4 Best Popcorn Makers, Tested by Food Network Kitchen
We air-popped pounds of kernels to find the best popcorn makers!
Our Top Popcorn Machine Picks
Tested by Rachel Trujillo for Food Network Kitchen
It’s nearly impossible to beat a big bag of butter-laden popcorn when watching a movie. And now that it's easier to watch a newly released movie from the comfort of your own home, it's up to you to provide your own snacks. If you're not a fan of microwave popcorn for health or taste reasons, you can still have your favorite movie snack without settling for calorie- and fat-filled microwave popcorn bags. Enter: air-popped popcorn! We tested out 10 different air-pop popcorn makers that fit neatly and inconspicuously in your kitchen to see which one is worth setting up at home.
What to Know Before Buying a Popcorn Maker
In testing, we focused on both microwave and air-popped popcorn makers. Countertop air poppers stay true to the name, requiring no oil and using only circulating hot air to pop kernels. They are the healthiest popcorn maker option. Depending on the brand, they can range in size and capacity.
Most microwave poppers require little or no oil when popping, and they typically take up less space than countertop machines when storing. They are typically dishwasher-safe and less expensive than air poppers.
In testing, we found air poppers to be more effective in popping the most kernels and just as easy to set up and use as microwave poppers.
How to Clean Your Popcorn Maker
If cleaning with ease is of top priority to you, you'll be happy to know that, overall, these popcorn machines require minimal cleaning between uses. Some microwave popcorn makers, including the Chef'n pick listed above, are made of silicone and therefore top-rack dishwasher-safe.
For countertop air-popped machines, cleaning the base is as simple as emptying any leftover kernels and wiping it down. Most popping chutes and trays easily come apart, making them easy to clean with some pieces being dishwasher-safe. Overall, it’s important to take a close look at your machines' cleaning instructions. While the process is simple, it can vary greatly based on machine.
How We Tested
While there are a bunch of different options for at-home popcorn machines, we decided to stick with smaller-scale countertop and microwave air-poppers for this test.
We also looked at how easy each model was to clean, noting whether or not pieces were dishwasher-safe or if the machine has a self-cleaning function. Kitchen storage can be limited, so we took into account the size of each countertop model and how easily the microwave models store.
When selecting popcorn machines for this test, we only tested models that require no oil for cooking. When tested, we noted the number of kernels added to each model and how many kernels were left after the recommended amount of cooking time. We also noted how long the popcorn could be popped before it started to burn. We evaluated any claims made by the company about the models.
If you’re looking for a more affordable countertop popper, we recommend the Dash Fresh Pop. When adding kernels to this machine, we found it was difficult to do so without spilling at least a few, but we cared less about that when we realized how well this machine worked. The narrower spout helped guide the popcorn kernels directly into the bowl beneath, and the butter tray on top actually got hot enough to give us a decent amount of topping. Once we got to the bottom of the bowl, we were shocked to find just two lone kernels left, which was drastically fewer than most machines we tested. The size also stood out, being just slightly smaller and more compact than other countertop models.
In testing, we were impressed with how many kernels popped when using this maker. The tray on top is meant to house butter, which melts while the popper heats up to easily pour over your popper kernels. We found this feature to work well with a small amount of butter. It's important to note that there is no "on/off" switch on this machine — it starts heating up upon being plugged in. While we didn't love that feature, it does make this machine one of the simpler to use.
This popcorn maker stood up against the others we tested, melting a small amount of butter in the top tray and popping a decent amount of kernels each time we used it. While there more kernels left at bottom of our bowl than other machines tested, we found how quickly this machine heated up outweigh that con. The spout at the top of this machine is the largest of the makers we tested, so we recommend using a large bowl to collect all the kernels.
Overall, all microwave popcorn makers produced less popped kernels (without the risk of burning!) than the electric countertop machines. But, not all kitchen spaces can accommodate another appliance. If your kitchen space is limited or you would rather stick with an easily storable option, we suggest this Chef’n popcorn popper. It was the only microwave popper that didn’t produce at least a few burnt kernels. Plus, the silicone material is dishwasher-safe, making for easy cleanup. We do caution anyone grabbing this from the microwave right after use. The silicone gets pretty hot, but two small tabs on top give you something relatively cool to grip. We found the design a little cumbersome to fold together each time we made popcorn, but it did seem to keep a decent amount of kernels in the bowl while popping. (Some did escape, though!). Overall, we liked the ease of throwing it in the dishwasher after use and being able to fold it up and store in a cabinet.