Many health-conscious popcorn fans appreciate hot-air popcorn poppers, because these products don't require the use of calorie-loaded oil. Using a heating element and a fan, hot air is blown over the kernels to heat them to their expansion point, while the air also keeps the kernels in motion to prevent scorching. To many palates, however, air-popped popcorn is less flavorful than corn that's popped with oil. However, users can easily jazz up air-popped corn with a sprinkling of salt, cheese or minced herbs.
One highly reviewed hot-air popper, the Presto PopLite Hot Air Corn Popper (*Est. $20) may look clunky (with its awkward looking yellow plastic chute and white base), but testers and owners say it's a winner. Slate.com's tester reports that a large batch of its kernels cook up "airy and crunchy" in about 90 seconds, and more than 400 owners posting to Amazon.com and Epinions.com agree, saying this air popper, which has a capacity of 18 cups, is easy to use and leaves few kernels behind. Many owners also note that this popcorn popper lasts for years, but that it's not without some flaws. For instance, the PopLite lacks an on/off switch, and it doesn't come with a container to collect their popcorn.
A number of reviewers also complain about kernel ejection, saying that upon plugging the PopLite in, a handful of unpopped kernels expelled into their bowl. One owner recommends preheating the machine before adding kernels and tilting the machine slightly so that kernels can't help but fall into the bowl; another reviewer notes that doing this and waiting a few moments before replacing the measuring cup may prevent this kind of expulsion.
It's worth noting that this popcorn popper has a more expensive sibling, the Orville Redenbacher's Hot Air Corn Popper by Presto (*Est. $25). Reviews say that the two models are identical except for the chutes (the Orville Redenbacher's is clear rather than yellow). The Wall Street Journal's review praises this "classic" popcorn popper's ease of use and cleanup, but says the popcorn lacks taste. However, most of the 220 owners posting to Amazon.com are happy with this popcorn popper, which has an average rating of 4 stars out of 5, but the PopLite works just as well and costs less, making it a better buy.