Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Popcorn Popper of 2021

Credit: Laura Casner
By Michelle Powell and Ross Patton  ⋅  Mar 10, 2021
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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 and thousands of kernels over the course of a week in order 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.


1

Best Overall Hot Air Popcorn Popper


Presto 04820 PopLite


Time to Cook: 2:00 | Type: Hot Air
Left no kernels behind
Measuring cup is also a butter tray
Hook for cord storage
Requires a bowl to pop into

When it comes to hot air models, it's hard to beat the Presto 04820 PopLite. We love the included measuring cup that sits on top of the lid, ensuring you'll add the perfect amount of kernels for every batch. As a 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.

We loved the crisp, even popcorn this machine made.
We loved the crisp, even popcorn this machine made.
Credit: Laura Casner

2

Best Overall Microwave Popcorn Popper


Ecolution Original


Time to Cook: 1:45 | Type: Microwave
Super fast
3-in-1 lid
Popper acts as a serving bowl
Leaves some kernels unpopped
Not the biggest serving

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 relatively 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 an excellent popper for those who want quick and easy popcorn in small batches.

Our favorite of the microwave models, this popper was easy and...
Our favorite of the microwave models, this popper was easy and consistent to use.
Credit: Laura Casner

3

Another Fantastic Hot Air Popcorn Popper


Hamilton Beach 73400


Time to Cook: 2:20 | Type: Hot Air
Pops every kernel
Quickly melts the butter before the popcorn is finished
A bit 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.

This machine churned out batch after batch of delicious popcorn.
This machine churned out batch after batch of delicious popcorn.
Credit: Laura Casner

4

Great Bargain on a Hot Oil Popcorn Popper


Presto 5204 Orville Redenbacher's Stirring Popper


Time to Cook: 3:30 | Type: Hot Oil
Impressive evenness
Popper doubles as a serving bowl
Affordable
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 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 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.

This affordable hot oil popper was a pleasure to use.
This affordable hot oil popper was a pleasure to use.
Credit: Laura Casner

5

Best for Back to the Basics


Cook N Home 02626 6 Quart


Time to Cook: 3:00 | Type: Stovetop
Amazing crispiness
No unpopped kernels
Can be used on a variety of heat sources
Requires constant stirring
Not the fastest

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 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 the 02626. Because of this model's 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.

Traditionalists will love this stovetop popper.
Traditionalists will love this stovetop popper.
Credit: Laura Casner

6

Best Compact Model


DASH Turbo POP


Time to Cook: 1:40 | Type: Hot Air
Small servings
Great for limited storage
On/off button
Chute misses medium-sized bowls
Not the best butter melting tray

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 those that are looking for a compact model that makes small batches.

This compact model quickly makes small batches.
This compact model quickly makes small batches.
Credit: Jason Peters

7

A Throwback Miniature Replica


Nostalgia OFP-501 Old Fashioned Popcorn Machine


Time to Cook: 1:50 | Type: Hot Air
Classic look
Fast
Pricey
So-so overall performance

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 speedy for a hot air version.

The Nostalgia OFP-501 is a bit on the pricey side, so you're going to 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.

This whimsically styled machine made okay popcorn, but wasn't our...
This whimsically styled machine made okay popcorn, but wasn't our favorite for daily use.
Credit: Laura Casner

8

Best Collapsible Silicone Popcorn Popper


Original Salbree


Time to Cook: 1:41 | Type: Microwave
Extremely easy to use
18 colors to choose from
Popper is also the serving bowl
Leaves some kernels uncooked

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 silicon, 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 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 Salbree's silicone construction made it easy to go from...
The Salbree's silicone construction made it easy to go from microwave to living room to dishwasher.
Credit: Laura Casner

9

A Decent Hot Air Model with a Switch


DASH DAPP150V2AQ04 Hot Air


Time to Cook: 2:25 | Type: Hot Air
Has an on/off switch
Duel purpose melting tray
Slow
Uncooked kernels

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.

The ability to turn this model on and off without unplugging it...
The ability to turn this model on and off without unplugging it makes it a great choice for users with hard to reach outlets.
Credit: Laura Casner

10

Best for Larger Applications


West Bend Hot Oil Theater Style


Time to Cook: 3:48| Type: Hot Oil
Easy to operate once setup
Makes large batches
Complicated setup
Difficult to clean
Easy to burn popcorn

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 West Bend Hot Oil Theater Style is the way to go for making...
The West Bend Hot Oil Theater Style is the way to go for making large batches.
Credit: Jason Peters

11

A So-So Silicone Popcorn Popper


The Original Popco


Time to Cook: 1:50 | Type: Microwave
Collapsible
Easy to clean
Slow for a microwave model
Leaves some kernels uncooked

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.

We loved that the Popco model was collapsible for easy storage.
We loved that the Popco model was collapsible for easy storage.
Credit: Laura Casner

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.

The Poplite pops corn directly into your bowl of choice.
Nothing beats a bowl of fresh popcorn when you settle down for a...
This model is perfect for larger applications.

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.

This plug and play model was a breeze to use.
This plug and play model was a breeze to use.
Credit: Laura Casner

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 it in the microwave. This model can be moved around while hot without oven mitts thanks to the handle unlike many other microwave models.

The Ecolution popper combines the control of making your own popcorn...
The Ecolution popper combines the control of making your own popcorn with the convenience of a microwave pouch.
Credit: Laura Casner

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.

The first step to using the Dashi is to add kernels with the...
Next, hit the power switch.
After a minute or so, you will have a delicious treat!

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 if you'd like melted butter. 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.

The measuring scoop doubles at a butter melter.
The measuring scoop doubles at a butter melter.
Credit: Laura Casner

Evenness


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.

The Presto hot air popper impressed us with the evenness of its...
The Presto hot air popper impressed us with the evenness of its finished product.
Credit: Laura Casner

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.

This machine popped every kernel evenly, down to the very last one.
This machine popped every kernel evenly, down to the very last one.
Credit: Laura Casner

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.

Of microwave models, the Ecolution left the fewest unpopped kernels.
Of microwave models, the Ecolution left the fewest unpopped kernels.
Credit: Laura Casner

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.

The Dash tends to make a bit of a mess and leaves some kernels...
The Dash tends to make a bit of a mess and leaves some kernels unpopped.
Credit: Jason Peters

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.

We timed each machine multiple times to ensure we got the best...
We timed each machine multiple times to ensure we got the best measurements of their performance.

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. 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.

The Ecolution made a hefty serving of tasty popcorn in under two...
The Ecolution made a hefty serving of tasty popcorn in under two minutes.
Credit: Laura Casner

Conclusion


Here at GearLab, our goal is to provide you with the most accurate and in-depth reviews possible. It is our hope that whether you are looking for a manually-powered version, a quick microwave popper, an old-fashioned hot oil popper, or a healthy hot air model, 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