Best Popcorn Machines
At the end of the day, can you really go wrong with popcorn? It is one of the staple snacks when you want to kick back and watch a movie or even just to relax. And, the brilliance of it is there are so many different ways you get it. You can simply buy pre-popped bags from the store, buy bags with kernels only or make it homemade with some certain ingredients. Today, we are going to focus on the latter as there is a wide range of machines out there that can produce fantastic popcorn. No matter which type you end up going with, though, there are certain features and factors that you need to look out for.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 2.35 hrs of research
Engineered with a three-switch design
Built with tempered safety glass walls
Runs on standard 120-volt power
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST POPCORN MACHINES
1. Olde Midway Bar Style
Engineered with a three-switch design
Built with tempered safety glass walls
Runs on standard 120-volt power
It can be a pain to clean
A few buyers note that it can burn some of the popcorn
Let’s just say that this bad boy is a beast as it is equipped with tempered safety glass and the ability to dish out three gallons of popcorn per batch. In fact, it is terrific for family gatherings.Read more
As just mentioned, this beast is crafted with tempered glass walls and these provide both durability and protection. Also, this includes heavy-duty steel that has been powder coated.
To keep all the contents warm and fresh, this is designed with a built-in warming deck and a heating light. Additionally, to ensure every batch is up to standard, it is equipped with a kernel tray.
The kettle itself is eight ounces but as a whole, this can serve up to three gallons of popcorn per batch.
If you are looking for a compact unit for weekend nights, this is not it. It weighs over 30 pounds and measures 26.5 inches by 20 inches by 17.2 inches.
Included with your purchase are actually quite a few accessories and all of them are made of stainless steel. This includes a measuring cup, scooper, salt shaker and tablespoon.
What was claimed in the size section really summarizes this unit as a whole. From top to bottom, it is constructed like a beast but not everyone will need a machine of this size.
2. Great Northern Red
The warming deck keeps everything hot and fresh
Included are several accessories
The deluxe model comes with three control switches
A few buyers claim the lids are not fitted correctly
Several consumers report they received a damaged unit
The Great Northern Red is much like the last model in its antique-type design and it also makes three gallons of the good stuff. In addition to this, the seller includes tons of other accessories.Read more
Okay, here is the deal. The heavy-duty powder coated steel construction of this model is impressive. However, the kicker is several consumers have reported they have received a damaged unit.
This deluxe model is equipped with three control switches and they include a spotlight warmer, pot heater, and stirrer. All of which can control the cooking process.
As with the last model, this is capable of making three gallons per batch. This should be enough to be the life of the party all night long (as you can always refill).
Again, this is more suitable for consumers who want an outdoor option. Given its weight and physical dimensions, it is not compact in the slightest.
In addition to the fact that you receive 50 serving bags and three plastic serving cups, you also receive an old-maid drawer and also a convenient storage compartment.
Granted you do not receive a damaged unit, which is more the fault of whoever is packaging these units, this is another great option for those looking for a lot of popcorn.
3. Hot and Fresh Countertop Style
Made of heavy-duty powder-coated steel
There is a storage location in the base
Brings you back to the good old days at the ball game
The serving compartment is a little small
Several reviews indicate damage upon arrival
If you did not know any better, you would think that this style is pretty good. A bias is not being placed on these types of machines but it just so happens that this is another brilliant option.Read more
Ironically, the same issue persists with this model as it did the last. It sports powder coated steel and tempered safety glass walls but consumers have had issues with damages upon arrival.
Similarly to the previous two designs on this list, this has three control switches (a pot heater, spotlight warmer and stirrer) that help the popcorn stay fresh.
Would it surprise you to know that this can make three gallons per batch? If you have been paying attention so far, then it should not.
While you are familiar with the sizes of these types of units, it is worth mentioning that this sports a serving compartment that could be a little larger for easier access.
Included free of charge is a hand lift and a push rail and they can be used if you desire. Also, there are kernel and oil scoops included.
At this point, you know what you are getting here. While this is the worst of the three options, it is still one of the best overall selections out there, period.
4. West Band Stir Crazy
The vented clear cover doubles as a bowl
The plate is nonstick coated
Engineered for optimal results and heat
The kernels do tend to scratch the nonstick base
You can’t add too much oil or it will get caught in the crevasse
A lot of credit needs to go to West Band for their design here as even though it is a small and compact unit, it can really produce some fantastic results. Plus, it is 100 percent electric.Read more
To ensure you never burn yourself with this, it has been engineered with heat-resistant handles and a heat-resistant base. But, some of the kernels can actually scratch the nonstick base.
As simple as it sounds, it is nice that there is an integrated power button here. In addition to this, the triple-layer heating surface and stir rod combine to improve the performance.
