- Microwave Popcorn Poppers
- Hot Air Popcorn Poppers
- Presto PopLite – Best all round air popper
- West Bend Professional “Popcorn On Demand” – Best Premium Air Popper
- Orville Redenbacher’s Fountain Hot Air Popper by Presto
- Hamilton Beach Hot Air Popcorn Popper
- West Bend Air Crazy
- Nostalgia Retro Series Hot Air Popcorn Maker
- West Bend Air Crazy Mini Popcorn Machine
- Cuisinart Hot Air Popcorn Maker
- Other Air Hot Air Popcorn Makers we tested
- Stirring popcorn makers
- Buyer’s Guide
Popcorn is one of the most commonly consumed snacks. In fact it is estimated that Americans eat around 17 billion quarts of popcorn each year. That’s a whole lot of popcorn!
But before you can eat popcorn the corn kernels need to be popped. There are a wide variety of popcorn makers on the market designed to cook popcorn. With so much choice how do you know what’s right for you?
We decided to test three of the most popular types of popcorn makers on the market. So who which products will take the title of “best popcorn maker?” find out in our detailed review.
We tested these popcorn poppers to the point of where even looking at popcorn makes us sick. Despite this, we will be testing new products as they are released in an effort to make this the most up to date popcorn maker guide on the entire internet.
Microwave Popcorn Poppers
It doesn’t get much easier than a microwave popcorn popper. Fill the popper with corn kernels and put it in the microwave. You can even serve the popcorn straight out of the container.
In terms of serving size, microwave popcorn makers are better suited to smaller crowds. Generally four people or fewer. Any more and you may find using an electric popcorn maker is more efficient.
Now to us a Microwave popcorn popper should serve two purposes:
1. Contain the popped kernels while in the microwave
2. Be suitable to be used as a container to eat the popped corn from.
Point two is of particular importance and is often overlooked when choosing a microwave popcorn popper. After all, pouring the popcorn into a second container leaves you with two containers you now have to wash up.
On our journey to find the top microwave popcorn maker we discovered that they are commonly made from two different materials, silicone and plastic. You can find the advantages of each below:
Rigid Microwave Popcorn Poppers
Made from a rigid plastic stone or any other solid material. Just like house hold storage containers but designed with popcorn popping in mind.
- Long lasting
- Can be used to reheat other foods
- Take up more room
- Can cook unevenly, leading to burning
- Leaves more kernels unpopped (based on our testing).
Silicone Microwave popcorn Poppers
Made from a floppy silicone, similar to silicone icecube trays.
- Pops the most kernels (based on our tests).
- Cooks evenly
- Can withstand high temperatures
- More expensive
- Have a funny odor when new but this soon disappears
- Require two hands when carrying
There are also glass microwave popcorn poppers but these caused us so much grief during testing that we can’t recommend them. Glass is impractical for popcorn makers given that they shatter when dropped. And it can be difficult to get a good grip on the smooth surface when your fingers are coated in butter and flavoring.
If you want the lightest, fluffiest popcorn then silicone popcorn makers were unrivalled.
When it came to making popcorn there was a huge variation in efficiency. While it is expected that there will be some unpopped corn kernels at the bottom of the container, some noticeably performed better than the others. Below are our findings, averaged out over 10 uses.
But efficiency is only a small part of the puzzle when choosing a microwave popcorn popper. Read on to find the pros and cons of each microwave popcorn maker we tested.
YMMV according to microwave. Tests were performed on a Sharp B01CFKTICS on high setting with Orville Redenbacher yellow popcorn kernels.
Lekue Microwave Popcorn Maker
The difficult to pronounce Lekue is one of two silicone popcorn makers we tested. Of the two it was by far our favorite and was our top pick out of all the microwave popcorn poppers.
Lekue has constructed their microwave popcorn maker out of a durable silicone which Lekue guarantees for 10years (manufacturing defects only). BPA free and FDA approved, all the basic boxes are checked.
