Best Popcorn Makers of 2019
A popcorn maker allows you to enjoy delicious popcorn whenever you like. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best popcorn maker to make things pop during your next movie night.
Bring the Concession Stand Home with the Best Popcorn Makers
Who doesn't love hot buttered popcorn? You don't have to trek to the cineplex when the craving strikes. With a popcorn maker, you can have fresh popcorn anytime.
But with the variety of popcorn makers on the market, finding the right model for your next movie night can be tough. You need to know what type, size, and other features to look for to find the ideal popcorn maker for your kitchen.
At BestReviews, we help you make sense of all your shopping options. We do in-depth research, consult with experts to gain deeper insight into the products we're considering, and conduct our own field and lab tests to see how well the top contenders really perform. We buy all our own products, too, so you can trust that our recommendations are honest and unbiased.
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Stovetop vs. Microwave: Types of Popcorn Makers
An air popper is a popcorn maker that pops the kernels using hot air, so oil isn't required. Air poppers tend to make fluffy popcorn that's crispy, and they are usually easy to clean. However, it's often difficult to get salt and other flavorings to stick to the popcorn without any oil or butter.
An electric popper is a plug-in popcorn maker that uses oil and metal stirring rods to pop the kernels evenly. An electric motor provides the heat. Electric poppers are a good option if you like to add butter and other flavorings to your popcorn, but they don't produce the healthiest snacks.
Stovetop Popcorn Maker
Like an electric popper, a stovetop popcorn maker uses oil to cook the kernels. However, a stovetop popcorn maker is heated on the stove, and you shake or turn a crank to pop the popcorn evenly. Because a stovetop popcorn maker uses oil, it's easy to season the popcorn with salt and other flavorings.
Microwave Popcorn Maker
A microwave popcorn maker allows you to make popcorn without oil, but you can use oil in a microwave popcorn maker if you like it seasoned. Check the dimensions of your microwave to ensure the microwave popcorn maker you're considering will fit inside.
Pop Time and More: What to Look for When Buying a Popcorn Maker
The best type of popcorn maker for your kitchen depends on what is most important to you. Health-conscious snackers should choose an air popper or a microwave popcorn maker. These popcorn makers do not require oil or butter, so you can make popcorn that's low in calories and fat.
If you want popcorn that tastes more like what you get at the movies, opt for an electric popper or a stovetop popcorn maker. These popcorn makers use oil to cook the popcorn, so you get a more flavorful snack. Oil also makes it easier to add seasonings to the popcorn because it gives the salt and spices something to stick to.
The average serving size for popcorn is two cups per person. If you have a small household, any popcorn maker can handle the task. However, if you have a large family or frequently host movie nights, look for a popcorn maker with a large capacity. Popcorn makers that pop up to 18 cups in as little as five minutes work best for feeding large groups.
Electric poppers and air poppers have motors that pop the corn. The motor's wattage determines how quickly and effectively the popcorn maker works. Look for a popcorn maker with at least a 650-watt motor. If you regularly make large quantities of popcorn, a popcorn maker with a 1000-watt or greater motor is your best bet.
When you have a craving for popcorn, you don't want to wait around for it to pop. It's important to consider the average pop time for any popcorn maker that you're thinking about buying. Efficient popcorn makers pop at least 12 cups of popcorn in two to four minutes.
Keep in mind that there's often a learning curve to figuring out the appropriate cooking time with a new popcorn maker. Experiment with different times to keep unpopped kernels to a minimum without burning the popcorn.
Electric poppers and stovetop popcorn makers require stirring to keep the popcorn from burning. In most cases, the mechanism is a rod or an arm that keeps the kernels moving as the popcorn cooks. Electric poppers have a motorized stirring mechanism, so the popcorn maker does the work for you.
Stovetop popcorn makers usually have a hand crank that you manually crank to turn the stirring arm as the popcorn cooks. This type of stirring mechanism requires more effort, so stovetop popcorn makers are not the best option for people with joint problems or hand weakness.
A popcorn maker with measurement markings on the bowl or container eliminates the need for a separate measuring cup. Just fill the popcorn maker to the proper measurement line to make the precise amount of popcorn you want.
Part of the fun of popcorn is that you can add a variety of seasonings to change its flavor. Butter is the most common flavoring for popcorn. Some electric poppers have special compartments for melting butter and evenly distributing it over the popcorn.
With some microwave popcorn makers, you can add seasonings, such as salt or pepper, when you place the popcorn kernels in the bowl. That way the popcorn is properly seasoned when it's finished cooking instead of adding the seasoning afterward.
Get creative with your popcorn seasonings. Jerk seasoning, Old Bay seasoning, ranch dressing mix, chili powder, and cinnamon sugar are just a few tasty options.
Popcorn makers vary in price based on type and size, but you can typically expect to spend between $10 and $70.
- Microwave Popcorn Makers: $10 to $30
- Air Poppers: $20 to $40
- Stovetop Popcorn Makers: $25 to $50
- Electric Poppers: $25 to $70
Tips for Making Flavorful Popcorn in a Popcorn Maker
- Store unpopped kernels in an airtight container. Exposing popcorn kernels to air can cause them to dry out.
- Two tablespoons of unpopped popcorn produces four cups of popped popcorn. For three to four people, you'll want about 16 cups of popped popcorn.
- Olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil work well for making popcorn. Don't use butter to pop your popcorn. It can burn at high temperatures.
- Avoid adding too much melted butter to your popcorn, or it can get soggy. Use three tablespoons of butter for every eight cups of popcorn.
- Salt is a common seasoning for popcorn, but pepper, curry powder, paprika, and other spices are just as tasty. Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and some olive oil will give your popcorn a zesty, Italian flavor.
Q. What type of popcorn maker produces the healthiest popcorn?
A. For healthy popcorn, you want a popcorn maker that doesn't require the use of oil. Air poppers and microwave popcorn makers don't use oil and produce popcorn that's low in fat and calories. Electric poppers and stovetop popcorn makers use oil, so the popcorn isn't as healthy a snack.
Q. How do I clean a popcorn maker?
A. The best method for cleaning a popcorn maker depends on the type, so always read the manufacturer's instructions carefully. In general, you can simply wipe down air poppers and microwave popcorn makers with a damp cloth. For electric poppers and stovetop popcorn makers that use oil, use a grease-cutting dish soap and damp cloth to clean the appliance.
Q. What features in a popcorn maker make it easier to butter popcorn?
A. Electric poppers often have built-in butter wells. The butter melts in the compartment, so you don't have to melt it separately. The butter is then evenly distributed over the popcorn as it pops.