might result in moisture and soggy popcorn, but I've not tested it yet.

  • I tweaked your title a bit. When I first saw it, I thought your question was going to be about frozen sweet corn :) Interesting question! – Jolenealaska Mar 17 '16 at 12:55
  • Fortunately, popcorn is inexpensive enough to just do some tests and see. – Catija Mar 17 '16 at 13:20
  • +1 Great question! I'm interested to see some experimental data in the answers for this question. – Jay Mar 17 '16 at 13:20
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    Hopefully you're not getting ice crystals on them; if you are, I'd be worried that the popcorn won't pop ever. Popcorn pops because there is some water inside the kernel, and under heat it expands. The kernel traps the water, pressure builds and builds to ~130PSI, and then it explodes. If freezing damages the kernel and lets the vapor escape, it just won't pop. – derobert Mar 17 '16 at 22:31
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    First results in - success! I just chucked them in the pan straight from the freezer and they popped like normal, maybe even slightly faster. The only apparent difference was maybe more steam than usual - it felt like I needed to hold the pan further open than usual to let all the steam out, and until I did they came out slightly un-crispy. Otherwise, fine – user568458 Mar 17 '16 at 22:57
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I've done this a few times now. It works, straight from the freezer, no defrosting required.

Here are some observations, based on cooking the kernels in a stove-top metal saucepan with a little medium-hot oil over a moderate heat:

  • More steam than usual comes off the frozen popcorn during cooking. Without a pretty big gap between pan and lid (bigger than usual) for all the extra steam to escape, the popcorn can come out not soggy, but soft and less-than-crisp. It's a little tricky to get the right gap without letting popcorn pop out the pan. Holding the lid flat about 2cm above the pan with one hand while moving the pan with the other seems to work.
  • Even after doing this, the cooked popcorn is still a bit less than crisp immediately after cooking. If I leave it in the hot pan for about 5 minutes, with the stove off, no lid, moving it around occasionally, that seems to be enough for any extra moisture to evaporate and the popcorn to finish up nice and crisp.
  • I tend to use small amounts of oil for popcorn, so spitting when I added the frozen corn wasn't a big problem. Certainly, there was less spitting than, for example, stir-frying frozen vegetables. That said, it's still worth having the lid in the other hand ready to hold over the pan immediately, but primarily to stop any fast-popping corn, more than to shield from spitting oil.

Apart from that, and maybe taking very slightly longer to pop (not nearly as big a difference as I expected, and some seem to possibly pop faster, which doesn't make much sense), it seems to cook exactly as normal straight from the freezer, no defrosting required.

So I wouldn't keep popcorn kernels in the freezer unless (like me) you need to, but if you do need to, it's no big deal, just slightly less convenient.

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I'm not totally sure about this, I haven't done it but I have worked with deep fryers and frozen foods in a commercial kitchen so I do have a few ideas for you.

Don't try frozen corn in hot oil! Your oil will probably spit and jump like crazy. Shallow frying oil reacts more explosively than dropping something frozen into deep frying oil.

As far as defrosting goes, you could defrost and then dry off the corn. Try rubbing dry in a clean tea towel and if you still think it's a bit damp either spread it, on the towel, in sunlight outside or in a nice hot spot behind a window pane. Alternatively, after towel drying, spread on a baking sheet in a low oven just until dry. Then cook as usual.

As I've said I haven't tried this before but I think these might be your best options.

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