Microwave poppers offer the convenience of using the microwave to make popcorn without the additives found in microwavable bags. This type 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.
Both the Presto PowerPop Microwave Multi-Popper (Est. $18) and the Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper (Est. $9) are lauded for the fabulous popcorn that they make. However, in both cases, there is some trial and error involved to achieve that perfectly popped popcorn. In addition, the Presto PowerPop is not compatible with some microwaves, and several users blame it for destroying their appliance.
The biggest difference between the two poppers is that the Presto PowerPop requires the added expense of cardboard-like inserts called concentrators to be placed at the bottom of the bowl. The popper includes a supply of eight. Without oil, each insert is supposed to make 24 batches and theoretically should last about six months for someone making popcorn every day. With oil, the insert's lifespan is reduced to 12 batches each, although various users report this figure being between three and 10 batches each. Numerous owners who use oil report that they get only a handful of uses before having to throw out a darkened or scorched concentrator. They also grumble that the concentrators are not always easy to find in local stores. A package of eight can be purchased online for $3.50 (plus shipping). One thrifty Amazon reviewer makes his own substitute inserts by tracing a concentrator onto the underside of 10-inch paper bowls. "The sides of the bowl curl up like the power concentrator and hold the popcorn, salt and oil perfectly," he writes. "Also, I save lots of money that way."
Nordic Ware owners admit that there is a high rate of unpopped kernels in every batch, but it's a price they are willing to pay for great tasting popcorn. While Nordic Ware instructs owners not to cook with oil, several owners do so in order to get a better tasting snack. Owners also warn that the bowl is extremely hot out of the microwave and should be handled carefully.