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All About Home Popcorn Makers

home-popcorn-makersCompared to microwave popcorn bags, making popcorn with popcorn poppers:

  • Is cheaper.
  • Makes better-tasting popcorn.
  • Allows control over the type and amount of oil and seasoning.
  • Is more fun.

Popular brands of popcorn makers include Cuisinart, Nostalgia, West Bend (Stir Crazy), Presto, Wabash Valley Farms (Whirley Pop) and Back to Basics.

Electric Stirrer Hotplate Popcorn Poppers

electric-stirrer-hotplate-popcorn-poppersPopcorn is popped on an electric non-stick hotplate. A motorized stirrer arm stirs the corn kernels to prevent them from burning. A large plastic dome (3 to 6 quarts) covers the hotplate to catch the popped corn.

Air vents in the dome allow steam to escape to avoid soggy popcorn. After popping, the unit is turned upside-down, the hotplate is removed, and the dome used as a serving bowl.


  • Makes crispy popcorn.
  • Oil and butter can be mixed in before popping.
  • Is fun to watch. Corn can be seen popping inside the plastic dome.


  • Hotplate and stirrer can be difficult to clean.
  • Some oil must be used to pop the corn.
  • Popcorn needs to be watched to avoid burning. Some models have an auto power-off function but can still burn the popped corn.
  • Stirrer can scratch non-stick surface if bent or screwed on too tight.

Electric Hot Air Poppers

electric-hot-air-poppersInstead of a hotplate, hot air is used to pop the corn. Popped corn is blown out of the popper to be caught in a suitable bowl.

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  • No oil is required. Oil, butter, seasoning and salt can be added later.
  • Popped corn is blown out and cannot be accidentally burned.


  • Popcorn is less crispy. Hot air poppers have the worst reputation of all poppers when it comes to taste.
  • If too many or too few kernels are poured in, or if not preheated, unpopped kernels can be shot out of the spout and bounced out of the collection bowl.
  • Noisy.
  • Oil and butter cannot be mixed in before popping.
  • Popped corn can miss the collection bowl and end up on the floor.

Microwave Bowl Poppers

microwave-bowl-poppersCorn kernels are placed in a special bowl with a cover. The bowl is heated in a microwave oven. The bowl heats up and pops the corn.


  • Easy to clean even if butter is added to the kernels.
  • Can be used without oil.
  • Bowl can be immediately reused to make another batch of popcorn.
  • Oil and butter can be mixed in before popping.
  • Reliable: no moving parts.


  • Easy to burn the popcorn. Cooking times can vary by a few seconds from batch to batch and this can be enough to burn the popped corn. The microwave oven should be stopped when the sound of popping corn slows down.
  • Some models use disposable paper liners. They can be reused about 10 times if oil is not used.
  • Plastic bowl can discolor or crack after long use.
  • Might not work in less powerful microwave ovens.

Old Fashioned Stovetop Kettle Popcorn Makers

These are large metal pots with hinged half-lids and a hand crank mechanical stirrer. They make good popcorn but can be difficult to clean and need to be watched all the time.

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Retro Commercial Full-Sized Popper

The ultimate popper is a commercial/carnival/movie-style electric pot with a motorized stirrer and hinged half-lids, spilling out popped corn into a large glass box.

Some models are made for home use, ranging in price from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars. While large, they are a unique addition to a home theater room. However they can be difficult to clean.

The Best Home Popcorn Popper

The different types of poppers have their fans and detractors. Issues such as convenience and oil-free capability need to be considered.

In the end, the choice of kernels, oil and seasoning can be more important than the popper.

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