The measuring lines are metric and the lack of any clear instructions make it difficult to understand how much popcorn to add. After some messing around we were able to ascertain that the lower line is for ¼ cup of kernels while the upper line 1/3 cup of kernels.
Lekue claims that their microwave popcorn popper is capable of popping over 90% of the corn kernels. And our tests confirmed this. When it came to unpopped kernels the Lekue consistently popped the most.
The lid does not contain vents so be prepared to remove the lid as soon as your popcorn is finished popping or you risk damp popcorn, which isn’t all that nice.
The silicone is quite thin, not thick like the thick silicone found on the Chef’N. Attempting to carry the popcorn popper in one hand will see the container bend in on itself, sending popcorn falling to the floor. Two hands at all times are a must.
When clean up time rolls round the Lekue Microwave popcorn popper is just as easy to clean under the faucet as it is in the dishwasher. Just keep it on the top rack and skip the drying cycle.
Storage was a breeze with the Lekue popper collapsing down to 2 inches tall when not in use (it stand 5 inches high when expanded).
Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper
There is a lot to love about Nordic Wares microwave popcorn popper. It’s BPA and Melamine, Dishwasher safe and Made in the USA. And if you pick it up on Amazon it is dirt cheap.
At first glance the Nordic Ware microwave popper looks like it is made in plastic. In the hand it feels like you are handling stone (although the lid is still plastic). Nordic Ware calls this gemstone cookware and goes on to say that it is both unbreakable and chip proof. After dropping it to the floor a few times we would agree with this statement.
Nordic Ware recommends you add 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels to the bowl. The problem here is that there are no measurement lines to indicate how many kernels to add. You have to measure them out separately before adding them to the popcorn maker.
We found the Nordic Ware popper the most difficult to use and it took some trial and error to find the ideal cooking time. At first we found ourselves consistently burning the popcorn, particularly towards the bottom of the popper. But with practice we figured out the right amount of time to cook the popcorn although this was at the cost of some unpopped kernels.
While Nordic Wares popcorn popper was edged out by the silicone models we tested, it still performed well.
The Nordic Ware Popper is more multi-purpose than the other microwave popcorn makers on this list. You can also use it to reheat and hold other foods because the base is perfectly rounded as opposed to having an indentation to measure your uncooked kernels.
Presto PowerPop Microwave Multi Popper
At first glance the Presto PowerPop appears to be the Rolls Royce of microwave popcorn poppers. A twist-on PowerBase and disposable PowerCups have supposedly been designed to focus microwave energy to increase the amount of corn kernels popped. Bold claims.
It’s not that the PowerPop can’t make tasty and crunchy popcorn. Trust us, it definitely can. It’s the way it goes about achieving this that makes it ineffective.
Firstly, to get the best result you need to purchase PowerCups, disposable pieces of paper that are supposed to help concentrate the microwaves towards the corn kernels. While 8 are included in the pack, if you are a popcorn pig like us you will quickly go through them. Presto claims each PowerCup will last 8 uses when popping with oil and 15 uses without. We found the actual number was closer to 1 with oil and 5 without.
While replacement PowerCups are reasonably cheap we simply could not justify the ongoing expense when the Presto PowerPop works no better than the other Microwave popcorn poppers we tested.
Then there is the efficiency. You would think with all these “microwave focusing add-ons that the Presto PowerPop would pop the most kernels. It didn’t. Time and time again the PowerPop would pop around 75% of the kernels leaving a quarter to go to waste.
We particularly found it funny that the brand of popcorn we used in testing, Orville Redenbacher’s, actually endorsed this popcorn popper. If anything the two should have been a match made in heaven.
Cleaning was also a chore. While the popper itself is dishwasher safe, the black base and the PowerCup must be removed and wiped down separately.
Chef’n PopTop Microwave Popcorn Popper
The Chef’n PopTop is one of the most expensive microwave popcorn maker we tested. It’s also the worst microwave popcorn popper we tested. For this price there really isn’t a whole lot to start about it.
