Three best popcorn machines

By
tech-spanfeller
BestReviews

Add to the fun by experimenting with popcorn flavors. Try some exotic seasonings like jalapeno-lime, maple-garlic, lemon-pepper, or nacho cheese.

There's nothing quite like the freshly made popcorn you get at the movies or a county fair.

The aroma of melted butter. The anticipation as the bag is filled with those fluffy, perfectly popped kernels. Those first delicious bites.

Want to experience those sensations in your own home? Maybe it's time to take it up a notch and leave the stovetop and microwave behind.

Theater-grade popcorn poppers designed for your rec room, man cave, or home theater look great and make a fun snack center for parties, football-watching Sundays, and movie nights. Some machines pop kernels using hot air instead of oil for a healthier, low-calorie snack.

While buying a popcorn machine -- especially a vintage-style standalone model that requires floor space -- might seem a tad extravagant, there are some cost advantages. You'll virtually eliminate the waste of unpopped kernels and scorched batches. And buying kernels is a lot cheaper than buying ready-made popcorn or the microwave variety.

Popcorn machines come in a number of styles and sizes, and one is sure to fit your needs.  Read on for more information and a few recommendations.

Considerations when choosing popcorn machines

Type

Most modern popcorn poppers are simple to use, easy to clean, and powerful -- capable of churning out large batches in just a few minutes.

Microwave: The least expensive poppers are bowls designed to pop kernels in your microwave. They cost just $10 to $15 and are dishwasher safe, but they don't make a large amount of popcorn per use.

Countertop: A step up is a compact electric countertop model that uses either hot air or oil. Most come with auto-stirrers to aid in even popping and prevent burning. These range in price from $20 to $40.

Commercial-grade: If you want the option of making large amounts of tasty popcorn, consider a commercial-grade machine, similar to the one at the movie theater. Many are retro cool and centerpiece worthy, as well as capable of feeding an entire family or a houseful of guests. These heavy-duty machines are designed to sit on either a countertop or the floor, or are mounted on vintage-looking carts that are easy to move around. Expect to spend between $200 and $300 for this type of popcorn machine.

Popcorn machine features

Hot air or oil? For many, it's a tough call. There's no question that air-popping is healthier and lower in calories. That's your best bet if you're watching your weight and want to avoid fatty foods.

Air poppers combine high heat with a revolving fan. These machines tend to be a bit more durable than other poppers because they don't have as much grease build-up inside.

For purists, popcorn popped in oil just tastes better. It's also easier to coat with seasonings. If you're craving that true movie theater experience, go with a machine that pops with oil.

Size: When weighing which model to choose, consider the size of the machine and whether you have the space it requires.

Usage: If you're going to use the machine every week or more, it's best to invest in a quality model.

Space: If space is an issue, go with a compact electric model that's easily stored.

Cleaning: Look for a popcorn machine with an easy-wipe stainless-steel kettle and removable bottom tray.

FAQ

Q.  How much popcorn should my machine be able to make?

A.  That depends on how many mouths you're feeding. For a typical family, your machine's minimum capacity should be about 12 cups.

Q. Will my popcorn machine get hot to the touch?

A. Some machines do. Others have cool-touch exteriors, which is a good safety feature for families with young children. 

Popcorn machines we recommend

Best of the best: Great Northern Popcorn Company Antique-Style Cart

Our take: You won't find a freestanding home popcorn machine that matches this price and quality.

What we like: Attractive retro cart design with built-in storage. Tempered glass walls and stainless-steel kettle. Makes up to 48 cups per batch. Warming light.  

What we dislike: Wheels are a bit wobbly.

Best bang for your buck: Paramount Popcorn Maker

Our take: This well-made popper is a good choice for those without a lot of space to devote to another machine.

What we like: Attractive little machine that makes plenty of great-tasting popcorn. Nonstick kettle is easy to clean. Good value.

What we dislike: No warmer or stand. Panels and door are acrylic instead of glass.

Choice 3: FunTime Sideshow Popper

Our take: A great addition to any rec room or home theater. Reasonably priced, with antique-style charm.

What we like: Machine features solid metal construction with tempered glass panels. Easy-to-clean stainless-steel kettle. Built-in storage. Warming light.

What we dislike: Doesn't heat as well as some models. Some reports that door is a bit flimsy.

William Miller is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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