This sports a capacity of six quarts and while that may not mean very much to you, it can make around 27 cups of popcorn (which is pretty impressive for the size).
When you need to store this unit, the base can actually be rested inside the lid. This saves a ton of space and is quite ingenious, to be honest.
If you thought the lid could not do more, then you were wrong. On top of nesting the base during storage and covering the system while in operation, it can also be used as your bowl.
With a design like this, it is very easy to ignore the flaws. The multiple functions of the lid alone speak for the creativity that is on display with this design.
5. Cuisinart CPM-100
Comes with an on/off power switch
The chute is dishwasher-safe
The popcorn will stay fresh and crunchy inside
Some kernels will jump out without being popped
The CPM-100 introduces a much different style of machine than the other three. On top of being much more compact, it utilizes hot air to produce healthy and tasty results.Read more
Yes, this is made primarily of plastic and probably will not stand up to accidental abuse. But, the manufacturer reassures their customers that all portions that make contact with food are BPA free.
Indeed, this does use hot air to pop your popcorn. In fact, all you need to add is the kernels as no oil is necessary. Also, there is an on/off switch for your convenience.
In less than three minutes, this device can make up to 15 cups of crispy goodness. For such a small unit, it can dish out an impressive amount of food.
Now, this is the type of design that is suitable for countertop use. At 7.5 inches by 15 inches by 10 inches, it also should not be too difficult to store away in your cupboards.
While there are not too many accessories that are included, you do receive a multi-purpose cup. This is located in the top of the popping chute and it can also be used to melt butter.
Leave it to Cuisinart to come up with such a brilliant design. In fact, it could just be the single best model out there for kitchen use.
6. Great Northern Retro
Is equipped with a warming light
Includes a slide-out tray for easy cleanup
There are two control switches
It is made out of plastic
The motor operates at high volumes
It is almost accurate to consider this a watered down version of the other retro style machines on this list. While it is far from bad, as it is on this list, it is smaller and less rugged as the others.Read more
Indeed, this is less rugged than the other retro style units on this list. The primary reason is the main material utilized is plastic and not metal. And, it is not the thickest plastic in the world.
As with others that are similar to this design, this is equipped with multiple control switches including a warming light.
One nice aspect of this unit is the fact that it is smaller. Because of this, it can only produce up to one gallon of popcorn per batch with its 2.5-ounce stainless steel kettle.
Due to its size, at 9.75 inches by 11 inches by 18.75 inches, this can actually make a nice home in your kitchen. It is still a bit bulky but it can rest on your countertops.
Great Northern provides you with several of the goods that they are accustomed for. This includes a measuring cup, measuring spoon, removable tray and instruction manual.
Truth be told, this is actually a perfect alternative to the old style machines if the larger ones are too massive for you. But, due to the plastic construction, do not be reckless with this.
7. The Original Salbree
There are 14 colors to choose from
Designed with easy-grab handles
It is dishwasher-safe
Some kernels may not end up getting popped
Here is where things can get a bit controversial. Is this technically a machine? Well, probably not but it makes such good popcorn that it deserves recognition, regardless.Read more
Unlike some of the other options on this list, this is actually made of silicone. As the seller points out, this makes it extremely durable and nearly indestructible.
In spite of the overwhelming amount of positive reviews, there have been users who have noted that some of the kernels in this model will not be popped.
For one person, this is going to be magical. It only requires ¼-cup of kernels but for providing a snack for multiple people, you will need to make multiple batches.
Now, this is downright ingenious folks. To save as much space as possible, this innovative model can actually be collapsed for storage.
The lid is the most prominent accessory of this unit as you can actually vary the amount of popcorn you make by simply inserting it into the base.
The sheer popularity of the Original Salbree can’t be overstated enough. While it is not the most brilliant and elaborate design out there, it succeeds where it needs to.
8. Presto Orville Redenbacher
It is very easy to clean
Includes a measuring cup that can double for melting butter
There is a built-in cord wrap
It will throw out un-popped kernels from time to time
There is no power switch
It is not every day that you see a product compile as many positive reviews on Amazon that this next model has received. It is another hot air popper and it works a lot like the previous one on this list.Read more
Inside this unit, the container is metal and not plastic. However, the chute itself is comprised of plastic. Overall, the build quality is solid.
As with the other similar design on this list, this utilizes hot air to make healthier popcorn. However, a number of users claim that un-popped kernels will be shot out of the chamber during the heating process.
In less than 150 seconds, this bad boy can make up to 18 cups of delectable kernel pops.
Even though this is not a collapsible design, it is compact as it is measuring 14 inches by nine inches by 6.5 inches.
To make it even easier to store, this also has a built-in cord wrap for convenience. Adding on to this is the ½-cup measuring cup which can double to melt your butter.
As widely popular and acclaimed as this is, there are some flaws that can’t go without addressing. Despite these, though, it is still a model that is more than worth looking into.
