Comparing Popcorn Brands

I am comparing different brands of popcorn and popping them to see which one leaves the least un-popped kernels at the bottom of the tray.
Justin Chen
Grade 6


  1. I hypothesize that the Compliments Organic brand will pop the highest percentage of kernels.
  2. I predict that because the Compliments Organic kernels are heavier, due to more internal moisture, which will then help the kernel pop.


Popcorn is a type of corn that has a source of fibre and is low in calories. 

It has a hard outer shell, but an interior of moist starch. 

When heated to 400F, the moisture inside turns to steam, and the steam puts pressure on the shell causing it to bust into a puffy, white flake. 

The best popcorn is 13.5% moisture and expands 30 - 40 times when popped.



Manipulated variable

- Brand of popcorn

Responding variable

-Finished popping quality/quantity

Controlled Variables

- Room temperature

- Dry kernel temperature

- Quantity of kernels per trial (100)

- Same machine for all trials

- Time per trial

- Time between trials


Other conditions:

- I did a test run to find out how long that amount of popcorn takes to pop. I decided that that the popping time would be 1 minute 15 seconds because that was approximately 15 seconds after the last pop heard on our test run. 

- I decided to wait 3 minutes between popping trials to let the popcorn machine cool down. 



1. Label 9 containers: Comp 1, Comp 2, Comp 3, Organic 1, Organic 2, Organic 3, Red 1, Red 2, Red 3. 

2. Place 100 kernels of each brand into the designated containers. Remove and replace any defective kernels.

3. Conduct temperature tests of each bag of popcorn brand.

4. Conduct room temperature measurement.

5. Weigh each container of kernels. Record qualitative observations of each sample. 

6.  Pop each sample for 1 min 15 seconds.

7. Count the number of popped, unpopped, half popped kernels. Make observations on quality and taste. 

8. Repeat three times for each brand.


Prior to placing the popcorn in the popcorn machine, I visually inspected each kernel to make sure there were no obvious defects, changes in colour, or clearly desiccated kernels. On inspection, the Compliments (non-organic) bag contained far more irregular kernels. For the purpose of this study, we removed those to ensure that there were no obvious irregular kernels in any sample.


During the popping of the popcorn, there was no visible difference in the sound of popping for each brand. All brands of popcorn smelled the same initially, but the Compliments (non-organic) brand subjectively tasted drier and slightly staler. Five separate taste testers agreed with this assessment of the Compliments (non-organic) brand taste. Four tasters also agreed that the Compliments Organic popcorn was slightly preferable to the Orville Redenbacher popcorn, though one taster indicated there was no significant difference.

Other charts and data are on these google slides:


All analysis graphs, charts, and information is on this google slides:


  1. Compliments Organic brand is preferable to Orville Redenbacher and Compliments non-organic brand in terms of the amount of fully popped kernels, taste, and absence of residual shells.


  1. My hypothesis was incorrect; higher weight kernels results in more half-popped kernels, rather than more fully popped kernels. I deduce that this is because the higher weight is a result of a thicker kernel shell, rather than higher moisture content. 


Generally, the Organic Compliments brand is preferable because it results in the highest percentage of popped (edible) popcorn, superior taste. 

 I did not conduct a cost analysis for this research study. Cost may factor into which brand is more affordable. 

Future directions could be to include additional brands, increase the number of trials per brand, and include a cost analysis.


Sources Of Error

  • Relatively small sample sizes.
  • Taste testers are subjective.
  • The three-minute cooldown between popcorn batches may not have been sufficient to completely cool down the popcorn machine and may have influenced the starting popping temperature.
  • We are uncertain of how fresh each brand’s kernels are. Although none of the popcorn kernel batches are expired, we don’t know how long it’s been since they were harvested or how long they have been kept in the grocery store or in storage until they were purchased.
  • We only tested samples from one bag per brand. There could be some batches that were harvested at different times in the growth cycle of corn, affected by the climate that season, or environmental conditions.


The World Book Encyclopedia, vol. 15, page 663, February, 16, 2021


Thanks to my parents for helping me learn how to design science experiments and counting kernels. Thanks to my siblings for counting kernels (300 each). Thank you to everyone that helped and supported me through this amazing project!