Americans love their popcorn
The typical American consumes about 43 quarts – or 172
cups – of popcorn each year. This buttery, salty treat has long been a movie
theater and sports-stadium favorite, but you don't have to leave the comforts
of your home to enjoy freshly popped corn. In fact, some people prefer to pop
their own corn, as it's easier to control the amount of butter, salt, and oil
used in preparation, all of which impacts the fat and other nutrition content.
Types of Popcorn Poppers
Electric Popcorn Poppers
For $20 to $35, you can use a stand-alone, electric popcorn popper. Two options are available. Traditional popcorn poppers require a touch of oil to do their work, but produce a popcorn that's every bit as flavorful as what you will find at your favorite movie theater. Hot air poppers don't use any oil at all, and produce a light, airy, and somewhat healthier popcorn -- though most also have options to add butter or other flavorings.
Stovetop Popcorn Popper
For those that want to make popcorn popping a more "interactive" experience, a manual stovetop popcorn popper is both effective and fun. These throwback poppers require hand cranking to keep kernels from sticking, but also can produce a lot of popcorn in a relatively short time. They are also ideal for those that want to experiment with different types of gourmet popcorn recipes, such as adding chocolate or other gooey ingredients. This type of popcorn popper is also relatively inexpensive; figure on spending around $30.
Microwave Popcorn Poppers
Costing $10 to $20, microwave poppers offer the convenience of using the microwave to make popcorn without the additives found in microwavable bags. This type of popcorn maker is typically a plastic bowl with a vented lid that pops corn in your microwave within a few minutes. But even these poppers need to be closely monitored. A plus for some is that when you are not using it for making popcorn, the bowls can be used for other purposes.
Finding The Best Popcorn Poppers
"The Best Popcorn Makers of 2016"
"The Best Popcorn Maker for YOU!"
The best popcorn poppers are easy to use and include clear
instructions. They are designed with vents to allow steam from the popping corn
to escape to prevent the finished result from becoming mushy. The best poppers
are also efficient and pop every kernel, without scorching, in just a few
minutes. In addition, popcorn poppers shouldn't require much assembly and must be
easy to clean.
To identify the best
popcorn poppers, we consulted hands-on tests conducted by editors at
YourBestDigs.com, Cook's Illustrated magazine, Moo.Review,
SurLaTable.com, and Heavy.com, as well as other reviews featuring one or more
popcorn poppers from Leelalicious.com, TheKitchn.com and Cookistry.com. For
opinions on real-world performance and usability, we turned to individual
owner-written reviews on sites like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com.
The Presto PopLite Hot Air Corn Popper
remains a user favorite
While many people frown at getting an
appliance that has just one purpose, many owners of stand-alone poppers are
self-described popcorn fanatics who get plenty of use out of their units. Two
options among stand-alone units rise to the top in reviews: the (Est. $25) -- also available as the (Est. $25) -- and the (Est. $25).
The Presto PopLite receives thousands of reviews at Amazon.com,
earning high scores from most owners. Capable of making up to 18 cups of
popcorn in about two and a half minutes, the Presto PopLite uses hot air – rather than oil – for a healthier snack. Popcorn
lovers aren't limited to dry popcorn, though; a measuring cup built into the
popper top will melt butter using the heat created during the popping process,
so butter, oil, and other flavorings can be added as desired. That said, it's
best to start with soft, room-temperature butter, because this popcorn popper
works so quickly that cold butter often doesn't have enough time to melt.
contributing reviews of the Presto PopLite on
Amazon.com offer helpful tips for getting different results based on your
personal taste and preferences. For instance, some owners suggest using
particular brands of kernels or spraying olive oil or butter on the kernels
with an olive oil sprayer for added flavor. However, some users say you need to
work a little harder to evenly distribute seasonings since they cannot be added
until the PopLite finishes popping. A few owners
offer suggestions for overcoming this challenge, such as putting the finished
popcorn in a bag with seasonings and shaking it up.
The Presto PopLite is as durable as it is versatile, owners say. Many
owners say they've owned this popcorn popper for years and it's held up with
relatively consistent use – some for 10 years or more. While the machine
pops nearly all kernels and never burns them, some piping hot ones often fly
out in unsuspecting directions at start-up and at the end of the popping cycle,
so you'll need a large bowl to capture all of the popcorn. Be forewarned:
Half-popped kernels in the popping chamber will be very hot, so don't reach in
after them. Reviewers do warn against adding popcorn kernels above the fill
line, which can result in an overheating, smoking popcorn popper.
simple; both the base and the plastic top can be wiped clean after use, and the
plastic cover can also be removed and washed with soap and water. Editors at
YourBestDigs.com do point out, however, that the Presto PopLite comes with a California Proposition 65 warning, as the plastic cover contains
BPA. Both the Presto PopLite and its Orville
Redenbacher-branded counterpart are backed by a one-year limited warranty.
Bend Stir Crazy 6-Quart Electric Popcorn Popper also draws lots of consideration.
Editors at YourBestDigs.com name it as their "most fun" pick in a roundup of
five popcorn poppers, noting that it's also easy to use, made from quality
materials, and lightweight at just four pounds. The West Bend Stir Crazy popper
receives positive reviews from thousands of owners posting feedback to
Amazon.com, earning average to high ratings from the majority. Users say this
popcorn popper, which makes about six quarts of popcorn in about five minutes,
makes great-tasting popcorn no matter what brand of popcorn kernels is used.