9. Whirley Pop
Backed by a 25-year warranty
Makes six quarts
It comes with a real theater popping kit
The cranking mechanism is fragile
The included lid is quite flimsy
Okay, so this last option is really old-fashioned. It requires the most work out of all the options on this list but for some people, that will be just fine thanks to the patented stirring system that has been implemented.Read more
There are two main issues with the build quality (as everything else is fine). The first is the cranking mechanism as you can’t be too forceful with it and the other is the flimsy plastic gear of the lid.
Yes, this is designed to be used over a stovetop. But, the patented stirring system that is implemented ensures that none of the kernels stick to the bottom and become burnt.
In as little as three minutes, this can make up to six quarts of heaven. And, you can always add more kernels to make more batches as needed.
This will go in your kitchen cupboards afterward and at 18 inches by 10 inches by seven inches, it is not going to take up an excessive amount of room.
As a bonus for your purchase, you will receive a popping kit. Inside this kit includes secret buttery salt, gourmet popping oil and fresh kernels.
If you really want to go old-school, then look no further than this stovetop popper. Though it has some build quality issues, it is a sufficient design for weekend movie nights.
10. Lekue Microwave Popper
It can collapse for easier storage
It is dishwasher-safe
The end result is quite exceptional
The silicone construction is pretty thin
Not all kernels will be popped
A lot of time and research was expended by Lekue to come up with their design and by the looks of the turnout, it is safe to say that most of that time was used wisely.Read more
While this is made of platinum silicone, the silicone itself could have been a little thicker for added durability and strength.
Despite the fact that some kernels can remain un-popped, this maintains an airy freshness that resembles popcorn made on a stove.
When you put the maximum amount of kernels in this bowl, it can produce around a quart of popcorn. That works out to four cups, for the record.
This is another design that is completely collapsible. So, when you want to store it away, you can do so without taking up much space at all.
Lekue did not include too many accessories to speak of as you really just get the main base and the included lid.
Is this overflowing with amazing features? Not really but you know what, they are not really needed in this case. For most consumers, this will be a suitable option.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
You want your machine to last, right? Well, if you do, it needs to be built to last.
Most of the time, when you invest in any type of product, its longevity and durability will come to the forefront. Well, you guessed it; popcorn machines are not exempt from this. It is very important to take this into consideration because these units will be made with different materials. Two of the most popular are metal and plastic. No matter how you slice it, the best models are typically made of either aluminum or steel (both metals). Most of the retro style designs will be made with stainless steel and sometimes even tempered glass for optimal protection and heat-retention.
This is also where metal holds an advantage over plastic because plastic can be prone to warping at higher temperatures. If you use a plastic popcorn machine excessively (which may not be advised), if the plastic is thin enough, it could indeed end up warping or even melting. As seen on this list, though, you may also see poppers made of food-grade silicone. This is a non-toxic polymer and can withstand high temperatures without leaching any hazardous chemicals onto your food.
Not all machines will be designed in the same manner. Look for the ones that product the best results.
As you are probably more than aware of, not every single popcorn machine you invest in is going to produce the exact same result. While a lot of what determines the end result comes down to the oil you use and how much you use of it (if it even requires oil), there are different systems that work in different manners. For example, you have systems that utilize oil and then those that do so using nothing more than hot air. The latter is ideal if you want a healthier version as, to be honest, it is hard to replicate the taste of popcorn that utilizes the right oil. But, you can add your own seasonings and ingredients to air-popped kernels. Still, for the best taste, you may want to stick to the machines that utilize oil.
And, the units that probably do this the best are the retro style designs that have been documented on this list. This style will utilize several functions such as a warming deck to keep the popcorn that remains inside fresh and crisp.
This one is easy, folks. Tailor your decision based on who you are feeding and how many.
This is where you and your preferences and desires come into play. For one buyer’s needs, a smaller unit that only makes enough snacks for one to two people could be perfect. Yet, for another buyer, they may laugh at that capacity. Because popcorn machines come in so many different sizes and capacities, you need to establish right away what you need one for. As an example, if you are only looking to add a snack to your weekend nights and live alone, a smaller unit will do just fine. But, if you have a family of four and want to make snacks on a weekly basis, look for units that can make quite a bit. Of course, you can always make more than one batch, so be aware of that.
However, and then there are the machines that can make up to three gallons. Yes, these are the same types you will see at county carnivals and fairgrounds around the world. These are better suited for family events or even weekend parties. They are never bad to have lying around but just know that they can be a bit cumbersome for constant use.
You may or may not want a model that takes up a lot of space in your kitchen and even in your cupboards.
