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Popcorn Maker Buying Guide

By: Angela Stringfellow on July 10, 2017

What the best popcorn popper has

  • Capacity. If you make popcorn for one or two people, smaller popcorn poppers will suit your needs. If you're making popcorn for a family, however, you'll want to look for a popcorn maker with a 12-cup capacity or more.
  • Average pop time. Most poppers can pop about 10 to 14 cups of popcorn in two to four minutes. Some popcorn poppers require a bit of trial-and-error to find the right cooking time to avoid burning popcorn while minimizing unpopped kernels.
  • A minimum one-year warranty. Especially for electric units as popcorn poppers can malfunction. Most, but not all, poppers come with a warranty of at least a year against manufacturer's defects.
  • A built-in butter well. Electric popcorn makers with built-in butter wells make it easy to melt and distribute butter evenly during the cooking process, so you don't have to dirty another dish to melt butter.
  • A stirring mechanisms to reduce burning. The best hot-oil popcorn makers have an integrated stirring mechanism to keep kernels moving, popping most of the kernels with every use without scorched or burnt popcorn. One is typically not needed in a hot air popper, however.
  • Cool-touch exterior. Popcorn poppers use heat to pop kernels, meaning the units can become extremely hot to the touch. Look for popcorn makers with handles, ventilation, and other features for safer use.
  • Ability to add seasonings. If you enjoy salt, butter, and other toppings on your popcorn, look for a popcorn maker that offers the ability to add seasonings. Most microwave poppers, for instance, allow seasonings to be added prior to cooking for even distribution and built-in flavor.
  • Built-in measurements. The best microwave popcorn poppers have measurement lines etched into the bowl, meaning you don't need to dirty a measuring cup to measure out the right amount of kernels.
  • Steam venting. Because popcorn poppers rely on heat, the process creates steam. Popcorn poppers with built-in steam vents keep your popcorn dry and crisp.

Know before you go

What are your dietary restrictions? If cutting out extra calories is your goal, you can narrow your choice to a stand-alone hot air popper or a microwave popper that doesn't require oil. However, if you realistically can't see yourself cutting oil out altogether, there are poppers that will also make flavorful popcorn with just a minuscule amount of oil.

What are your space constraints? Think about whether you want an appliance that will sit on your counter at the ready or if you'd prefer to store a somewhat smaller bowl in a cabinet or closet. Also, take a look at the shape of the popper to ensure that it will stack neatly with other items in your cabinet. Some microwave popcorn poppers collapse to just two inches tall, so they can be easily stowed away in a drawer when not in use without taking up a lot of cabinet space.

How big is your microwave? If you are considering purchasing a microwave popper, you'll need to take measurements of your microwave's cavity. If your microwave is too compact, certain microwave poppers might not fit inside.

Do you want to make gourmet popcorn recipes? If you're looking for a popcorn maker that you can use to make gourmet popcorn recipes such as caramel corn or cheese popcorn, some popcorn poppers may not be compatible with these added flavorings. Be sure to research the types of ingredients that are safe to use with your popcorn maker. Stovetop popcorn poppers and microwave popcorn poppers tend to be more versatile for use with different ingredients.

Do you have a preferred brand of popcorn? Owners say that some popcorn makers work best with certain brands of popcorn, but it's largely a matter of personal taste. If you have a preferred brand, it's worth reading owner feedback to find out if your popcorn maker works well with your choice of kernels. Additionally, owners offer suggestions on flavoring and seasoning combinations that work well with various popcorn makers, and some models come with recipe books.

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