It's fluffy, it's crunchy, it's mandatory for movie night. Yes, we're talking about popcorn. Ever wonder how it's created? To learn the answer, we picked the brain of The Popcorn Board, (a national non-profit organization funded by popcorn makers). What we learned: Popcorn kernels contain a tiny droplet of water, which, when heated, expands and causes kernels to pop, releasing their starchy interior from their sturdy outer shell. How exactly you transform this hard nugget into America's favorite light, white snack is totally up to you. To achieve more perfect corn, most consumers use popcorn poppers. Under that umbrella, there are currently four main options: hot air, electric, stovetop, and microwave poppers.
Hot air poppers are generally touted as the healthiest options since they don't require the use of oil, a fact that some say can lead to less flavor. Microwave popcorn poppers (which consist of a microwave-safe plastic bowl and lid) can be used with or without oil and are extremely easy to clean. Some users complain, however, that microwave poppers produce "plastic-tasting" popcorn.
For a more nostalgic feel, many consumers prefer old-fashioned stovetop poppers. Basically, they work like saucepans. Stovetop popcorn poppers feature a vented lid (allowing steam to escape for crispier popcorn) and a hand crank that operates a stirring mechanism to keep kernels moving across the bottom of the pan. ( That action prevents scorching and distribute oil.)
On the plus side, stovetop poppers can be used with any heat source -- even an outdoor grill. However, these units can be difficult to operate and clean. Electric popcorn poppers are another alternative for those who don't want to turn the stove on for a quick snack. It's important to note that both electric and stovetop poppers use oil, so while the popcorn is more flavorful, it's also higher in calories and fat. Want to learn more? Check out our updated full report on popcorn poppers.