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It's easy enough to toss a pack of store-bought popcorn in the microwave for a quick snack, but often making your own popcorn from scratch is so much more rewarding. Fortunately, with popcorn makers, it's just as quick and easy to pop a batch of fresh kernels—no extra ingredients required.
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 importantly, they all make great-tasting popcorn in a matter of minutes.
We took 10 of the most popular popcorn makers and tested them side by side in our lab's dedicated test kitchen, rating their ease of use, crispiness, flavor, and ease of cleaning. While most of the popcorn makers were simple to set up and start popping, there were a few winners that outranked the rest in all categories.
Whether you’re looking for a popper to make large batches of popcorn balls to gift for holidays or a space-saving popcorn maker for movie night snacks, here are the best popcorn poppers based on our Lab tests and input from our at-home testers.
Best Overall: Presto Poplite Hot Air Popper
Makes up to 18 cups
Machine gets very hot
Must unplug to shut off
The Presto Poplite, an oil-free and easy-to-use popcorn maker, is an impressive addition to the kitchen for all your popcorn needs. The upright appliance can air pop up to 18 cups in under 3 minutes and includes a built-in butter melting tray that doubles as a measuring cup. During our lab testing, this machine made the crispiest popcorn out of all the popcorn makers we tested.
For each batch, we followed the included instructions and didn't overfill the measuring cup line with kernels. However, a few unpopped rogue kernels initially sprung out of the chute onto the countertop as the machine began to heat up. That wasn't a dealbreaker because the chute directed the popped corn straight into our bowl once the vigorously popping began. If you're popping back-to-back batches, we also found that the machine needed some cooling time in between.
For the duration of testing, we paid close attention to each popcorn maker was to set up, and we were happy to discover that the Poplite was a breeze to get a handle on. While an on and off switch feature would make the appliance easier to control, plugging it in to start was still simple enough. When it was time to clean up, the oil-free model kept its interior and exterior relatively clean. We gave it a wipe down and then washed the butter cup in warm, soapy water. One product tester raved that while the machine is larger than collapsable microwave models, it's still compact enough to store in any small cabinet. You can also wrap the cord around the built-in knob to put away for next time.
"The fluffy popcorn that came out of the Presto Poplite was both crispy and perfectly toasted."
Best Splurge: Cuisinart EasyPop Hot Air Popcorn Maker CPM-100
Easy to use and clean
Makes up to 15 cups
Popcorn chute can be tricky to set up
Butter melter doesn’t always melt everything
This electric countertop model is simple to set up. In our tests, this popper produced a bowl of perfectly popped corn (up to 15 cups, to be exact) in less than 3 minutes—and there wasn't a single burnt piece in sight.
Similar to the Presto Poplite, the popcorn falls away from the heat source as it pops, so we found consistency during our Lab testing no matter the batch size. We wished the maker had a timer that could alert us when to shut it off, though that's just wishful thinking. It wasn't actually a problem when we were using it. This popcorn maker also includes a butter warming tray that doubles as a measuring cup for the kernels. The versatility of the measuring cup was a bonus. Our at-home product reviewer noted that the popper makes batches swiftly, but that the butter did not melt as fast. Users should turn off the EasyPop once a batch is complete, and let the butter continue melting before serving.
The EasyPop is more expensive than the Poplite, but with that, you get easy cleanup because every removable part on the appliance is dishwasher safe. Plus, there's an on and off feature instead of unplugging. When it came down to one final taste test, the Poplite's popcorn won with better overall flavor, while both makers rated equally in crispiness.
EasyPop's stay-cool housing is kid-friendly, and all of the materials that come in contact with food are BPA-free.