Using the PopTop popcorn popper is simple enough. You fill the base with kernels to the indicator line, approximately 5 table spoons and fold down the lid. Folding the lid feels unusual at first but you will quickly get the hang of it. It definitely isn’t kid friendly though.
With the lid folded down you will see a major floor in the Chef’N PopTop’s design. There is an open hole in the lid. And you better believe that popcorn kernels shoot out of this hole as they pop.
If the popcorn touches the lid as it expands the lid will open like an unfurling flower. While this looks pretty when it works we did have some instances of the lid prematurely opening which caused a mess that needed to be cleaned up.
Chef’N Proudly states the PopTop was designed in Seattle. Come on America, we can do better than this.
When it came to popped kernels the Chef’n PopTop held it’s own with the Lekue. Very few unpopped kernels remained and the popcorn produced was light and fluffy.
Despite having thicker silicone walls than our top pick; Applying pressure to the sides would see the container bend and flex. This was a particular problem attempting to carry the container in a single hand which would more often than not see popcorn pieces fall to the floor.
The PopTop microwave popper is made from a heat resistant silicone and Chef’n claims it can easily be cleaned in the top rack of your dishwasher. The floppy flower petal design did make it the container take up more space than we would have liked but that wasn’t the worst part. We noticed the popcorn popper was starting to tear at the seams where the lid folds in within 10 washes.
Joi MSC Microwave Popcorn Maker
Makes up to 4 cups of popcorn
The Joi MSC was the cheapest microwave popcorn popper we tested. While the price point may prove to be tempting, the overall design did have some flaws.
A silicone measuring cup is included in the box to allow you to measure out the perfect amount of kernels for the container, so that you don’t have a popcorn volcano go off in your microwave. You simply place the whole measuring cup at the base of the popper and throw it in the microwave for three minutes.
Unfortunately as a popcorn popper Joi MSC’s offering is junk. In ten different tests it failed to pop more than half the kernels. That is far too much waste left behind.
The shape of the Joi MSC Microwave popcorn container is both a blessing and a curse. While the slender shape allows for easily storage, it was the container most prone to spilling.
The narrow opening lead to two problems:
1. When the popcorn level dropped down to half and we had to slide our hands inside the container it was to easy to bump the edges of the opening, which would see the container topple over.
2. In order to successfully grab the popcorn at very bottom of the popper you need to pick at it with your hand like a chicken head. There just isn’t enough room to open your fingers up and grab a good fist of popcorn.
The container falling over was a particular problem if you when sharing, reaching for the popcorn from a central location. If you were having a solo popcorn session then you can just as easily hold the base of the container with your non-popcorn grabbing hand.
The BPA free plastic container is solid. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the lid doesn’t seem to be molded correctly. Instead of clipping to the container it sits loose and falls off with little effort.
On the plus side the plastic is top rack dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. The smaller size also means the container is not a space hog, leaving plenty of room for your other dishes. After 10 dishwasher cycles the plastic showed no signs of wear or warping.
Other Microwave popcorn poppers we tested
Other popcorn poppers we tested failed to perform for the following reasons:
Catamount Glassware CG4526 Corn Popper – We decided that glass was an impractical material to use for microwave popcorn poppers. The handle snapped off after a few uses. Will also shatter if dropped, not good for slippery butter coated fingers.
Catamount Glassware CG4521 Corn popper – Again, made of glass and impractical. The lack of a handle is an oversight as the glass heats up way too hot to be touched by hands. The stopper was also difficult to remove since the glass container could not be gripped while hot.
Ecolution Glass Microwave Popcorn Popper EKPCM-0025 – Another Glass microwave popcorn popper. In addition to the problems we had with glass we just could not get the popcorn to efficiently pop in this model. Note: Ecolution has since brought out a glass model with silicone base for added protection.
Nordic Ware Pro Pop Popper (Red) Unlike our top pick, this offering from Nordic ware failed to impress. A strong plastic odor was given off during testing. Even after washing the container in the dishwasher numerous times, the smell was still present when placed in the microwave.
