An at-home cinema experience is incomplete without the services of the best popcorn poppers, and we’ve found all the very best oil and hot air popcorn makers for healthy snacks or indulgent, buttery popcorn. Popcorn makers are the easy way to create hot popcorn at home, and we guarantee it’s tastier (and probably healthier) than the stuff you’ll buy at the store. What’s more, popcorn kernels are cheap, so you’ll be able to make your money back in no time.
Ready in 4 - 5 minutes
The West Bend popcorn maker prepares 24 to 28 cups of popcorn with virtually no burnt kernels in about four or five minutes. This popcorn popper uses a non-stick heating plate on the bottom with a stirring rod and heated oil to make delicious popcorn. There are handles on either side of the maker that won’t get hot during the process, which is a nice safety touch.
- Make 24-28 cups
- Take 4-5 mins per batch
- Top doubles as serving bowl
- Most parts are not dishwasher safe
When your popcorn is ready, you can flip the West Bend popcorn maker upside down and use the top as a serving bowl. Overall this model is easy to clean. The cover can be washed on the top rack of the dishwasher. The stirring rod detaches from the popcorn popper and can be washed by hand and dried before reattaching it, and the base can be washed to soapy water, though it can't be fully submerged. The user manual that comes with the West Bend popcorn popper includes fun and unusual recipes for such this as lime fiesta or herb-infused popcorn.
No oil, no mess
The Presto popcorn popper uses only hot air to make light and fluffy popcorn. It pops up to 18 cups of popped kernels in under three minutes. The top of the popcorn maker has a scoop that measures exactly how many kernels to pour into the machine before turning it on. The scoop doubles as a handy butter melter if you want to drizzle some over your popcorn.
- Quickly pops
- Makes 18 cups per scoop
- Easy to clean
- No on/off switch
When you're ready to use the Presto popcorn popper, there isn't an on/off switch. It starts heating up as soon as it is plugged in. When you're done, there is a cord wrap for easy storage. Because it only uses air, this popcorn popper doesn’t really get dirty, and it wipes clean with a dry cloth. If you need to, you can wash the top and scoop in the dishwasher, though we recommend placing them on the top rack.
The Housewares Collapsable Popcorn Popper is a great way to make popcorn without investing in a whole new appliance. This silicone popcorn maker uses hot air and your microwave to pop traditional popcorn kernels in about 3 minutes. It essentially replicates the typical microwave popcorn you buy in the bags at the grocery store.
- Folds for compact storage
- Dishwasher safe
- Small capacity
The popper doubles as a serving bowl, though it only holds about 7cups of fresh-popped popcorn, which is much less compared to traditional popcorn makers. The bowl collapses for easier storage when you’re done both the top and the bowl are dishwasher safe.
The Great Northern stovetop popper has a manual stirrer that can be operated by turning the wooden handle. Its vented lid allows moisture to escape. This creates crispy corn every time, and you get the added bonus of choosing whether you add oil or butter, or keep your popcorn low-calorie with air popping.
- Easy to clean
- Manual stirrer
- Vents for moisture to escape
- Expensive for a non-electric popcorn machine
This popcorn popper doesn't result in burn kernels stuck at the bottom of the pan like what happens with other stir-type popcorn makers. And when you're done, it can be cleaned with a quick wipe of a paper towel. This popcorn popper costs just as much, or more, than most electric popcorn makers. But over a long period of time it may prove to be a good investment depending on how often you make popcorn.
Lid doubles as bowl
The Orville Redenbacher's Stirring Popper has a large 20-24 cup capacity, plus the lid flips over and becomes a bowl to eat straight out of. It uses a heating plate that you put oil and kernels on and doesn’t have any vents or crevices for unpopped kernels to get stuck in or fall out of.
