Best Popcorn Popper
When it comes to hot air models, it's hard to top the Presto 04820 PopLite. We love the included measuring cup that sits on top of the lid that ensures you'll add the perfect amount of kernels for every batch. As an added bonus, the measuring cup doubles as a butter-melting tray that uses the same hot air as the popper so they'll both be ready to go at the same time. After several test trials, we never found a single unpopped kernel at the bottom of the hopper. Also, this device really cranks out the goods. With an average batch time of two minutes, you can easily have a bowl of delicious crunchy popcorn ready for your family or your guests during a TV commercial break.
The main downside that we found with the Presto 04820 is that it requires you to pop into your own bowl. This is not a big deal for most, but some people may not own a vessel of that size or have one readily available. Still, we think this model is a solid choice for those in the market for a hot air popcorn popper that's fast and won't leave any kernels unpopped.
The Ecolution Original is about as easy to use as popcorn poppers come. You measure the perfect amount of kernels using the lid, then add optional butter into the same part of the lid. Once the kernels are added to the popper press start on your microwave and get ready for a yummy snack. We found the lid especially useful for shaking in extra seasonings after the popcorn was cooked. Plus, once you're done concocting your perfect batch of tasty snacks, you can eat the popcorn directly out of the glass popper container. With an average cooking time of 1:45, the Ecolution Original is about as quick as it gets.
During our testing process, we found that the Ecolution left a few kernels unpopped. Unfortunately, if you attempt to pop them by adding extra time, you will burn some of the popcorn that has already popped to perfection. Furthermore, this model cooks fairly small portions at a time. If you're looking to make lots of snacks, you're going to end up running several batches. It may be wise to go with a larger model if the goal is quantity. Despite the Ecolution Original's shortcomings, it's still a great popper for those who want quick and easy popcorn in small batches.
If you're in the market for a high-performance hot air popcorn popper, check out the Hamilton Beach 73400. After making many batches, we found that this model pops every kernel. Like other poppers of this style, the measuring cup doubles as a butter melter that uses the hot air from the popping process to work simultaneously while the popcorn is being made.
We did find that this model was slower than other hot air models. Also, it lacks a hook to spool up the cord while in storage, which can be a bit annoying. Despite our short list of grievances, the Hamilton Beach 73400 is a great all-around hot air popcorn popper.
For those that are looking for popcorn that is popped in hot oil, we recommend the Presto 5204 Orville Redenbacher's Stirring Popper. Although this type of popper takes a bit longer and costs a bit more than hot air or microwave models, we found that the Presto 5204 was quicker as well as cheaper than much of the competition in this category of these kitchen appliances. Best of all, the popcorn produced by this model was very evenly cooked and there are no uncooked kernels. It's great that the popper itself is also the serving bowl.
The Presto 5204 Orville Redenbacher's Stirring Popper has a few shortcomings. It's a pain to flip the entire machine over to get your popcorn out when it's done cooking — other poppers of this type have removable stirring plates that allow you to disconnect the bowl from the base of the cooker. Additionally, due to the design of the Presto 5204, you cannot immerse the cooking parts in water because they are permanently connected to the electronics. You'll have to carefully wash this device. Even with its flaws, it's still hard to beat the price and performance of this model when it comes to producing a delicious snack.
If simplicity is your game, we highly recommend the Cook N Home 02626. This 6-quart aluminum model requires a stove as a heat source, but sometimes that is ideal — we think this would be a fun and useful addition to any camping kitchen. Our panel of judges loved the degree of popcorn crispiness that the Cook N Home was able to produce. Furthermore, we found this popper to be an efficient machine, leaving no kernel unpopped.
There are a few drawbacks that come along with the 02626. Because of the manually-powered design of this model, you are required to constantly stir during the entire cooking process to ensure evenness. It also takes a tad bit longer than several automatic electric models. Regardless, the Cook N Home 02626 is a great choice for those that are seeking a stovetop popcorn popper.
If you want a party-pleaser or a model to show the kids what popcorn poppers looked like in the good ole days, the Nostalgia OFP-501 Old Fashioned Popcorn Machine is the way to go. Not only does it have a vintage look, but it's also very fast for a hot air version.
The Nostalgia OFP-501 is a bit on the pricey side, so you're gonna have to pay a few extra bucks for the style points. Regrettably, we found that it was a bit hard to load compared to more modern-looking models and that it sometimes spits out unpopped kernels. But if you're looking for a fully functioning popper that looks more like a neat decoration than a kitchen appliance, the Old Fashioned Popcorn Machine is the way to go.
The best thing about the Original Salbree is that it is an absolute no-brainer to use. Just measure out the recommended amount of kernels, put the lid in place, and pop away! We love that this model is made from collapsible silicon, and it's great that the popper can be used as the serving bowl. You can also throw the lid back on after you add butter or other seasonings to give the batch a good shake. If you're looking for a specific color to match your other cookware or just have a favorite in mind, the Salbree has you covered — this model comes in a wider variety of colors than any popper that we've seen.
Unfortunately, the Original Salbree falls short where it matters most — it doesn't do a very good job of popping corn. It leaves many kernels unpopped, and if you try to pop them by adding extra time, the ones that are already cooked get burnt. It's still a good choice if you're looking for a specific color, want a collapsible popper, or like the idea of the cooking process being extremely simple.
The first thing we noticed about the DASH DAPP150V2AQ04 Hot Air is that it has an on/off switch. The other hot air style popcorn poppers in our review are turned on as soon as they are plugged into the wall. An on/off switch can be really nice if your outlet is in an awkward place because you can just leave it plugged in all the time. Additionally, this model's melting tray doubles as a kernel measuring scoop, a feature we always love to see make the process even easier.