Norpro Microwave Popcorn Popper – While the popcorn popper was more than capable of making microwave popcorn, it failed to perform as well as our top pick from Nordic Ware. The Norpro costs three times as much and just doesn’t offer enough value to justify this high price point.
WalterDrake Microwave Popcorn Maker – An interesting design let down by poor workmanship. The clips that hold the lid to the bowl snapped within 5 tests.
Edit: We have just ordered the new Cuisinart Silicone microwave popcorn popper ready for testing. We will update this guide on our findings once we have tested it.
Hot Air Popcorn Poppers
Air poppers are a type of electric popcorn popper that use hot air to pop corn kernels. They provide a quick and efficient means of preparing popcorn. Corn kernels are loaded into a metal lined chamber and blasted with air until they pop. The lighter weight corn kernels are then pushed up the popping chamber and out the spout by the fan.
Hot air popcorn poppers are best suited for cooking ½ a cup of popcorn kernels at a time (makes around 15 cups of pop corn). The average air popper can make enough popcorn for 4-6 people in under 5 minutes. Need more? A good air popper can be used again immediately to create batch after batch of popcorn (household use only).
Air Poppers are one of the few appliances where we thoroughly recommend reading the instructions before use. Following the instructions will allow you to get the best possible performance out of your air popper in a safe manner.
All air poppers have a tendency to “spit” a few unpopped kernels. This is an unavoidable consequence of using an air popper to make popcorn. While you can lean your air popper back it was too hands on for us. We preferred to use a wide bowl (at least 11” in diameter) to catch them. We had success using this one in our tests. With a wide bowl on hand any wayward corn kernels won’t be a problem.
Interestingly Pre-heating the air popper for a minute or two greatly reduced the amount of time it took for the air popper to pop all the kernels. While some models’ instruction manuals recommended this, others made no mention of it. Low wattage air poppers particularly benefitted from this since they could not produce the same amount of heat as models with a higher wattage.
Note: YMMV. All air poppers were tested from a cold start. The ambient room temperature was 68 degrees farenheit with Orville Redenbacher yellow popcorn kernels.
Presto PopLite – Best all round air popper
The Presto PopLite is one of the most recognized air poppers on the market. Part of the reason for this is that the design remains unchanged since 2002 making it instantly recognizable by consumers.
Unfortunately, we feel the design is due for an update. While the design is similar to other brands on the market; the Presto PopLite does not have a physical power button. This means you have to turn the popper on or off using you’re the switch on your electrical outlet, which may be buried behind other kitchen appliances.
When adding the recommended amount of corn kernels to the popping chamber (there is a fill line) we had very few unpopped kernels spit out the chute as the popper warmed up. Out of 10 tests we only had 3 hot kernels blow out. These were caught by our bowl and we simply threw them back in.
The Popcorn quality was light and fluffy and was ejected from the PopLite before having the opportunity to burn.
Unpopped kernels left over at the end of the popping session were minimal and fell within the 10% waste which we deemed acceptable.
The Cover and butter melter must be hand washed and are unsuited for the dishwasher. The popcorn popper base can only be wiped down with a damp cloth.
Although we would love to see a dedicated power switch on the base of the popcorn popper, the Presto PopLite shows that it can stand the test of time when it comes to popping corn and outperformed newer air poppers both quality of popcorn produced and value for money.
West Bend Professional “Popcorn On Demand” – Best Premium Air Popper
You may have noticed that most air poppers have not been designed with looks in mind. The bright red colors found on most popcorn poppers clashes hardly matches your other kitchen appliances.
West Bend seek to change that with their Premium air popper offering. A sleek brushed steel design will match your other stainless steel appliances.
But it’s not just looks, this popcorn maker is functional too. The rear container stores up to 28 ounces of popcorn kernels. Pressing the lever down will dispense kernels into the popping chamber, ready to pop.
When the popping is ceased there is even a cleaning mode. Selecting clean will remove all unpopped kernels from the popping chamber so that you can instantly begin cooking your next lot of popcorn. The unpopped kernels are collected in a waste tray for easy disposal.
