4

I am aware that this question is somewhat subjective, so I did my best to ask a good subjective question, instead of "What popcorn machine should I buy?".


I recently shared my popcorn-related troubles and got several suggestions on how to improve my microwave popcorn experience. After a discussion I had today, I was suggested to invest in a popcorn machine, as, supposedly, it would make my popcorn better than a microwave.

When looking at some available machines, I saw a vast difference in price, ranging all the way from 20€ up to 100€ (ignoring the professional machines).

This made me wonder what determines the quality of a "good" popcorn machine? Is it only about size? Are there different internal mechanisms? What should I look out for when choosing a popcorn machine for home use?

5

There are three non-microwave ways to pop popcorn:

  • an air popper
  • a plug-in dome popper
  • a stovetop popper

Each of these makes different popcorn.

air popper

The air popper uses no fat, though if you're going to add melted butter you probably don't care. In fact the absence of fat means salt and other powdered flavours don't stick well. You can't burn the popcorn. My air popper also used to blow unpopped kernels all over the kitchen. We eventually repurposed it as a coffee roaster.

plug in dome popper

The plug-ins require a plug, you add a little oil, and you need to pay attention or you might burn a few kernels. I use coconut oil in mine, and add less butter than I used to add to air-popped corn.

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The stovetops are apparently terrific if you want to melt a coating (eg caramel corn) onto the popcorn. I haven't used one.

===

ETA: Two additional options.

If one already has an electric skillet, such as: plug in skillet

With a bit of oil and corn it will hold a steady temperature and do the job without a separate space eating devise. This option takes a little practice to get the temperature that works best for you, and shaking the skillet a couple times while hot is a pain, but this was always my grandparent's preferred popper.

If you do not wish to eliminate the microwave option, several makers produce these: Microwave popper

These dry pop for those who are concerned with oil. Or for those of use who prefer, we dry pop it, then dump on the butter after. This gives the option though of using spices and such after much like an air popper, but in my experience had a higher pop rate that air poppers of packaged microwave popcorn and was much less prone to burning. They do require little concentraters that are inserted and would each hold up for 4-6 batches though.

  • 1
    I have used the stove and it is great for making candied popcorn! As well as just the fluffy goodness we all enjoy. – J Crosby Aug 15 at 16:45
  • Since I only eat salted popcorn (occassionally with butter and salt), I think the second kind is probably the best for me, if I understood this correctly. – MechMK1 Aug 15 at 20:44
  • I'm a fan of the air popper, plus one of the pump/misting sprayers for oil (to get the salt to stick). – Joe Aug 15 at 21:28
  • Oh, and there's also the 'take up way too much space' appliances that look like small versions of the ones in movie theatres (clear sided box with a heating / stirring unit at the top, some of which also blow hot air to keep it warm) – Joe Aug 15 at 21:29
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    @KateGregory random example: amazon.de/gp/aw/d/B00GLQDGEY – Stephie Aug 18 at 3:14
1

Note that a popcorn-specific machine is not necessary. You can simply use a quality (evenly heating) stove-top pot with lid. You add oil then popcorn kernels in a single layer and heat over medium heat, agitating occasionally.

1

For me, the qualities of a good home popcorn machine:

  1. Is it convenient and easy enough to operate that I will use it regularly?
  2. Does it make excellent popcorn?
  3. Is it fast?
  4. Is it easy to clean?

Of course there are many ways to pop corn, as presented in other answers. I've tried most of them.

This tool answers all of the questions above for me. In my opinion, it produces the best popcorn. For me, "best" means (a) all (or nearly all) kernels popped with no burning, and (b) popcorn that is tender, but crunchy.

[I am not affiliated with the company or product, just an impressed consumer who has used it for years.]

-2

A popcorn popper contains a heater and yet is made out of plastic; this requires competent engineering and the use of proper materials. A good popcorn popper will work reliably. A bad popcorn popper will stop heating properly, melt, or set your house on fire after extended use. (A middling popcorn popper will be underpowered and take a long time to pop the popcorn.)

The resultant popcorn is unlikely to differ between machines, as long as it's not on fire or covered in melted plastic.

  • 1
    (Note: If you like melted plastic on your popcorn, you should add it separately, after popping is complete.) – Sneftel Aug 15 at 15:06
  • So basically, any will do fine? – MechMK1 Aug 15 at 15:53
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    This is a non-answer which has a lot of related words that doesn't answer OP's question. – J Crosby Aug 15 at 16:45
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    Even generously judged, this seems an ironic post at best - some inaccuracies included. Before the community vote removes it as “not an answer”, would you rather actually answer the question about the properties of a good popcorn machine? – Stephie Aug 15 at 18:25
  • 1
    Well, not all have that setup (are you talking about air poppers specifically?), some are quite different. See the other answer for more examples. And I recently was at a party where the host made popcorn over the campfire in what’s best described as a mesh cage. Nevertheless, how would the asker find a “good” one? What are the characteristics to watch out for? – Stephie Aug 15 at 19:00

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