Best Popcorn Machines

Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best popcorn machines

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 movie theater-quality popcorn at home every 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?

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Popcorn machines with domes and steep walls keep kernels centered on the heating surface, which leaves you with fewer unpopped kernels.

Why buy a popcorn machine?

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.

Types of popcorn machines

Home electric popcorn machines

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

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

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

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.

What to consider when buying a popcorn machine

Popping method

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.

Production capacity

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.

Average popping time

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.

Ease of use

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.

Tips for choosing and using a popcorn machine

  • 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.

  • Discover new popcorn seasonings. There’s more to popcorn seasonings than salt and sugar. Once you have your new popcorn machine, branch out and try some more exotic seasonings like ranch, parmesan, or jalapeno-lime.
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Some popcorn machines feature a butter well, designed for melting and distributing butter over your popcorn.


Q. How do I clean a popcorn machine?
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?
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?
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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