The 82700 is one of the larger popcorn poppers we tested, which is why West Bend designed it to be left out on your counter. The extra size is to be expected, how else would you fit in all those extra features? It really is the Cadillac of hot air popcorn poppers.
As you would expect being the most powerful air popper available, the popcorn cooked in no time at all. It took a 2 minutes and 40 seconds on average to cook ½ a cup of popcorn kernels. The popcorn was light and fluffy with no hint of being over cooked or burning.
The fan was powerful enough to blow all the popcorn from the popcorn chamber without any assistance on our part. The clean function impressed us allowing us to quickly heat the next batch of popcorn without having to upend the unit.
The waste kernel tray and cover/chute can be either washed in warm soapy water or are top rack dishwasher safe.
Just like your other steel appliances, the shiny metal exterior easily attracted fingerprints and smudges. Fortunately the exterior of the base station can be easily wiped down with a damp cloth.
The West Bend Professional “Popcorn On Demand” goes above and beyond the call of duty. Not only does it look great but also it effectively cooks great tasting popcorn. While it won’t be in everyone’s budget, this premium air popper really impressed us.
And the rest…
The other popcorn poppers all fell short of our top picks on one way or another.
Orville Redenbacher’s Fountain Hot Air Popper by Presto
The Fountain Hot Air popper design is a huge step away from the traditional hot air popper. Corn kernels are loaded into a central popping chamber where a metal grill covers them, preventing unpopped kernels from escaping in the early stages of cooking.
Cooked popcorn then cascades over the edges of the popper (similar to a fountain but much less spectaucular) and are caught by a dish surrounding the popcorn chamber.
The interesting part about this design is that the air popper cover is doubles as the serving bowl.
The motor gave up after just 10 uses. We would have missed this too (since we tested each air pooper 10 times) but Jess, a hungry staff member, tried to make herself some lunch time popcorn outside of testing. Reading other user reviews it appears this is not an isolated incident; making us question the reliability of this air popper.
When Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn fountain did work it cooked tasty popcorn with minimal waste. We did have to keep our eye on the final pieces of popcorn however, since the fan was not strong enough to blow them out of the popping chamber on it’s own.
To get the last pieces of popcorn out of the popping chamber and to use the bowl you have to turn the air popper upside down. Unfortunately the short length of the power cord made this movement a little awkward if you had already ran the power cord behind your other kitchen appliances.
The usability of the bowl is very dependent on the removable lid. Leaving the lid on during cooking will melt the lid making the entire bowl unusable. We found using a separate bowl to catch popped kernels flying through the air much more efficient.
The Fountain design means a lot more surface area will need to be cleaned after each use. Unfortunately none of Presto’s design is dishwasher safe.
The serving bowl cover and lid can be washed in warm soapy water while the base can only be wiped down with a soft dry cloth.
We simply cannot recommend a product that failed during testing.
Hamilton Beach Hot Air Popcorn Popper
For some reason Hamilton Beach have decided to make one of the tallest popcorn poppers on the market. Given that the average user stores their air popper away when not in use, we do have to question whether the extra size is necessary.
Interestingly, Hamilton beach decided to imitate the Presto PopLite and remove the power button form the air popper altogether which definitely does not benefit the unit. You have to control the power form your electrical outlet which hopefully isn’t hidden behind other appliances.
Not only did the Hamilton Beach Hot Air Popper take it’s sweet time to cook the popcorn (over 5 minutes) but it was the worst performing when it came to popping corn kernels.
Time and time again we tested the unit but it failed to pop 15% of the kernels on average.
The machine also had to be tilted to get the last batch of popped kernels out of the machine. Waiting for the Air popper to push the last pieces of popcorn out on it’s own would see them burn.
Popcorn was a little on the dry side, which is fine if that’s your thing.
The popping chute must be washed by hand in warm soapy water. The base of the air popper can be wiped down with a damp cloth or sponge.
Took too long to cook and left too many kernels unpopped.
