How to Pop Whole Grains

To take your whole grains to the next level, pop them.

When it comes to popping, corn gets all the attention. But don't overlook other whole grains. We experimented with the varieties featured in our article on grain cookery and found that larger types—namely wheat berries, spelt, and kamut—take on a hearty crunch and nutty flavor when they're popped, making them a terrific snack or a wholesome topping to add to soups or salads. (Smaller whole grains, such as barley or rye, have a smaller proportion of starchy endosperm to bran and remained too hard to be enjoyable.) We also found that a brief simmer in salted water prior to popping helped season the grains and soften their starch, so they weren't dense and tough when popped. (Note that the grains will make a noise as they pop and will jump around the skillet, but they won't fully open like popcorn does.)

1.  Add ½ cup wheat berries, kamut, or spelt and ½ teaspoon table salt to 1 quart boiling water in medium saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes. Drain well, then spread over large plate lined with double layer of paper towels. Let dry for 15 minutes.

2.  Heat grains and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until grains are fragrant and deep golden brown and popping slows, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer grains to bowl and sprinkle with kosher salt. Let cool completely before serving. Grains can be stored in airtight container for up to 1 week.

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