The typical American consumes 200 cups of popcorn a year. If you count yourself among the snacking population but are looking to control the type of corn you eat and how much salt and oil goes on it, you have a number of options to easily make this snack at home. For $20 to $30, you can use a stand-alone appliance that makes popcorn by using either hot air or oil. Alternatively, you can buy a specially designed bowl for $10 to $20 that will pop corn in your microwave with or without the extra fats. Lastly, you can take the traditional route and buy a stovetop popper for about $25.
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 so that your snack doesn't become mushy. The best poppers are also efficient: They should pop every kernel, without scorching, during a commercial break. In addition, these machines shouldn't require much assembly and must be easy to clean.
Popcorn makers are generally safe. But, in May 2013, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a voluntary recall of 55,000 microwave popcorn makers sold by Avon Products, Inc. The popcorn makers, model number 474-105, were made in Taiwan and sold through Avon sales representatives from October 2012 to February 2013. When cooked for too long, the popcorn in the Avon poppers could overheat and ignite, posing a fire and burn hazard to consumers.
We identified the best units by consulting the professional testers and experts at Good Housekeeping, Cook's Illustrated and TheKitchn.com; reviews by Slate.com and EveryDay with Rachael Ray magazine; as well as individual owner reviews at Amazon.com, Viewpoints.com, Walmart.com and Target.com, among others. We analyzed and sorted the poppers into three categories -- best popcorn popper, microwave popper and stovetop popper -- to help you identify the best popper for you.