Power Rating: 1500 watts | Capacity: 15 cups | Dimensions: 7.87 x 5.51 x 12.83 inches | Warranty: 3 years
"The EasyPop made popcorn faster and I love that I don't need oil to use the machine. Plus, since no butter or oil is used internally, it was easy to wipe clean." — Lauryn Bodden, Associate Food Editor
Best Microwave: Hotpop Original Silicone Microwave Popcorn Popper
Some popcorn clumped together
Silicone is hot to the touch
Some kernels left unpopped
Popping kernels in the HotPop Popper was a pleasant surprise throughout our in-Lab testing. This BPA-free silicone popper is as straightforward as it gets in setup. The HotPop includes a lid and built-in popcorn bowl with built-in handles and pops kernels with just 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil.
After making our first batch in The Lab, we found that the silicone stayed pretty hot so we didn't eat out of the bowl. When we tasted the resulting popcorn, we were wowed by the crunchiness and neutral flavor. There wasn't even a hint of a scorched kernel or a burned aftertaste
On the flip side, we did notice some popcorn pieces were clumped together in clusters and there was a decent amount of kernels left unpopped at the bottom of the silicone bowl. Unfortunately, leftover unpopped kernels are a common pitfall with this style of microwaveable popcorn maker. While you might not get as much popped corn in your bowl, we felt the trade-off for taste and crispiness was well worth it. This maker ranked high in every other category including ease of use, and ease of cleanup to get you swiftly to movie night. Plus, its wonderfully affordable price tag makes this a great budget selection and a reliable gift choice for any popcorn lover.
"The popcorn results from this maker are as delicious and fluffy in texture as models that cost double."
Best Microwave, Runner Up: Salbree Original Microwave Popcorn Popper
No butter or oil needed
Easy to clean
Has to cool down between batches
Large number of unpopped kernels
Here's another popcorn maker we love that collapses down (to 2.25 inches tall, in fact), which is convenient for storing in small kitchens. It includes a lid and a bowl made of BPA-free silicone with built-in handles that make it easy to remove from the microwave.
During Lab testing, we loved how easy this popcorn maker was to use. Simply add the popcorn kernels, place the lid on top, and put it in the microwave. Our at-home reviewer gave this popcorn popper high marks because it does not require any oil and can make up to 12 cups of popcorn in just 3 to 4 minutes. The Salbree is easy to clean, too, since it is dishwasher-safe. And, available in 18 bright, fun colors, this popper will suit most kitchen decor.
Again, our tester noted the noticeable number of unpopped kernels left over after popping, which comes with the territory of microwave poppers. However, the Salbree had far fewer unpopped kernels than other microwave models we tested that did not make the list, including the Ecolution and the Cuisinart Pop and Serve. While the Salbree's popcorn was a little bit chewier than HotPop, it still was crispy enough to rank right behind it.
Capacity: 12 cups | Dimensions: 7.8 x 7.7 x 2.2 inches | Warranty: 30 day money back guarantee
"As I examined my initial batch, I found that there were no burnt pieces of popcorn, but there were a number of unpopped kernels." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best Stovetop: Wabash Valley Farms Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper
Few unpopped kernels
Great for making movie theater-style popcorn
Easy to clean
Made of thin, light material
For a more traditional popcorn maker, we found this stovetop model that yields a close equivalent to movie theater popcorn. This popcorn maker can make up to 6 quarts (24 cups) of popcorn in just 3 minutes.
During our testing, this maker ranked high for its easy setup. It was the easiest to figure out right behind the Presto Poplite and Cuisinart EasyPop. During the popcorn-making process, we had to crank the wooden handle constantly to keep the kernels moving, so it was certainly a hands-on experience. While we found it difficult to use the hand crank mechanism at times, there were very few unpopped kernels at the bottom of the popper.
Yes, this durable aluminum popcorn maker and a basic stovetop pot have a very similar mechanism for making popcorn, but we did love the final popcorn's slightly toasted flavor and the popper's ability to leave no unpopped kernels behind. For an interactive, old-school experience, opt for this affordable maker that's also easy to clean by hand with warm, soapy water.