We found that the DASH is slower than other hot air poppers with similar designs. Also, not only did this device leave unpopped kernels in the hopper, it actually blew some kernels out into our serving bowl. This is not a problem that we've encountered with other hot air poppers.
The Original Popco is very similar to other silicone microwave popcorn poppers. It is collapsible, easy to use, and easy to clean. No need for a serving vessel with the Popco — you can eat the popcorn directly out of the popper. If you like to add seasonings, the lid is helpful for keeping the popcorn in while the popper is shaken around to evenly distribute any added special ingredients. Silicone versions are also very easy to store thanks to their collapsible design.
During our popping time trials, we found that the Popco was slower than other silicone microwave models. Sadly, this model left many kernels unpopped while others were burnt.
Why You Should Trust Us
To perform this review, we chose Michelle Powell and Ross Patton. Before her time at GearLab, Michelle worked in the foodservice industry for more than a decade, during which she managed an artisanal bakery in Santa Cruz, California, and even competed in the Southwest Regional Barista Competition. Since becoming our Research Analyst, she has tested hundreds of kitchen related products, ranging from prep tools such as stand mixers and coffee grinders to cooking appliances, including sous vide machines and toaster ovens. For the last ten years, Ross has professionally reviewed hundreds of products and has recently written many home office and appliance reviews ranging from WiFi extenders to space heaters. With a formal education in Environmental Science, Ross is no stranger to crunching data and authoring lab reports.
We assessed, scored, and compared each model for the evenness of the finished popcorn, how long each model took to complete a batch, and how easy each popper was to use. While ease of use was purely subjective, for evenness, we judged the quality of the popcorn but also counted the number of kernels left over, and time to pop was purely scored by the stopwatch.
Analysis and Test Results
Munching this delicious snack is a worldwide pastime, so we gladly took this review on. Most of our testing took place in the kitchen where we examined each model, made numerous batches per each device, timed the poppers, and counted unpopped kernels. Although we must admit, the real judgment took place where it should — in the living room watching our favorite movies or conversing with best friends.
Ease of Use
One of the main purposes of owning a popcorn popper is to alleviate as much effort of your kernel cooking as possible. For this portion of our score, we looked at what the preparation process is like for each batch, how much attention we had to pay while the popcorn was cooking, how hard each model is to clean, and what types of additional covers, hoppers, butter dispenser, or other additional accessories are included with each model.
When it comes to ease of use, it's hard to top the Ecolution Original. With this model, you just measure kernels with the lid, dump them in the popper, and toss it in the microwave. Unlike many other microwave models, this model can be moved around while hot without the use of oven mitts thanks to the handle.
Using the Presto 04820 PopLite and Hamilton Beach 73400 is the same process for both models. First, you use the scoop to measure kernels into the popping chamber, then put the cover and measuring cup in place, and lastly, plug it in. You can then add butter into the measuring cup, and it will melt while your popcorn is popping if you so desire. The Cook N Home 02626 requires hands-on attention during the entire popping process. The user needs to constantly crank the handle until cooking is complete, but this may be a fun activity for kids while out camping or for those that love to have complete control of the cooking process in the kitchen.
If you've ever had pre-packaged microwave popcorn, chances are you've ended up with a disappointing handful of unpopped kernels in the bottom of the bag. An even more frustrating situation is when some of the cooked popcorn is burnt, yet there are still leftover kernels in the batch. Popcorn poppers largely help to alleviate this problem, but there is still a degree of variability between models in the number of leftover kernels and overall crispiness. Our expert panel of delectable snack connoisseurs subjectively judged the finished popcorn produced by each model for crispiness and consistency, and we also counted the number of uncooked kernels that each popper left behind if there were any.
Our favorite model in the evenness department during our assessment was the Cook N Home 02626 6 Quart. Being able to crank and stir the popcorn around until the last kernel is popped gives the finished product perfect, delectable crispiness.
When it comes to hot oil models, we found that the Presto 5204 Orville Redenbacher's Stirring Popper left no straggling kernels, but did not burn any of the cooked popcorn either. As far as hot air models go, the Presto 04820 PopLite and Hamilton Beach 73400 were the best that we tested for even cooking capabilities — neither left any stragglers behind.
Microwave models tend to either leave straggling kernels or burn a little of the popped corn, but the Ecolution Original provided the best consistency that we've seen out of this popcorn popper type.
Time to Pop
For those on the go, it's nice to know how long it takes to make a bowl of delicious crunchy snacks. If you don't have access to or don't care to use a microwave, you will be happy to hear that some of the popcorn poppers in our review were not far behind microwaves. For this part of our assessment, we timed each device cooking a batch from start to finish.
The Ecolution Original was impressively quick with an average time of 1:45, which comes as no surprise considering that microwaves usually prepare food faster than other cooking methods. The hot air models were just behind — we measured the Presto 04820 PopLite and Hamilton Beach 73400 to have times of 2:00 and 2:20, respectively. The Cook N Home 02626 6 Quart took 3 minutes, but considering the crispiness, we think the extra time is worth it. Finally, the Presto 5204 Orville Redenbacher's Stirring Popper took an average of 3:30 per batch, but hot oil models tend to be the slowest type.
Here at GearLab, it is our goal to provide you with the most accurate and in-depth reviews possible. We hope that whether you are looking for a quick microwave popper, a healthy hot air model, an old-fashioned hot oil popper, or a manually-powered version that after having read this article, you now have the confidence to make the right purchase for your wants and needs. Enjoy your delightful snacking!
— Michelle Powell and Ross Patton