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It's easy enough to toss a pack of store-bought popcorn in the microwave for a quick snack, but those pre-packaged popcorn bags are often full of salt, fat, and chemicals. Fortunately, with popcorn makers, it's just as quick and easy to pop a batch of fresh kernels—no extra ingredients required—so you can enjoy a healthy snack (fun fact: popcorn is a good source of fill-you-up fiber).
From silicone microwave models and air poppers to stovetop and electric units, there are a variety of popcorn makers on the market. Most are easy to clean, convenient to store, and–most important–they all make great-tasting popcorn in a matter of minutes.
Whether you’re looking for a popper to make large batches for popcorn balls to gift for holidays or a space-saving popcorn maker for movie night snacks, here are the best popcorn poppers available today.
Makes up to 24 cups
Fun to watch
Popcorn tastes good
Few unpopped kernels
Easy to burn popcorn
Butter melter isn’t great
If you’re looking for an electric model, this popcorn maker is a popular option. It can pop up to 6 quarts (24 cups) of popcorn at a time in under four minutes, ideal for group gatherings. This machine must be plugged into an outlet, and the cord conveniently wraps under the unit for no-tangle storage.
This popcorn maker includes a vented clear BPA-free plastic lid that can double as a bowl. On top of the cover is a butter well, which allows the user to place butter inside so that it can melt onto the popcorn as it’s being popped. While the butter melter is nice in theory, our product tester, unfortunately, did not get consistently favorable results with it. "It’s much easier to melt butter in the microwave and pour it over your popcorn after the fact," she advises.
There is also a motorized stirring rod on the bottom of the machine that keeps the kernels moving around. This ensures that all of the kernels pop. In fact, our product tester loves that there were hardly any unpopped kernels after she finished making a batch. She notes, "I found that [the rod] does its job well, agitating the kernels as they heat up and keeping them moving throughout the popping cycle."
The heating surface is nonstick. To clean, simply wipe the surface with a paper towel, and the lid can be placed on the top rack of the dishwasher.
"Even on my fourth time using the machine I had a few burnt pieces of popcorn. ... The good news is that the popcorn is delicious—especially if you like it cooked with oil." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Easy to use and clean
No oil required
Can't rely on microwave popcorn setting
This popcorn maker has received rave reviews for its ease of use. Simply pour the popcorn kernels in the bowl with the included lid and stick it in the microwave—no oil necessary. This popper can make up to 10 cups.
The cooking time for this popcorn maker ranges from three to four minutes depending on the size of the batch. Finding the right cook time for the power of your microwave is the key to success with this popper.
Another great feature of this popcorn maker is its ability to collapse, making it super easy to store. To fold it down, just grab ahold of the handles and push downwards on the bowl so it’s nice and flat. The bowl is dishwasher-safe, but the lid is hand-wash only.
No butter or oil needed
Easy to clean
Has to cool down between batches
Large number of unpopped kernels
This popcorn maker is well-known for collapsing down to 2.25 inches tall, convenient for when traveling or storing in small spaces. This popcorn popper includes a lid and a bowl with built-in handles that make it easy to remove from the microwave. It’s made of indestructible silicone that is BPA-free.
Our product reviewer loves how simple this popcorn maker is to use. Simply add the popcorn kernels, place the lid on top, and put it in the microwave. She also gave this popcorn popper high marks because it does not require any oil and can make up to 12 cups of popcorn in just three to four minutes. This popcorn maker is easy to clean, too, since it's dishwasher-safe. And, available in 18 bright, fun colors, this popper will suit most kitchen decor.
Our tester's one qualm is the large number of unpopped kernels left over after popping, which the instructions say is a common occurence.
"As I examined my initial batch, I found that there were no burnt pieces of popcorn, but there were a large number of unpopped kernels." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Can make up to 15 cups of popcorn
Easy to use
End result is flavorful and healthy
An occasional kernel may fly out when the machine is started
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, this air popper doesn’t require the use of any oil. Simply pour the kernels into the popping chamber, switch the unit on, and the hot air will take care of the rest. In under three minutes, this popper will shoot up to 15 cups of popcorn down the chute into your serving bowl.
This popcorn maker also includes a butter warming tray that doubles as a measuring cup for the kernels. The stay-cool housing is kid-friendly and all of the materials that come in contact with food are BPA-free. The chute and the butter warming tray are both removable and can be placed in the dishwasher for a quick cleanup.
Few unpopped kernels
Great for making movie theater-style popcorn
Easy to clean
Made of thin, light material
For a more traditional popcorn maker, many reviewers claim that this stovetop model yields a close equivalent to movie theater popcorn. Customers say that it works great for making kettle corn, too. This popcorn maker can make up to 6 quarts (24 cups) of popcorn in just three minutes.
It looks somewhat like a stovetop pot that’s made of durable aluminum. It has an attached lid and a wooden handle, which must be stirring during the popcorn-making process to keep the kernels moving. There is an option for die-cast metal gears or nylon gears, depending on what kind of popcorn you intend to make (if you often make caramel or kettle corn, the metal gears are recommended). Unlike some of the other models on this list, this unit requires one teaspoon of oil.
