Popcorn Comes In 2 Basic Shapes

Popcorn has been a staple snack in a variety of cultures for centuries. According to Popcorn.org, corn was initially cultivated for the very purpose of popping, and the oldest ears of corn that have been discovered date back to 4,000 years. The airy snack has been known to play integral parts of many early cultures in Central and South America, ranging from the Aztecs to early Peruvian settlements.

During the mid 19th century, popcorn became a much more common household food, due to the abundance of maize planting. Per Popcorn.org, the snack food was seen more as a breakfast food in the early 20th century and was eaten similarly to modern day cereals. According to Serious Eats, it then became a classic movie theater during the Great Depression.

Nowadays, you can't walk through a grocery store or a gas station without seeing some variety of popcorn, with numerous brands dedicated to its production offering countless flavors. But have you ever noticed the difference between the shapes of popcorn, and does it mean anything?

Not all pieces of popcorn are created equal

When indulging in the delicious salty snack, or sweet if that's your preference, you will find it to be made of two distinct shapes: mushroom-type and butterfly-type, according to Corn Popper. The difference between these two shapes can likely be distinguished just from their names. Mushroom-type popcorn pieces can be identified by their large, round, mushroom cap-like shape, while butterfly-type pieces will typically have a smaller round dome, surrounded by pieces sticking out in different directions. Mushroom popcorn, because of its larger surface area and thicker shell, is typically candied or topped with heavier coatings. Butterfly popcorn is more likely to crumble with these thicker coatings, thus it is typically topped with flavored seasonings instead.

The difference between these two types of popcorn, other than their appearance, is the internal reaction when heated and how that inevitably affects their shape. According to HuffPost, a kernel is "popped" because the heat causes the internal starches to blow out and invert the shell. If this process happens evenly, mushroom-type popcorn is formed. If it expands unevenly, you have butterfly-type popcorn.