West Bend Air Crazy
Westbends 82416 immediately annoyed testers by featuring a sticker on the body that simply reads:
Flavor your popcorn… remove before use
Gee West Bend, that’s real helpful. But the real problem came when we tried to remove the sticker. It tore off in shreds and left behind a difficult to remove sticky residue. Off to a great start.
The rounded design was pleasing too the eye however the measuring cup/butter melter sits far too loose in the top of the cover and would fall off with little encouragement.
In 10 tests this popcorn popper failed to spit a single unpopped kernel out the chute in the warm up phase of cooking.
But it was not all good news.
It took the Air Crazy just under 5 minutes to complete pop all the corn kernels, by far the worse performing of the air poppers we tested.
Again we saw the popcorn chamber blow air through the sides and agin it failed to push the final pieces of popcorn up the chamber and out the chute. Instead it would just hover in mid-air, slowly burning to a crisp, and in our opinion is a potential fire hazard.
Overall the cooked popcorn was well cooked with a nice crunch.
Cleaning must be done by hand. The chute/cover and measuring cup must be cleaned in warm soapy water since they are not dishwasher safe. The base can be wiped down with a damp cloth.
The slow popping time and ability to burn popcorn to a crisp means we cannot recommend this air popper.
Nostalgia Retro Series Hot Air Popcorn Maker
The quirky retro theme hides the fact that the are some unusual design elements on this popcorn popper. The chute for instance does not stretch from edge to edge and inside the popcorn chamber the air circulates from the sides rather than the base.
When all the other models of air poppers look alike, Nostalgia should be commended for trying something different.
Unfortunately the design changes actually take away from the functionality of the popcorn maker.
Problems arise when you try to measure out the correct amount of popcorn. The lid that doubles as a corn kernel measurer has a difficult to see measuring line.
Despite the chute being smaller, unpopped corn kernels still shot all over the place in the warm up phase. Annoyingly popped kernels also got stock in the edges of the housing either side of the chute.
But perhaps the biggest problem was with the air circulation Because the fan blows from the sides it is impossible for the final pieces of popcorn to be pushed out of the popper.Which is a shame because the side vents cooked the popcorn kernels quicker than any other air popper we tested, well under 3 minutes for 1/3 cup. Unfortunately this design just isn’t practical.
Be particularly careful when cleaning this model. Popcorn hulls got stuck between the plastic housing and base. Removing the base from the housing would see the hulls fall to the floor.
The chute/housing and lid can only be washed by hand. The base can be wiped down with a damp cloth.
Don’t be lured in by the unique looks. This air popper is just too impractical.
West Bend Air Crazy Mini Popcorn Machine
This small sized popcorn popper is made designed to be manufactured as cheap as possible and is the entry into the West Bend air poppers. There is no butter melter, the plastic feels poor quality and there is no on/off switch.
Our unit stopped working on the sixth test. Unfortunately, after reading other user reviews, we determined that this appears to be a common problem.
When the Air Crazy Mini did work it was capable of producing great testing popcorn although in rather small batches. If you don’t eat popcorn very often or only in small amounts then we would recommend you choose a microwave popcorn popper over this.
We cannot recommend an air popper that failed on us during testing. If you are looking for a budget popcorn cooker then we would suggest a microwave popcorn popper.
Cuisinart Hot Air Popcorn Maker
Cuisinart is known for their well designed appliances and their Hot Air Popcorn Maker is no different. The glossy red base contrasts nicely to the brushed steel bearing Cusinart branding. You could leave this appliance out on display in your kitchen if you so wanted.
It took on average 4 Minutes and 10 seconds to completely pop ½ cup of popcorn kernels
The Cuisinart failed to live up to the claim on the box that it could pop up to 15 cups of popcorn (1/2 cup of corn kernels) in under 3 minutes. Reducing the amount of corn kernels to 1/3 or ¼ cup saw far too many corn kernels shoot out the spout in the warm up phase making these measurements impractical If you are going to use this popcorn popper ½ cup is the most efficient.
