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After researching dozens of popcorn poppers, we bought the 11 best models available today to test in a head-to-head kernel-popping extravaganza. We exploded thousands of kernels over the course of a week to determine which models are the fastest, which are the easiest to use, and which ones are capable of popping every single kernel without burning any of the finished delicious snacks. We paid close attention to any useful features and which ones helped us to mix up our favorite flavorings into each batch. This hands-on, comprehensive review will help you purchase the perfect popper for your personal preferences and budget.
If you want a hot air popper, the Presto 04820 PopLite is a hard-to-beat option. With an average batch time of two minutes, you can crank out yummy popcorn during the TV commercial break. In several test trials, we never found a single unpopped kernel in the hopper. We love that this unit includes a measuring cup on the lid top that doubles as a butter-melting tray so your butter and popcorn will be ready to go simultaneously.
The only real drawback to the Presto PopLite is that it does not include a bowl. While some users may not have a readily available bowl of the proper size, this is not a major issue for most. This model is a great choice for those looking for a hot air popper that's quick and leaves no kernels unpopped.
The Ecolution Original is the easiest-to-use popcorn popper. You measure the perfect amount of kernels using the lid, then add optional butter into the same part. Once the kernels are added to the popper, press start on your microwave and prepare for a yummy snack. We feel the lid is especially useful for shaking in extra seasonings after cooking the corn. Once you've concocted your perfect batch of tasty snacks, you can eat it directly from 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, our 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 was previously popped to perfection. This model only cooks relatively small portions at a time. If you're looking to make lots of snacks for a group, you're going to need to run several batches. It may be wise to go with a larger model if the goal is quantity. Despite its shortcomings, it's still an excellent popper for those who want quick and easy popcorn in small batches.
Quickly melts the butter before the popcorn is finished
REASONS TO AVOID
Slower than other hot air models
No cord storage
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 annoying. Despite our list of grievances, the Hamilton Beach 73400 is a tremendous all-around hot air popcorn popper.
Entire machine must be flipped when cooking is complete
Difficult to clean
We recommend the Presto 5204 Orville Redenbacher's Stirring Popper for those looking for popcorn popped in hot oil. 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 and cheaper than much of the competition in this category of kitchen appliances. Best of all, the popcorn produced by this model was very evenly cooked, and there were 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 Presto 5204 design, you cannot immerse the cooking parts in water because they are permanently connected to the electronics. You'll have to wash this device carefully. Even with its flaws, it's still hard to beat this model's price and performance when it comes to producing a delicious snack.
If simplicity is your game, we highly recommend the Cook N Home 02626 6 Quart. 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 could produce. Furthermore, we found this popper to be an efficient machine, leaving no kernel unpopped.
There are a few drawbacks that come along with this model. Because of its manually-powered design, you are required to continually 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.
Not everyone wants another bulky kitchen appliance or wants a giant serving of popcorn every time they need a snack. If this is you, check out the DASH Turbo POP. At only ten inches tall, it would be hard to find a much smaller popper. The Turbo also makes a small batch of popcorn, ideal for those who want a smaller serving for themselves or the kids. Unlike many hot air poppers, the DASH has an on/off switch that allows you to leave it plugged in, which is not only convenient but also alleviates the dangers of having a child mess with a dangerous power outlet.
Our testing team did find a few flaws with the DASH Turbo POP. It makes a mess — unless you have a large bowl, it sort of shoots popcorn all over the place, which is a bit silly considering it only makes small batches. Also, we found that the batches are done so quickly that the butter tray doesn't have enough time to do its job. Finally, it leaves a relatively large amount of kernels unpopped, considering that many of the top models pop every last one. Despite the drawbacks, we still think this is a fantastic appliance for anyone seeking a compact model for small batches.
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. We love the vintage look, and it's also speedy for a hot air model.
The Nostalgia OFP-501 is a bit on the pricey side; you'll have to drop a few extra dollars for the style points. Sadly, we found that this model is more difficult to load than more modern-looking models and 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 are huge fans of collapsible silicone, and it's great that the popper can be used as the serving bowl. You can also throw the lid back on after adding butter or other seasonings to give the batch a fair shake. This model comes in a wider variety of colors than any popper that we've seen in case you're looking for a specific color to match your other cookware or just have a favorite color in mind.
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 straightforward.
The first thing we noticed about the DASH DAPP150V2AQ04 Hot Air is that it has an on/off switch. Some of the alternative 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 nice if your outlet is in an awkward place because you can leave it plugged in all the time. Also, this model's melting tray doubles as a kernel measuring scoop, a feature we always love to see that makes the process even easier.
Our experiments found that the DASH is slower than other hot air poppers with similar designs. Also, this device left unpopped kernels in the hopper, and it actually blew some kernels out into our serving bowl. This is not a problem that we've encountered with other hot air poppers.
If you're in the market for a full-sized popcorn popper for a business or special event, look no further than the West Bend Hot Oil Theater Style. Once set up, this model is straightforward to operate. All you have to do is add oil, add kernels, close the door, and turn it on, and within a few minutes, you'll have a giant batch of popcorn.
Although the West Bend Hot Oil Theater Style is easy to operate, you will need to supervise the popping process because if you don't turn it off in time, you can easily burn your snacks. This model also requires more time for initial setup, especially compared to models ready to go right out of the box. Due to its larger size and batches, it takes more time and effort than smaller models to clean. Flaws aside, we still think the Theater Style is an excellent choice for anybody looking for a full-sized popcorn popper.
The The Original Popco is very similar to other silicone microwave popcorn poppers. It is collapsible, easy to use, and easy to clean. There is 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 helps keep the popcorn in the bowl 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 it burned others.
Why You Should Trust Us
To conduct this review, we chose Ross Patton and Michelle Powell. 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 hand blenders to outdoor solar lights. With a formal education in Environmental Science from the University of Nevada, Ross is no stranger to authoring lab reports or crunching numbers.
We compared, assessed, and scored 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 lab, where we examined each model, made numerous batches per 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
The main reason to purchase a popcorn popper is to alleviate as much effort of your kernel cooking as possible. For this section of our review, we looked at what steps are required for preparation 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.
It's hard to top the Ecolution Original when it comes to ease of use. With this model, you just measure kernels with the lid, dump them in the popper, and toss the popper in the microwave. This model can be moved around while hot without oven mitts thanks to the handle, unlike many other microwave models.
Using the Presto 04820 PopLite, Hamilton Beach 73400, and DASH Turbo POP is the same process for all three models. First, you use the scoop to measure kernels into the popping chamber, then put the cover and measuring cup in place, and lastly, turn the device on.
If you like melted butter, you can simply add it to the measuring cup and set it on top of the lid, and it will melt while the popcorn is popping. The Cook N Home 02626 requires hands-on attention during the entire popping process. You need 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 full control of the cooking process in the kitchen.
Chances are that you're going to end up with some leftover kernels when you make bags of microwave popcorn. An even more frustrating situation is when some 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. 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.
The DASH Turbo POP did reasonably well during this portion of our assessment, but it left quite some unpopped kernels compared to the top models, and it can make quite the mess if you don't have a large enough bowl.
Time to Pop
It's nice for those on the go 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 is 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. With a popping time of 1:40, the DASH Turbo POP was the fastest model during our assessment. However, this is presumably due to its smaller size and smaller portions. 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.
Our goal is to provide the most accurate and detailed product reviews possible to take the guesswork out of buying new things. Whether you want a manually-powered popper, a quick microwave popper, an old-fashioned hot oil popper, or a healthy hot air model, we have the details you need to choose with confidence to make the best purchase for your goals and budget. So start the movie and grab a bowl!
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