Unlike the PopLite, which uses forced air, the West Bend Stir Crazy
popper requires a little oil and has a rotating arm that turns slowly keeping
the kernels moving to prevent them from sticking and burning. Users say the
popcorn needs to be monitored, which is easy to do since the popper has a
transparent lid. The lid contains an indented section with small holes that can
be used to distribute melted butter onto the popcorn, and the lid doubles as a
large popcorn bowl – but only when used with the cap to prevent any
flavorings from leaking out of the holes. As soon as all of the kernels have
popped, the unit needs to be unplugged so that it doesn't scorch your snack.
Presto PopLite and the West Bend Stir Crazy have some
design issues. Some Presto PopLite owners say that
the cover warps over time. The cover is made of a special material designed to
absorb heat without melting, but, temperature does have an impact. Because of
that, to retain the lid's shape, it needs to cool off on top of the base. Meanwhile,
West Bend Stir Crazy users complain that their popper's rotating arm scrapes
its nonstick base, and editors at Moo.Review say that
kernels can get stuck under the arm and dragged along the hot base. When that
happens -- which isn't every batch -- it results in the whole batch of popcorn
having a "smokey" taste. If that's a concern, some
owner reviews include a fix that may get rid of the issue.
popper has an on/off button -- a minor inconvenience for most. If the lack of
an on/off switch is bothersome but you like the West Bend Stir Crazy's design,
West Bend makes another version of its Stir Crazy popper, the (Est. $25). It pops up to 27 cups
(about 6.75 quarts) in about four minutes, has an on/off switch, plus a
convenient cord wrap and nesting design (the base fits nicely inside the lid) for
easy storage. Like the West Bend 82306 6 Qt. Stir Crazy Corn Popper, its
transparent lid doubles as a serving bowl and is BPA-free.
If you are
looking for another hot air option instead, the (Est. $35)
is worth a look. Editors at SurLaTable.com say it's easy to use and maintain,
and because it doesn't require oil, it's a good choice for popcorn lovers
looking for healthier options. Like the PopLite, it
has a butter tray for melting butter while you pop. However, editors say the
popcorn was "kind of mushy."
also praises the Cuisinart EasyPop, noting that all
its removable parts are dishwasher-safe and BPA-free. Compared to other hot air
poppers, the Cuisinart has a few things going for it: it has an on/off switch,
as well as a convenient cord wrap for easy storage. Plus, it's quieter than
most hot air poppers. However, it is a bit more expensive.
Cuisinart EasyPop earns high ratings from more than
1,500 owners posting feedback to Amazon.com. It comes in color options including red,
white, and metallic red, and reviewers say it's a better-looking appliance and
feels sturdier compared to the Presto PopLite. Users
and professional testers agree that it tends to leave some kernels unpopped, and, like the PopLite,
rogue kernels and popped corn can come flying out of the chute in all
directions, requiring a large-diameter bowl to successfully capture it.
Cuisinart EasyPop pops up to 10 cups of popcorn in
three minutes or less, although reviewers say the whole process takes about 10
minutes. In Moo.Review's test, it took an average of
four minutes and 10 seconds to pop a full ½ cup of kernels. Reviewers
say you need to keep an eye on this popcorn popper during use, as some popcorn
can get stuck in the popping chamber and burn. Overall, though, if you use a
popcorn popper frequently and don't mind a few unpopped kernels, the Cuisinart is an easy-to-use popper that's aesthetically pleasing
enough to leave on your countertop, but also convenient to store.
The best stovetop popcorn popper
its hand crank that continually stirs the popcorn, the (Est. $30) is a stovetop
popcorn maker that's reminiscent of the old days. But nostalgia isn't the only reason
that owners flock to this popper. The Whirley Pop
earns a high rating in thousands of owner-written reviews on Amazon.com, with
most reviewers saying that it's fun to use, easy to clean, durable and works on
any type of stovetop. The old-fashioned hand crank is patented and actually
serves a purpose: keeping the kernels from sticking and burning for perfectly
also say that the popper is handy for large families with children who can't
wait to dive into a big tub of popcorn. It makes about 24 cups in less than
three minutes -- quicker than the West Bend Stir Crazy, which takes about five
minutes to make the same amount. The popper also makes it easy to try recipes
beyond the traditional movie-style popcorn, such as white chocolate almond
say medium heat is all you need for quickly and evenly popping a batch of
fresh, crisp popcorn. The clip-on lid is designed to stay put during use and
has steam vents to keep the popcorn crisp and dry. Plus, the wooden hand crank
stays cool during operation. Some reviewers at Amazon.com and other consumer
review sites do criticize the Whirley Pop's manual
operation, however, pointing out that manually turning the handle loses its
novelty after a few uses. However, if you are looking to cut down on fats and
don't like the taste of air-popped popcorn, the Whirley Pop is a good choice. Owners say it can make flavorful popcorn with as little
as a teaspoon of oil.
The Whirley Pop must be seasoned but doesn't require
washing if you are using only oil; simply wiping it off with a paper towel or
cloth will do the trick. But before you begin experimenting with gourmet
popcorn recipes, keep in mind that a gooey recipe will require a more thorough
hand-washing after the fact. It's not dishwasher-safe, and some owners say
cleaning out the parts of the lid can be difficult.
The Whirley Pop has a few other downsides. It's made of
aluminum, disappointing users who have health concerns about cooking with this
metal. The lightweight design is also prone to denting. In addition, it has
plastic gears, which perturbs users when the pieces pop off. If all of that is
a concern, the manufacturer has also released a stainless-steel version, the (Est. $50) with all metal gears. Still, its
fans say that if handled with care, the original popper will last you years. If
not, dig out its 25-year warranty, which covers the moving parts (gears) as
well as the pan itself.