I love popcorn, but I don’t want to eat microwave bags anymore. What are my options?
For fresh, homemade popcorn, you have three main options: stovetops, air poppers, or machines. Stove top poppers are the traditional popper and use oil to cook the popcorn. Air poppers make plain, no-frills popcorn without oil and just plug into an outlet to heat up. Machines are the largest popcorn maker and typically use oil, like stovetops.
What is the difference between oil and air poppers taste-wise?
Poppers that use oil make popcorn that tastes much closer to theater-style popcorn. Air poppers just make plain popcorn which is great if you want zero calories. You can also add seasonings later, but oil-popped corn tends to have a richer flavor just by being cooked in oil instead of air.
I want a popper that pops all the corn and doesn’t leave any kernels. What should I get?
Most poppers have some feature that allows you to have only popped corn in your serving bowl, but in terms of how many kernels the popper actually pops, it varies. Air poppers tend to spit out a few kernels when they’re getting started, which can be annoying. Machines also leave a lot of kernels that are filtered out of the popped corn. Stove top poppers keep all the kernels contained, which increases the likelihood of all the corn popping fully.
I’m worried about burned popcorn. What features should I look for that will prevent that?
The key feature to look for in poppers is some kind of rotating arm that stirs the corn around so it doesn’t stick (and then burn). Most modern stovetop poppers have a handle and paddle that you rotate. Good poppers will also have vents to let out steam, so the hot doesn’t get too hot or moist so you end up with soggy popcorn. Wabash Valley Farms Whirley-Pop has both of these features, as does Lindy’s Stainless Steel Stove Top popper. For air poppers, the West Bend Stir Crazy Electric popper has an automatic motorized arm, so you don’t even have to turn the crank yourself. Machines are generally totally automatic as well.
What poppers take the least effort?
Air poppers and machines take the least effort because they are typically completely automatic and don’t require much babysitting or manual turning. Because they don’t require any oil or much measuring beyond the corn kernels, air poppers are the cheaper popper type with the least amount of work involved.
I want to make popcorn for a big party. What kind of popper should I use?
If you use a stovetop, you’ll typically have around 24 cups per batch, and with air poppers, the range is 18-27 cups. The Wabash Valley Farms Whirley-Pop air popper makes 27 cups, which is nearly 3 large bowls. If you need to make more, popcorn machines make the most popcorn. The Great Northern Foundation Red makes about 3 gallons per batch, which is more than enough for a large party. Depending on the party size, you could spend some time making a few batches with an air popper or stove top if you don’t have large gatherings frequently enough to justify getting a machine.
How fast does the popcorn get made?
The speediness of the popper depends on how much popcorn is being made and the popper’s efficiency. The fastest poppers are probably the air ones, because there’s no oil to heat up, and they pop less popcorn. Expect about 18 cups in 2.5 minutes with the Presto PopLite. Stovetops take about 3-4 minutes for 27 cups, and machines tend to take the longest, because they make the most per batch.
How hard is it to clean a popcorn maker?
The easiest poppers to clean are air poppers because they don’t use any oil that has to be wiped up or that can dry and get grimy. Stove tops made of stainless steel like the Wabash Valley Farms Whirley-Pop just need to be wiped down right away with a paper towel. If you leave the oil on too long, it can be a pain to clean, but many stove tops are dishwasher-safe. Machines can be the trickiest because while you can take out the kettle to clean it, you have to lean into the rest of it to get the sides.
I have a home movie theatre and want a cool-looking popcorn maker. What should I get?
The most unique-looking popper makers are the large machines, like the Great Northern 6097 in red and Nostalgia Electric KPM 200. These machines look like something you would see at an old-timey carnival or movie theatre. Lots of machines are small enough to keep in a home theater and they add a lot of decorative charm.
Are there any safety concerns I should be aware of?
Whenever you’re working with hot oil, there’s going to be a little risk involved. Air poppers are safer this way, but because they shoot out unpopped kernels, you could get burned if one hits you. Overusing an air popper could cause it to smoke or burn as well.
Are there any poppers that use the microwave?
If you want better popcorn that what the store-bought bags offer, but don’t like any of the described options, you can get the PrestoPop Microwave Multi-Popper. It makes 3 quarts of popcorn and is designed to focus the microwave’s energy so the popcorn gets done very fast and all the kernels are popped.
What’s the price range for poppers?
As a general rule, the smaller the popcorn capacity, the cheaper the popper. Materials play a factor as well, for example, a stainless stove top popper will cost more than a plastic air popper even if they make the same amount of popcorn. Quality poppers (that aren’t machines) range from around $30-$60. Machines are the most expensive because of their size and fully-automatic features, and can be as much as $300-$400.