While the initial popcorn that came out is light and fluffy, the final bits of popcorn, not having any more popping kernels to push them out of the chute sat too long. The result was popcorn that overcooked, giving it the popcorn an almost burnt flavor.
Perhaps more worryingly, on more than one occasion the final bits of popcorn got stuck in the popping chamber, burning to a crisp resulting in an awful burnt smell. This is not a popcorn popper that you want to take your eyes off.
The chute and butter melter are dishwasher safe. The air popper base had to be wiped down with a damp cloth. The shiny plastic was difficult to get completely clean and unless thoroughly buffed would be left looking smeared and greasy.
It takes more than great looks to be a good hot air popper. The Cuisinart Hot Air Popper consistently overcooked popcorn to the point of burning. Unacceptable.
Other Air Hot Air Popcorn Makers we tested
So as you can see, despite all looking incredibly similar, the performance of hot air popcorn poppers differed dramatically. Below are some of the less popular models we also tested but didn’t justify their own section in the guide.
Bella Hot Air Popcorn Maker (Model 13554) – Shot popcorn all over out test area, even with a wide bowl we were unable to catch half of the popcorn. Too messy to be used inside.
Betty Crocker Popcorn Maker (Model BC-2973CR) – Not only did Betty Crockers hot air popper send far too many unpopped kernels flying through the air but also left too many uncooked kernels behind when cooking was over.
Brentwood Hot Air Popcorn Maker (Model PC-486W) – Fan could not blow popcorn out of the popping chamber.
West Bend Poppery II – Bought 12 years ago and still going strong, the dated Poppery II was tested to compare performance to newer models. While it spat a few corn kernels out in the early stages of cooking it performed well. Unfortunately it is no longer manufactured and is difficult to track down.
Stirring popcorn makers
As the name suggests, this type of electric popcorn maker stirs your popcorn so that it is evenly cooked. Some people refer to these as “stir crazy” popcorn makers, popularized by the West Bend models featuring the same name.
Rather than using hot air, popcorn kernels are placed on a hotplate along with oil. An electric element below warms up the hotplate until it gets so hot that it can pop the corn kernels. Stirring popcorn makers allow you to get oil popped corn without cooking on a stove.
The stirrer moves the popped kernels around, preventing them from burning.
Currently all stir popcorn poppers on the market share a similar design in that the cover doubles as a serving bowl. Turning the popcorn popper upside down transfers all the popped corn kernels to the bowl for easy eating.
Unfortunately in our testing we found that there was no stand out stirring popcorn maker. You can either have a well designed popcorn popper or a flawed popcorn popper that makes great tasting popcorn. But not both.
Choosing a Stir popper is a series of compromises and because of this we could not declare an outright winner.
West Bend Stir Crazy
West Bend makes three different dedicated Stir Crazy corn poppers (four if you count the now dated 82386 Kettle Krazy). We tested all three.
Stir Crazy 82505 (850W) – The weakest of the three models. A dedicated on/off switch is found at the front of the unit and a cord winder (to shorten the cord) on the base.
West Bend Stir Crazy 82306 (1000W)– Power cord can be detached. This model does not feature a power button and must be turned on or off at the electrical outlet.
West Bend Stir Crazy Deluxe 82310R (1000W) – A dedicated power switch can be found on the front of the unit. The Teflon cooking tray can also be lifted out for ease of cleaning.
Despite the minor differences noted above, all three Stir Crazy models performed near identically in terms of operation and quality of popcorn produced. All models can produce up to 6 quarts of popcorn at a time.
We found that the flatter design of the stirring prongs was not as effective at moving popped corn kernels around the popper. Because the stirring arms sit close to the base plate, popcorn would occasionally become wedged underneath it and become stuck and then be dragged along the hot plate, which would result in burning. While this did not happen every time, it was disappointing when it did and gave the whole batch of popcorn a “smokey” flavor.
The popper cover/serving bowl on the West Bend models was made from the thinnest plastic out of all the brands we tested. When sitting on top of the stir popper there was far too movement and the cover could be knocked off with little effort.
