A value-priced machine with handy features, including three control positions, base storage area, plenty of power, and quiet popping action. Comes in three colors.
The wheels seem a bit wobbly, but this minor concern doesn't affect its performance.
Packaged with scoops, containers, and popcorn bags. Has stainless steel kettles, heated warming decks, and an easy to access flip-out drawer.
On the larger side, so you'll need to make room for it, or purchase a separate stand.
Makes 10 cups of movie theatre-style popcorn. Lighted interior and four-pane case allows for viewing while popping. Tilt serving door is easy to use and keeps overspill under control.
Takes up a decent amount of space on the table, and must be on a flat surface to work efficiently.
Has a roomy concession compartment with interior light. Features a handy kernel catcher. Not very difficult to assemble.
Stand could be sturdier.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Making popcorn on the stovetop can lead to burnt corn and unpopped kernels, while instant microwave popcorn is often too greasy. With a dedicated popcorn machine, you can pop theater-quality popcorn at home every movie night.
Popcorn machines vary from compact microwave models to large commercial popcorn carts. With so many of these playful machines on the market, how do you find the right one for your entertainment room?
If you’re ready to purchase a popcorn machine, check out our top recommendations. For everything you need to know before you get popping, including a few tips and tricks, keep reading.
First, let’s consider some of the reasons why you might want to purchase a popcorn machine.
Owning your own popcorn machine will save you money. Popcorn kernels are very inexpensive and go a long way, especially when compared to microwave and ready-made popcorn.
Many modern popcorn machines air pop kernels, without the use of oil, for a low-calorie snack.
It’s easier to use a popcorn machine than to make popcorn on the stovetop, plus you’re much less likely to burn it.
Popcorn machines are great for parties or regular movie nights.
These are small countertop models designed for home use. Many home electric popcorn machines are air poppers, which pop popcorn using hot air alone. However, you can also find more traditional models that use oil. A home electric popcorn machine should come with an automatic stirrer for even popping and to stop kernels from getting stuck on the bottom of the unit and burning.
Home electric popcorn machines are compact, work quickly, and are generally very simple to use. However, they’re not ideal if you need to make large volumes of popcorn.
Expect to pay between $20 and $40 for a home electric popcorn machine.
Microwave popcorn makers are bowls that are specially shaped for optimal popcorn popping power. You can choose to add oil before or after popping, but you can also keep your popcorn oil-free if you prefer.
The great thing about microwave popcorn makers is that they’re extremely simple to use. Plus, they’re quite affordable. Of course, if you don’t own a microwave, a microwave popcorn maker won’t work for you.
Most microwave popcorn makers cost between $10 and $15.
Commercial countertop popcorn machines are the large units you see on the counter in a movie theater. If you want to serve popcorn in your theater, store, or restaurant, this is the kind of unit you need. However, people also buy commercial countertop popcorn machines for home use. They are ideal for serving popcorn to guests at parties. If you have a large home theater, you might want a commercial-size popcorn machine for your movie nights.
One of the key features of commercial countertop popcorn machines is their large capacity. These machines can make a lot of popcorn and also keep it warm until you’re ready to serve. Most of these machines use oil, however, so you’ll need to shop around if you’re only interested in air-popped corn.
Commercial countertop popcorn machines start at around $70 for smaller models, but they can cost up to $200.
Commercial popcorn carts are similar to commercial countertop popcorn machines, except they are attached to a cart that can be wheeled from place to place. Not only does this give you an appealing vintage feel, it also means you can easily move your popcorn machine around your house.
Popcorn carts are ideal for fundraising at school fairs or other community events. They also make eye-catching focal points for any home theater.
If you’re in the market for a commercial popcorn cart, expect to pay between $200 and $300.
Popcorn machines use oil or simply hot air to turn hard kernels into crisp, puffy popcorn. While both methods are equally effective, most popcorn fans have a preference.
Oil: Proponents of the oil-popping method cite better taste and texture than air-popped corn. Seasonings often stick better to popcorn that’s been popped using oil compared to air-popped popcorn.
Air: The main benefit of air-popped popcorn is that it’s lower in calories, by virtue of containing no oil. It’s also suitable for anyone who may have to avoid oil or excessive fat for health reasons. Of course, if you’re not avoiding oil for any particular reason, you can always add oil or butter to your air-popped popcorn after it’s been popped.
Basic compact popcorn machines may only produce four or five cups of popcorn per batch, whereas large commercial models can make three gallons of popcorn or more in a single batch. An average electric home machine can usually produce between 10 and 20 cups per batch. If you’re making popcorn for a whole family, we recommend a machine with a minimum production capacity of 12 cups.
When it’s popcorn time, nobody wants to wait around for their snack. The great thing about popcorn machines is that they tend to produce their bounty quickly. An average home countertop model can produce a full 10- to 20-cup batch in two to five minutes. Commercial models can produce up to three gallons of popcorn in just five minutes.
Modern popcorn machines are extremely easy to operate. Most home models only have an on/off switch. Commercial models may have a few switches – to start a batch of popcorn and to turn the light and heater on and off – but should still be easy to operate.
Consider the size of the popcorn machine. Do you have room for it on your countertop or in your home theater? Do you have room to store it when it’s not in use?
Think about how often you’ll use your popcorn machine. If you’ll use your popcorn machine for weekly movie nights or regular snacks, it’s worth investing in a quality model. If you’re only likely to use it a couple times a year, a basic model will suffice.
Q. How do I clean a popcorn machine?
A. It’s important that you keep your popcorn maker clean. Otherwise bacteria could build up and contaminate your next batch. The way you clean your popcorn machine will depend on the type you choose. Make sure to read your popcorn machine’s manual for full cleaning instructions.
Q. Will my popcorn machine get hot to the touch?
A. Some popcorn machines feature cool-touch exteriors, which means the outside of the machine doesn’t get hot, even when it’s scorching inside. This is a great feature to have if your children will want to help make popcorn, as you don’t have to worry about burns or scalding. However, the exteriors of other popcorn machines can get very hot, which means you should exercise caution during use.
Q. Can I add seasoning to my popcorn before popping?
A. Certain popcorn machines allow you to add seasonings – such as oil, salt, and sugar – to the unpopped kernels before starting up the machine. This allows for more even distribution of flavor and means your popcorn is ready to eat right away. However, not all popcorn machines have this feature, so check before you buy.
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