Compared with popcorn poppers that use oil, microwave poppers are simpler to use and easier to clean. Users simply place kernels in the bottom of a microwave-safe plastic bowl, cover them, and microwave for two to four minutes (depending on your microwave's wattage). No matter which microwave popper you buy, reviews say you should cook the popcorn on reduced power and watch it closely in order to avoid scorching. We also encountered several complaints about the bowls in these popcorn poppers. Users say they can become incredibly hot to the touch -- creating a burn risk for those who fail to use hot pads or wait for the container to cool down.
One popcorn popper that professional reviewers and consumers appreciate is the inexpensive Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper 60120 (*Est. $10). Nearly 400 reviewers between Amazon.com and Cooking.com contribute to an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 on both sites. One reviewer at Amazon.com calls it wonderfully efficient (it outputs 12 cups of popcorn) and easy to use, while others rave about how great its popcorn tastes and report few remaining unpopped kernels.
Still, the Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper isn't without its problems. Several owners report scorched or cracked bowls and advise starting off with the lowest microwave power setting and gradually increasing cook time (until you determine what works with your microwave) to avoid ruining the bowl. However, most agree that once you've figured out the settings, it produces tasty popcorn. Users also say Nordic Ware earns points for its attentive customer service. One reviewer on Cooking.com notes that with heavy use, the lid to his popper became warped, leading to unpopped kernels being scattered on the inside of the microwave. He adds that upon contacting Nordic Ware, they promptly sent him two replacement lids.
Professional reviews also commend the 12-cup capacity Back to Basics Microwave Popcorn Popper (*Est. $13), which The Wall Street Journal says is "easy to use and frills-free." This large red bowl creates crunchy, fluffy corn without oil. Owner feedback on this popper is a bit more mixed, however. The Back to Basics Microwave Popcorn Popper has an average rating of 4 stars out of 5 on Amazon.com (based on nearly 70 owner-written reviews), but we found several complaints about this popper cooking unevenly (leaving many unpopped kernels behind while scorching others). We also found a few reports of this popper causing owners' microwaves to overheat, and several say its lid is prone to warping in the dishwasher. This inexpensive popper is also said to give off an unpleasant plastic smell the first few times it's heated, an occurrence which, users say, tends to give popcorn a plastic-like taste.
While owners like the Presto PowerPop Microwave Multi-Popper (*Est. $20), it's pricier than most other microwave poppers and gets dinged in one professional review for requiring expensive disposable cups (*Est. $6 for eight cups). The cups are called "power concentrators" and are supposed to concentrate the radiation from the microwave into the popcorn, leaving fewer unpopped kernels. Each cup is said to last for 12 uses, but some reviewers report they only last for three to four uses, and most aren't crazy about the added cost. Otherwise, most owners posting to Amazon.com (where it has an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5, based on nearly 225 reviews) agree that the Presto PowerPop makes great tasting popcorn and leaves few kernels behind.