Capacity: 24 cups | Dimensions: 16.5 x 8 x 9.5 inches | Warranty: 25 years
Our favorite electric model is the Presto Poplite (view at Amazon), which can make up to 18 cups of air-popped corn in under 3 minutes. It earned five stars for its consistent and delicious results. If you prefer cooking popcorn in the microwave, try the HotPop (view at Amazon) which consists of a collapsible silicone bowl that's easy to store.
How We Tested
Our editors spent weeks researching popcorn makers, developing a standardized methodology against which to test them, and putting them through their paces at the lab. We then collected the data—as well as insights from our home testers—and used it to determine ratings and placement on this list.
We made several rounds of popcorn in each machine, judging each batch of popped kernels on crispiness and flavor (taking note of soggy, chewy popcorn and plastic or burnt tasting popcorn). As we popped each batch, we counted the number of unpopped kernels that were left over, and how long each batch took to pop. For machines that had butter melters, we tested those as well (if the butter dripped through and burned, or if the butter could actually melt completely). Across the board, we greatly accounted for ease of use and ease of cleaning (taking note of interface and setup, and if the appliance is dishwasher safe, or has hard-to-reach corners).
Other Options We Tested
- The Ecolution Micro Pop Popcorn Popper (view at Amazon): This popcorn maker had a lot of potential to make the list as it is a good average pick for a microwaveable option. Based on our testing, however, we found its directions to be very unreliable with the suggested popping time. After several attempts, we still had half of our kernels left unpopped. We weren't wowed about the flavor either, but it ranked above average in crispiness.
- West Bend Stir Crazy Deluxe Popcorn Popper (view at Amazon): An earlier version of this list included an oil popper that features a stirring rod meant to make all the kernels pop. While the machine does its job once you get the hang of it, our product tester found the bulky design and the steep learning curve just weren't worth the price, especially considering the number of burnt pieces we experienced. Ultimately, we decided there are better options on the market.
- Hamilton Beach Electric Popcorn Maker (view at Amazon): This popcorn maker had several things going for it, including its easy setup and good popcorn taste— though its texture could have been crispier. But the dealbreaker was that the butter melter drips butter right into the piping hot machine, thus quickly burning butter during the popping time. On the flip side, it ranked pretty well in its flavor, ease of use, and ease of cleaning, so this could still be a good option to go with, even though it wasn't one of our top winners this round.
- Cuisinart Pop and Serve (view at Amazon): Our former best microwave pick earned top ratings for its ease of use and compact size. During testing, however, more than half of the kernels were left unpopped at the bottom of the silicone bowl. While finding the right cook time for the power of your microwave can be important to success, after several attempts it didn't make the cut against its microwave competitors including the Salbree and HotPop.
- Great Northern Little Bambino Table Top Retro Popcorn Popper (view at Amazon): A previous version of this list included the Great Northern Little Bambino Popper which initially got a positive review from our home tester. However, after testing it in our Lab, we decided to remove it from the list. While the machine is impressive with its all-out fun design, we found its setup process far too long during testing. It was no easy task to latch the popcorn basket properly into position. Plus, it was one of the most difficult to clean machines we tested due to its hard-to-reach corners and general size.
- Nordic Ware Pro Pop Popper (view at Amazon): Nordic Ware’s Pro Pop had a few notable marks against it, the first was that well over half the kernels did not pop. Of the portion of popcorn that did pop, during taste testing we found it to be a bit soggy from the steam, and full of oil.
What to Look for in a Popcorn Maker
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 whether you want a smaller cooker that's easy to reload or a larger cooker that can make bigger batches.
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.
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.
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 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 need 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.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
The author of this piece, Review Editor Collier Sutter, personally tested popcorn makers in our Lab to determine the best picks to recommend, replicating the same recipes and measuring specific data points. She also included insights from our freelance reviewers to get the home cook's perspective.
This piece contains additional reporting and text by Cheyenne Elwell, who tested several popcorn makers for this roundup at home. While she loves the ease of a popcorn maker, her favorite way of making popcorn is over the stovetop with butter, salt, and lots of parmesan cheese. Sharon Lehman, a home cook who happens to be a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, also contributed to this roundup. 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.