The actual capacity and how much popcorn a unit can make have already been documented. This section is actually present to literally assess the actual size of the unit you are looking into. Not for capacity’s sake, though, but for storing purposes. And, even if you do not believe so initially, this can go a long way to determining the type of design you desire. Here is the deal; if you do not have a lot of cupboard space and are looking for a compact unit, a retro style machine is probably not going to be up your alley. They typically will weigh over 30 pounds and measure over two feet in height and width.
Instead, you would probably be interested in a unit that can be made even more compact to save space. As you saw on this list, there are some designs out there that will collapse and others that will sport bases that can rest inside the included lid. Then again, if the size and girth are irrelevant to you, then you are not restricted in your selection.
A lot of sellers will include various accessoires with their models and this can only benefit you.
One of the bonuses of these types of appliances is that they typically come with accessories. It will always depend on what the seller decides to include but some designs will have similar accessories. Take air poppers, for example. Most of them will come with a measuring cup that can be used to measure out your kernels, clearly. But, the thing is, they will also be able to be used to melt your butter. Considering air poppers are sometimes criticized for producing bland results, adding butter can be the necessary trick to ensure improved results.
But, what about other design types that comes with multi-functional lids? Sometimes, the lid can be used to nest the base, cover the kernels while they are popping, and even act as a bowl afterward. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget about the old-school machines. Most of the time, sellers will include various accessories with retro style designs including serving bags, serving cups, scoopers, measuring cups, and salt shakers.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What type of oil should be used?
It was briefly alluded to earlier in this guide but now, it is time to take an even closer look. Without question, one of the biggest decisions you have in front of you is what oil you decide to use with your popcorn (granted it is not an air popper). There are a ton of oils out there and most of them will suffice very well. Yet, if you want the best flavor possible then you may want to go with coconut oil. On top of providing amazing flavor, it also burns the cleanest out of all the oils.
But, other types of oils that are used often are peanut, soy, and sunflower oil (and also canola oil for those health-conscious folks out there). Remember, you can always try out different oils so get creative and try them all.
q: Why are you left with some un-popped kernels?
One of the biggest hassles, when you make popcorn, is when you are left with un-popped kernels. You can’t wait for them to pop because if you do, the ones that are already popped will begin to burn and no one wants that. But, do not just automatically assume that it is the fault of the machine that you are using. There is actually a plethora of environmental factors that can come into play.
The freshness and moisture content of the kernels themselves can be as much an issue as anything, as will be discussed in a bit. If the kernels have not been stored in an airtight container at room temperature, you may want to avoid using them.
q: Why are aluminum kettles the best?
For the record, this question is alluding to the same retro style units that have been documented several times in this guide. It is often wondered why designers seem to always go with aluminum to make their kettle. Well, let’s just say this; it is not a coincidence and there is a valid reason that aluminum is always the go-to.
There are two main reasons and the first is how well aluminum transfers heat. To result in a much better performance, aluminum is used as it will transfer the heat from itself to the food efficiently. Secondly, aluminum (in specific anodized aluminum) is also easy to clean due to its smooth and slippery surface.
q: Okay, so why does popcorn pop, in the first place?
Do you ever sit back and wonder how certain things even happen? Oftentimes, you take things for granted but actually have no idea of the physics behind it. Popcorn can be that same anomaly because do you really even know why it pops, in the first place? If you do, pat yourself on the shoulder but if you have no idea, keep reading for an interesting factoid.
It all comes down to the moisture inside the kernel as quality ones will have a content of 13 to 14 percent. When the kernel is heated up, the moisture will turn to steam and this begins to expand. It is then only a matter of time before the steam bursts and then, presto, you have popcorn. This is also why it is critical for kernels to be kept in airtight containers, to keep the moisture content up.
q: What is the recommended oil-to-kernel ratio?
Even though there are some of you who might think differently, you can end up using too much oil in your popcorn machine. But, if the unit is designed to be used with oil, you need to use it as doing so without can really compromise the final results. Also, butter and shortening are not a replacement for oil as they have differing melting temperatures.
Anyway, back to the question at hand. There actually is a recommended amount of oil you should use and it will be based on how many kernels you place inside. For example, if you use ¼ cups of kernels then you should go with around one tablespoon of oil. Then, for every extra quarter of kernels, add another tablespoon of oil.
q: How do you keep these machines clean?
It seems logical to end this guide with this question as when you are finished with your machine, you will want to clean it. Each model will be different and may require a different method of cleaning. Let’s look at the larger models that are made with tempered glass panels, for example. With these, the surfaces can typically be cleaned with standard window cleaner or even just soap and water. As for the kettle, do not submerge it in water and instead take a damp cloth to clean it.
But, for smaller units, look for dishwasher-safe components to ensure you can just place them in your dishwasher. In this case, even if you do not have a dishwasher, they should be easy to clean by hand. In fact, this may be better in the long run to prolong the life of the parts.