Does Microwave Popcorn Ever Go Bad?

It doesn't exactly seem like a perishable item, and indeed many of us keep it in our cupboards or pantries for what feels like extended periods of time. But can microwave popcorn go bad before you get around to popping it? The answer to that question is yes, since, as Kitchen Seer notes, any food item which contains fats and oils has the potential to become rancid. But not to worry: It will last a while before doing so.

According to Eat By Date, popcorn lasts indefinitely, and microwave popcorn lasts for six to eight months. What's the difference? Popcorn is simply kernels, while microwave popcorn is prepackaged with kernels, oils, and seasonings. Once upon a time, microwave popcorn did contain actual butter and had to be refrigerated, but now it's commonly given butter flavorings like diacetyl instead. Because of its perishability factor and propensity to dry out over time, says Kettle Heroes, microwave popcorn has an expiration date, or "best by date," on its packaging.

Storing microwave popcorn for freshness

There are a few telltale ways to identify microwave popcorn gone bad, Kitchen Seer observes, including an "off-putting smell or only half of the kernels popped." To keep your microwave popcorn fresh, Eat By Date recommends keeping it in its original airtight container and away from the stove or any sources of heat. It's also best to keep popcorn away from light, Kitchen Vile reports, because this can affect the quality of the popcorn.

There is no real advantage to keeping microwave popcorn in the refrigerator, according to What the Popcorn, but it can be done to save pantry space so long as the popcorn is removed 30 minutes prior to microwaving to allow it time to return to room temperature. Orville Redenbacher disagrees, believing refrigeration can dry out kernels. Orville's top storage tips include keepingĀ microwave popcorn in its original plastic wrapper until just before popping.