With its hand crank that continually stirs the popcorn, the Whirley Pop Popcorn Popper (Est. $23) is a stovetop popcorn maker reminiscent of the old days. But it's not just for nostalgic reasons that owners flock to this popper. Its devotees say the Whirley Pop is fun to use, easy to clean, durable and works on any type of stovetop.
Owners 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 a large quantity quickly -- 24 cups in less than three minutes. Another popper that makes 6 quarts at once is the West Bend 82306 6 Qt. Stir Crazy Corn Popper (Est. $30) , but it needs about six minutes to cook. The popper also makes it easy to try recipes beyond the traditional movie-style popcorn, such as white chocolate almond popcorn. However, if you are looking to cut down on fats and don't like the taste of air-popped popcorn, you might be happy with the Whirley Pop. Owners say it can make flavorful popcorn with as little as a teaspoon of oil.
The Whirley Pop must be seasoned. So as a result, it doesn't require washing if you are simply using oil. 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 popper has 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. (The manufacturer, Wabash Valley Farms, recently released a stainless-steel version with all metal gears for $45.) Still, its fans say that if handled with care, the popper will last you years. If not, dig out the 25-year warranty.