The best popcorn makers can bring a taste of the movie theater into your own home, with both healthy hot air poppers and oil poppers available. Great for making snacks on movie night, proper popcorn makers are both fun to use and can provide tasty popped corn for all the family. In terms of the difference between models, hot air poppers are healthier and allow you to make low-calorie snacks anytime, whilst other machines use oil for a more luxurious result.
There’s a further choice to be made in exactly how you want your corn to pop. For a hands-free experience, electric machines can be plugged in and filled with fresh kernels in order to make lots of ready-to-eat popcorn. Alternatively, if you don’t want to invest in a whole new appliance, there are purpose-made bowls you can pop into the microwave with your kernels to achieve the same tasty results. If you’re a popcorn traditionalist, we’ve made sure to include stovetop makers too, so you can still enjoy watching the popping happening yourself.
The best popcorn makers range in size and price, with the cheapest options available from as little as $15. Whilst bigger, more technical popcorn makers can cost up to $215 and have much larger outputs. However much you decide to spend, popcorn makers are a great buy, as they ensure you’ll always have movie-ready snacks in your house. For more ways to upgrade your kitchen, check out the best ice cream makers and the best espresso machines.
1. West Bend 82505 Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper: Best popcorn maker overall
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This economical oil popcorn maker is a good can prepare 24 to 28 cups of great popcorn with virtually no burnt kernels in about four or five minutes. The West Bend popcorn maker uses a non-stick heating plate on the bottom with a stirring rod, and you must add some oil to make popcorn. There are also handles on either side of the device that do not get hot during the process, which is a nice safety touch.
This model is easy to clean. The removable cover can be washed on the top rack of the dishwasher, and the base can be washed with soap and water. You can detatch the stirring rod to wash and dry it by hand and then reattach it. This model comes with a 29.5-inch electrical cord, which is an ideal length. You also can store the cord on the device's base.
West Bend also helps you jazz up your popcorn snacks with some fun and somewhat unusual recipes in the user manual (there’s a backup version online in case you misplace the printed one). You can make such things as lime fiesta popcorn or herb-infusion popcorn, and West Bend also offers suggestions for flavoring your popcorn in interesting, fun ways like adding celery flakes, crushed red pepper or melted almond bark, or dusting it with cocoa powder.
- Read our West Bend Stir Crazy 82505 Review
2. Cuisinart EasyPop Hot Air CPM-100: Best hot air popcorn machine
The Cuisinart EasyPop Hot Air CPM-100 lets you easily prepare 10 to 15 cups of oil-free, air-popped corn that tastes delicious and weighs in at a mere 30 calories per cup, which is perfect if you’re on a diet. If you still want that butter boost, you can simply put some in the circular warmer on top of the machine.
Although the EasyPop quickly makes some great popcorn, there were a few unpopped kernels. It also can be a tad messy when making popcorn since the force of the motor blows some stray pieces of popcorn onto the counter and floor. To keep things neat, it’s wise to use a tall bowl so you capture as much popcorn as possible. The cord is rather long at 32 inches, but there is no built-in storage area onboard, meaning this may be messy to store.
Clean-up is easy with this popcorn maker since its removable parts can be cleaned in the dishwasher. In addition, it’s compact and lightweight at approximately 3 pounds. This Cuisinart Hot Air popper comes with a measuring cup, which is always helpful.
3. Orville Redenbacher's Stirring Popper 05204: Best oil popcorn machine
The Orville Redenbacher's Stirring Popper 05204 by Presto is one of the best popcorn makers you can buy. In addition to its large 20-24 cup capacity, the lid doubles as a bowl and there are no escape routes for unpopped kernels to litter your counter like they do with a traditional air popper.
Another difference between the 05204 and an air popper is that it uses a heating plate that you put oil and kernels on. 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 – at least when we followed the instructions precisely.
Unfortunately, the bowl/lid, heating plate and stirring rod are not dishwasher safe, so be prepared to do a little hand wash after you enjoy your large bowl of fresh popcorn. The Orville Redenbacher's Stirring Popper 05204 is a great popcorn maker and we recommend it if you’re not as concerned with using oil to pop your kernels and want a lot of popcorn in a hurry.
4. Cuisinart Pop and Serve CTG-00-MPM: Best popcorn maker for microwave use
If you want fresh homemade popcorn without having to invest in a whole new appliance, we would suggest you try the Cuisinart Pop and Serve Popcorn Maker. It has a red collapsible silicone bowl which you can use to serve the popcorn directly, and can be put in the dishwasher for easy and convenient cleaning. This is a hot air popcorn maker which will replicate the typical microwave popcorn you can buy in bags at the grocery store, but its low price means this will be an investment you pay off quickly, only having to buy plain kernels and adding whichever toppings you want to your finished product. It can deliver up to 10 cups of fresh popped corn, and the microwave time required is between two and three minutes.
5. Great Northern Popcorn Original Popcorn Popper: Best stovetop popcorn maker
Making your own popcorn in a regular stovetop pan can be a risky business. Firstly, there’s the danger of handling hot corn and stirring in various ingredients, and you’ll often find that bottom kernels get burnt and stick to the pan. That’s why a stovetop popcorn popper is a great investment, and we love this one for its manual stirrer which can be operated by turning the wooden handle. This popcorn popper can be cleaned with a wipe of a paper towel, and 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.
6. Cuisinart CPM-700 EasyPop Popcorn Maker: Best popcorn maker for large batches
For a top-tier oil popcorn maker, the Cuisinart CPM-700 EasyPop Popcorn Maker is tough to beat. This well-designed popper lets you whip up 14 to 16 cups of fresh, tasty popcorn in only six minutes.
Our tests showed it left behind no unpopped or burned kernels – if you follow the manufacturer’s instruction carefully. This cheery red popper works with a heated plate at the bottom with a stirring rod that moves in a circular fashion. Add the recommended amount of oil and popcorn, push the button and start.
This device is covered by a clear plastic dome with vents to release moisture. It also keeps popcorn from spewing all over the place during the popping process, and you can flip it over later to use as a serving bowl.
This popper comes with a measuring cup so you can determine how much popcorn you want to make, and both the instructional manual and Cuisinart’s website offer fun recipes for such things as curry popcorn (curry powder, turmeric and cayenne pepper) or buffalo popcorn (hot sauce and cider vinegar).
The Cuisinart popper is easy to clean, stays in place with rubber feet, and provides a three-year warranty and solid customer support, including a how-to demo video on its website. It comes with a 27-inch cord, which is fairly short for popcorn makers, and that could be a drawback if you have only a few outlets in your kitchen. That said, the Cuisinart’s features, performance and extras make this a first-rate popcorn maker.
7. PopLite Hot Air Popcorn Popper: Best popcorn maker for small spaces
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.
When we tested the PopLite we liked how the popped popcorn turned out and tasted, but we were a little disappointed in how many unpopped kernels were left behind. It left behind more than any other popper we tested.
Fortunately, for the price, this popcorn maker performs as well as we expected it to and it didn’t spew as much popcorn and kernels all over our kitchen counter like some of the other air poppers we tested.
- Read our Presto PopLite Hot Air Review
How we tested the best popcorn makers
We spent days testing popcorn makers and followed their use 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 also considered cost when testing and evaluating popcorn makers, and we found models that perform very well at any price. The higher priced models tend to yield greater amounts of popcorn, but if you don’t want to spend very much, a good, inexpensive machine might work quite well for your needs.