To clean this popcorn maker, simply wipe all of the components with a paper towel. If necessary, you can hand-wash the unit with warm, soapy water, but it is not dishwasher-safe.
Easy to set up and use
Makes up to 1 gallon of popcorn
Fun for kids to watch the popping process
If you want to go all out on a popcorn machine, look no further than Great Northern’s retro-style popcorn maker. It’s one of the larger popcorn poppers on this list, measuring 9.75 x 11 x 18.54 inches and weighing 10 pounds, but it’s worth it in exchange for a mini version of a machine you’d see at a movie theater.
Reviewers say that the popcorn tastes great, and kids love to watch the kernels pop. This popcorn machine makes up to 1 gallon or 16 cups of popcorn per batch. It includes two popping kettle hangers, a popcorn tray, a measuring spoon, and a measuring cup.
The unit is made up of stainless steel and tempered glass, resistant to scratching. The popcorn tray is removable and dishwasher-safe, which makes for easier cleanup, and the kettle must be wiped down with a paper towel.
If you're looking for an easy to use popcorn maker, we recommend the Cuisinart Pop and Serve Popcorn Maker. It's can pop up to 10 cups of popcorn in just a few minutes in the microwave without any oil, folds flat for convenient storage, and is affordably priced. If you prefer to make popcorn on the stovetop, check out the Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper. It's great for making kettle corn, caramel corn, or movie popcorn for a crowd since it can pop up to 24 cups of popcorn in about 3 minutes.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This roundup was updated by Sharon Lehman, a home cook who happens to be a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She happily makes space for any gadget that makes cooking faster and easier and specializes in small kitchen appliance testing and reviews for The Spruce Eats. She tested both Cuisinart popcorn makers on this list.
Are silicone popcorn makers safe?
Yes, silicone popcorn makers are safe. Silicone is considered a non-toxic material that's made from silica or sand. It is heat resistant, naturally BPA-free, and doesn't leach chemicals into the food you're cooking.
Silicone is also easy to clean, since it rinses clean easily and is also dishwasher safe. Be aware that silicone can stain, degrade, and crack with time and heavy use, so these models may not last as long as those made from glass or stainless steel.
How do popcorn makers work?
The exact method of popping depends on the type of popcorn maker you buy. There are electric, stovetop, microwave, and hot air poppers.
Electric, stovetop, and movie theatre popcorn makers use hot oil to pop kernels and have a stirring arm that keeps kernels in motion for even heating and to prevent burning. The oil is heated either by turning an electric unit on or heating a stovetop model over a burner.
Microwave and hot air popcorn makers don't require the use of any oil. Popcorn kernels are placed in the bottom of a microwave bowl with a vented lid. The heat of the microwave pops the corn and the bowl will fill up as it pops.
Air poppers contain a heating element and fan that circulates hot air around the popcorn kernels. As the popcorn pops, it moves up and out through a chute and into your serving bowl.
How tall are popcorn makers?
The size of a popcorn maker depends on the type you buy. Some microwave popcorn makers, like the silicone models on our list, measure only an inch or two high when collapsed for storage.
The height of microwave models made from plastic or glass and electric popcorn makers will depend on the size of the bowl. On average, these models measure in around 8 to 12 inches tall.
The tallest popcorn makers are movie theatre style poppers. Countertop models measure about 1-1/2 to 2 feet tall, while cart style poppers typically measure double that height.
How do you clean popcorn makers?
Check the instruction manual for cleaning recommendations for your specific model. Make sure your popcorn maker is turned off, unplugged if applicable, and cool after using before cleaning.
Most microwave popcorn makers are dishwasher safe. The popcorn bowl of electric models may also be dishwasher safe, but the electrical components can not be submerged in water.
Stovetop models need to be wiped clean after each use to remove any oil residue. They often can be washed by hand, but may not be dishwasher safe.
Hot air poppers don't get too dirty since no oil is used. They simply needs to be wiped with a damp cloth and removable parts, like the feed chute and butter warming dish, can be washed with warm soapy water.
Movie theatre popcorn makers take the most effort to clean. The kettle can be wiped with paper towels between uses to remove oil residue and the interior can be periodically washed with warm, soapy water to remove oil buildup.
What to Look for in a Popcorn Maker
Cooking capacity: When it’s movie night, think about who you'll be serving—if you'll need just enough popcorn for a few friends or for a whole horde of hungry kids. Also, consider if you want a smaller cooker that's easy to reload or a larger cooker that can make bigger batches.
Cooking method: There are pros and cons to every cooking method, whether it be stovetop, microwave, or countertop appliance. If oil-free cooking is your goal, you’ll find poppers that accommodate that. Do you want the butter melted and added automatically? There are ways to do that, too. Do you like the idea of hands-off cooking, or do you take pride in your popping skills? No matter what, there’s a perfect popper for how you prefer to cook.
Cleaning: Making should be a simple task—you want to get back to your movie, after all. When the final credits run, you’ll have a bowl or two to wash, but you’ll also have to clean your popcorn maker, so consider if you'd like yours to be dishwasher-safe.