- Done in a few minutes
- Very few unpopped kernels
- Lid doubles as a bowl
- No on/off switch
When we tested this popcorn maker we were pleased to see that this popper left no unpopped kernels at all, and there was no burnt popcorn either. But we've heard from other users that it is possible for some to be left behind. The Orville Redenbacher's Stirring Popper doesn't have an on/off switch. It starts the minute to plug it in and doesn't stop until your pull the plug. Also the bowl/lid, heating plat and stirring rode are not dishwasher safe, so be prepared to do a little hand washing after you enjoy your bowl of fresh popcorn.
Low-calorie air popping
The Presto PopLite is a small air popcorn maker without many frills or features. It is very easy to use, especially since you don’t have to use oil, and easy to clean up – which is perfect if you are looking for a quick, tasty low-calorie snack. All you have to do is plug in the PopLite, wait for it to heat up, add your popcorn kernels and in two to three minutes you’ll have a bowl of hot, fresh popcorn to enjoy.
- Easy to use
- Low calorie results
- No burn kernels
- Lots of unpopped kernels
The PopLite popcorn maker performs well and it didn't spew as much popcorn and kernels all over our kitchen counter like some of the other air poppers we tested. Also, during testing, the PopLite turned out really tasty popcorn which was surprising for an air pop machine. We were a little disappointed in how many unpopped kernels were left behind. It left behind more than any other popper we tested.
How we tested popcorn poppers
We invested 80 hours testing popcorn makers and followed their user manuals to the letter. We used only the best quality ingredients – name-brand popcorn, butter, salt, and oil when called for – so each popcorn popper would be tested and evaluated in the same fashion. In addition, we used the same testing approach for each model by doing such things as timing the popping process carefully, examining it thoroughly by hand, and of course, tasting it.
We checked written materials about popcorn makers in general and carefully read the websites and consumer reviews for each of the poppers we tested. We also examined the fine print of warranties. We documented everything significant that we learned about each popcorn maker, and scored and ranked each accordingly.
We made two batches of popcorn in each of our test models, following the manufacturer’s instructions. All popcorn and oil were carefully measured, and we timed how long each popcorn maker took to complete the job. Then we combed through the popcorn to find any burnt or unpopped kernels, picked them out of each batch, and carefully measured and documented them. We even gathered up unpopped kernels from inside the machine, on the kitchen countertop, and on the floor in order to measure those. We scored those criteria based on an average for the three batches.
As far as such things as the length of the electrical cord and the dimensions, we didn’t just take the manufacturer’s word for it but took our own measurements with a tape measure. We also evaluated how easy or difficult it was to clean and whether you got a recipe booklet or measuring cup with it. We checked to see whether plastic popcorn popper parts were free of the chemical compound BPA (bisphenol A), which some research indicates could be harmful to human health, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers it safe at low levels.
What is the best oil to use in popcorn machines?
While you can potentially use any type of oil in your popcorn machine, you’re most likely going to use coconut oil or canola oil. Coconut oil contains more fat and cholesterol than canola oil but both make excellent popcorn.
For that classic buttery flavor, consider getting a flavored popcorn oil. Likewise, you can use plain coconut oil or canola oil seasoned with a butter-flavored salt such as Flavacol or kettle corn seasoning for sweet popcorn.
Peanut oil is an excellent alternative to coconut and canola oil because it has a high burning point. You can also experiment with sunflower or soybean oil or try something more exotic such as avocado or walnut oil.
On the other hand, while olive oil is a healthy choice, makes a great vinaigrette for salads, and works well for pan cooking, it has a low burning point and tends to be expensive. As such, you might not want to use it with a popcorn maker. However, you can combine it with other oils – for example, you could use peanut oil as the primary oil and add just a touch of olive oil.
It’s best to avoid using flaxseed oil and wheat germ oil since they aren’t supposed to be heated. According to a 2016 article in the Cleveland Clinic’s online publication Healthy Essentials, you won’t get good popcorn with those oils.
If all else fails, check the manufacturer’s recommendations, since the type of oil it suggests will usually yield the best results.
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