The overall build quality of the Stir Crazy models appeared to be worse than the other stir poppers we tested, giving us doubts to it’s longevity.
Despite all this the West Bend Stir Crazy models cooked the best tasting popcorn out of the lot leaving minimal waste behind.
Nostalgia Stainless Steel Stir-Pop Popcorn Maker SP660SS (600W)
Finally, a stirring popper that will fit right in with your other stainless steel appliances in your kitchen. Instead of the plain plastic exterior we saw on the other Stirring Poppers, Nostalgia have opted for a modern looking exterior.
But looks are not everything. So how did it perform?
For some odd reason Nostalgia decided to place the on/off button at the rear of the unit. Hardly accessible if you need to turn the power off in a hurry.
The Nostalgia Stir-Pop is proof that hotter is better when it comes to popping corn. The weak 600W heating element just wasn’t enough power to effectively heat the hotplate and was the slowest to heat up out of the stir poppers we tested.
While the popcorn came out soft and fluffy it left a lot more waste (unpopped kernels) than the other stir poppers, likely from being unable to get hot enough due to the weak heating element.
The perfect popcorn maker has the opportunity to transform the way you enjoy your favorite snack. The problem is, not every popcorn popper is made the same, with many models offering a slew of features. Let’s explore the most important things to look for when shopping for a microwave popcorn popper.
The capacity of your microwave popcorn maker is one of its most important features, especially if you regularly entertain. Ideally, you’ll want a unit that makes the perfect number of servings to ensure you don’t waste kernels. Also, you won’t want to have to run several cycles to make enough for the whole party.
Typically, a single serving of popcorn is about one ounce per person. That said, it’s safe to assume that an eight-ounce popcorn popper is ideal for eight people. Large capacity popcorn poppers are ultimately the better option, as you’ll never run out of room.
Ease of Use
The central premise of a popcorn maker is to have a fun and easy way to make a batch of popcorn. You won’t want to invest in a hot air popper that requires many complex controls to get started. Also, you’ll want to ensure it’s easy to maintain and clean afterward.
Look for a popcorn air popper with simple, user-friendly controls in a minimal panel. You should be able to adjust the cook time and temperature. It’s also important to choose a microwave popcorn maker with extra built-in user-friendly features, such as:
- Heatproof handles
- Easily removable poppers
- Measurement markers
- Extra butter containers
The last thing anyone wants is to sit and wait for their microwave popcorn popper to start working. When you’re ready for a snack, the best air popper should finish a complete cycle in minutes. The faster the cooking speed, the better, especially if you’ve purchased one with a larger capacity.
The best popcorn poppers have cooking cycles between two and five minutes. That said, you may want to check that it’s not too fast so that it doesn’t burn the kernels as soon as they’re added.
With models like the Stir Crazy Popcorn Maker, the stirring mechanism has become standard with advanced poppers. Inside the unit, you’ll find a single arm that continually pushes the kernels around. As a result, each kernel is evenly heated, giving them the highest chance of popping.
Steam vents are another often overlooked feature of an air popcorn machine and other models. As your popcorn cooks, it creates condensation, making the kernels soggy. Any additional moisture is removed by adding steam vents, ensuring your popped corn is crispy.
One of the more helpful advanced features to look for in a popcorn maker is a set of indicator lights. These lights will let you know when the unit is cooking and when the popcorn is ready to be served. Along with indicator lights, it can be beneficial to have an auto-off function that powers the unit down once the cooking cycle is complete.
Seasoning and Flavoring Options
After you’ve finished using your mini popcorn machine, you can add as many seasonings and flavors as possible. What if you had a popcorn maker that allowed you to add seasoning while cooking? Some of the more advanced retro popcorn makers have special chutes for you to add butter and flavored powder.
With the help of the stirring mechanism, you can ensure all of the popcorn is adequately coated. Also, it helps limit mess, as you’ll only have to clean the cooking chamber. Although these features may seem like luxuries, they can transform how you use your popcorn poppers machine.
And that wraps up our current guide on popcorn makers. Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.