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“Warm it up” is more than a timeless exhortation from one legend of hip hop to another. It’s also great advice for pop eaters seeking to coax peak flavor from their favorite treat. 

If you’re drinking whiskey, you might add a large ice cube, a couple smaller ones, or even a dash of water. If you’re drinking red wine, you might pour a glass and leave the cork out of the bottle, letting both glass and bottle breathe for a few minutes before you glug it down. Both of these techniques “open up” the flavor. It smooths out rough edges, which allows subtle and delicious background notes to emerge.

For similar reasons, before you take that satisfying first lick, you may be smart to let your pop sit for a few minutes at room temperature. This is especially true if you buy it at an event like a music festival, farmers’ market, or other public gathering. (Remember those? Sigh.) It’s also true if you’re buying them from a store with very cold display freezers or if your own freezer is set way down low.

When we take our pops out for a long day in the sun, we keep them in a walk-in freezer at zero Fahrenheit. The high tech gel packs we use in our insulated carts are kept in a smaller freezer that’s even colder than that. This is crucial for keeping your pops frozen at an event that might last many hours in the heat of summer (not to mention setup time and driving there and back). If you buy pops early in the day, or if we’ve just refilled the cooler with fresh pops or gel packs, they might be close to zero degrees when you unwrap them.

That’s pretty cold! Cold enough to stick to your tongue like a metal pipe in winter—another good reason to warm them up a bit.

Freezing suppresses flavor across the board. Reduced sweetness is the most noticeable change for most people, but the intensity of fruit flavors and spices is also lessened when very cold. Experienced pop chefs know their mixtures have to be on the sweet side before they’re frozen, or they’ll be too “dry” in popsicle form. (Many commercial pops, like those Spongebob terrors on the ding dong truck for example, are crushingly, devastatingly sweet before freezing. This is why they’re merely nauseatingly sweet if you buy one at the beach.)

If you let your pop sit on a counter for a minute or two—or even hold it in your hand if you can stand the wait!—it’ll come closer to the freezing point. When you finally reward yourself for your patience, the flavors will be deeper and saturated with yumminess. You don’t want to let it melt, obviously, but the longer you wait up to that point, the more rich and satisfying the flavors. Our home freezer is set to three degrees, so you can bet we always “warm it up” before we treat ourselves to our pop of the day. 

There’s nothing in the world more delicious than a pop on a humid August day. This is partly because they get to peak flavor faster. Now that you know the secret, all your pops can taste more like that unforgettable wave of summer flavor all year round.

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