There are many varieties of popping corn, which produce popcorn of different size, shape, and taste. Describing popcorn as having a “mushroom” or “butterfly” type refers to the shape of the popped kernels. Mushroom-type kernels will yield popcorn that is large and round, as suggested by its name, while butterfly-type kernels will pop in unpredictable shapes, with many “wings” sticking in different directions.
While the preference for one type of kernels or another is greatly dictated by taste, mushroom popcorn is particularly appropriate to use with coatings, like caramel, chocolate, or even melted cheese (yum!). Because the popped kernels are round, they present a larger surface to hold coatings and are less likely to crumble during preparation. You will notice that this popcorn is widely used for candied popcorn.
An important thing to know about mushroom corn is that it will not pop very well in most consumer-grade hot air poppers. This is because the hull requires more heat in order to fully pop than most hot air poppers can produce. A stove-top popper, like the Whirley Pop, is ideal as you can control the heat.
Butterfly kernels (sometimes called snowflake kernels) pop in more complicated patterns. This popcorn is the airy, fluffy type we typically find at movie theatres and arenas. The butter and seasonings are easily caught on the many “wings” of the popped kernels; thicker coatings could cause this popcorn type to crumble.
Which type of popcorn is the best?
In the end, it really depends on what you and your family prefer! Our recommendation is to try mushroom popcorn for any recipe that calls for a gooey, thick topping, as the popped kernels will be less likely to break apart. However, we prefer butterfly kernels for any buttery recipe, because the butter is easily distributed on the many “wings” of the kernels.