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The Best Popcorn Makers for Your Next Movie Night

It's not a true movie night unless you have a big ol' bowl of popcorn. Get things popping by picking up one of the best popcorn makers according to our Test Kitchen experts.

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Tkp Popcorn Makers Test SqTMB Studio

Searching for the Best Popcorn Makers

Sure, a bag of microwave popcorn is convenient, but nothing beats homemade popcorn.

Yet we’ve all run into problems using Mom’s old air popper from the ’80s or burning a batch of popcorn on the stovetop. What you want is the best popcorn maker for your next movie night or Netflix binge-watch.

There are a lot of models on the market, though—way beyond the basic air poppers of yore. Now you can make a batch of crunchy, buttery popcorn right in the microwave (without buying the packaged stuff) or on the counter or even on the stove.

So what’s the best option for your snacking style? Our Test Kitchen can help you choose.

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How We Tested Popcorn Poppers

Our Test Kitchen team not only tests hundreds of reader-submitted recipes every year but also focuses on testing kitchen gadgets and other products. As a team of snacking fanatics, popcorn poppers popped right to the top of our list.

For this test, our team gathered up popcorn makers from all the biggest brands, making sure to include microwave, stovetop and countertop poppers. Sarah Fischer, culinary assistant in our Test Kitchen and popcorn pro, judged each gadget according to these criteria:

  • Capacity: Not everyone wants to make mountains of popcorn. Our Test Kitchen looked for poppers that produced batches of all sizes.
  • Popping performance: We want popcorn makers that pop all the kernels (or close to it) and don’t burn any corn. The popcorn should be crispy and delicious.
  • Ease of use: Making popcorn should be simple! A good popper should be easy to operate. A quick peek at the instruction booklet is all you should need to get started.
  • Speed: No one wants to wait too long for fresh popcorn! Our pros timed how long it took each popper to create perfect popcorn.
  • Cleanup: Our Test Kitchen is always on the hunt for products that are easy to clean. The easier a tool is to clean, the more likely you are to reach for it more often.
  • Price: A popper isn’t an everyday appliance, so we know you don’t want to drop big bucks. A good popcorn popper should be affordable.

Dash Popcorn MakerVia Crateandbarrel.com

Best Air Popper

Dash Fresh Pop Popcorn Maker

Air poppers are a must for snackable popcorn and all sorts of corny treats like homemade caramel corn. In our Test Kitchen, the Dash Fresh Pop Popcorn Maker is the tool for the job.

With just a touch of a button, this machine gets to work. In less than four minutes, you can make up to 16 cups of popcorn—plenty for a batch of this ranch popcorn. “I’m really impressed by how quickly this model heats up and the amount it makes in such a short time,” Sarah notes.

This Dash air popper produces light, crunchy kernels all without oil or any extras. As the machine nears the end of the batch, it does toss up a few unpopped kernels, according to Sarah, so keep an eye out for when the machine winds down. Overall, there were very few.

Because this gadget doesn’t call for oil or butter, it’s a breeze to clean. Just wait for the unit to cool down and wipe clean with a dishtowel.

Pros

What our Test Kitchen liked about the Dash Fresh Pop Popcorn Maker:

  • Sleek appearance
  • Easy to clean
  • Makes healthy, oil-free popcorn
  • Pops plenty of popcorn in a single batch—16 cups

Cons

Consider these factors before you buy:

  • Toward the end, the machine spits out unpopped kernels
  • The built-in butter dish is shallow, so you’re better off melting the butter in the microwave

Price: $25

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Cuisinart Microwave Popcorn BowlVia Target.com

Best Microwave Popcorn Maker

Cuisinart Microwave Popcorn Bowl

With the Cuisinart Microwave Popcorn Bowl, you can be movie night-ready in three minutes flat.

For homemade popcorn, just add your go-to kernels to this silicone bowl, fit the lid on top and microwave. In just a few minutes, you have light and crispy popcorn—made without oil or fuss. You could prep this snack while the fam debates which movie to watch (we bet the popcorn will be done first).

Another bonus: Sarah found very few kernels of unpopped corn when she tested (you could count the number on one hand!) and the batches were perfectly fluffy without any burnt bits.

Be aware that the bowl does get hot in the microwave, so let it sit on the counter for a few minutes before serving. When you’re done, this gadget can be washed in the sink.

To store, this collapses! “It’s no bigger than your average pie plate when collapsed,” explains Sarah. “The lid even snaps onto the bowl so the pieces won’t get lost.”

Pros

What our Test Kitchen liked about the Cuisinart Microwave Popcorn Bowl:

  • Easy and convenient
  • Makes the perfect amount for a couple or small family
  • Collapsible bowl takes up minimal space
  • Inexpensive

Cons

Consider these factors before you buy:

  • Bowl gets hot in the microwave; wait a few minutes before enjoying

Price: $13

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Whirley Pop Popcorn MakerVia Williams-Sonoma.com

Best Stovetop Popcorn Maker

Whirley-Pop

There’s something nostalgic and satisfying about making popcorn on the stove. The process only gets better with the Whirley-Pop; it’s fun to say and even more fun to use.

This old-fashioned popcorn popper is essentially a large kettle with a hinged lid. On top is a crank that turns an arm inside. This keeps the kernels moving and prevents any from getting burnt.

Using this retro-style popper is a cinch according to Sarah. Just load it up with the right amount of kernels and a bit of oil (this is all spelled out in the manual) and get cranking! In less than three minutes, you can make 24 cups of popcorn. That’s more than enough to feed a slumber party!

And don’t worry about unpopped kernels finding their way into your bowl. Sarah found only a few—pretty negligible for such a big batch of popcorn.

As for the corn itself, this reminded our team a lot of movie theater popcorn. It has that light texture you crave but just a bit of oil that helps salt and other seasonings stick for satisfying snacking.

Pros

What our Test Kitchen liked about the Whirley-Pop:

  • Makes a lot of popcorn quickly—about 24 cups in just three minutes
  • Fun to use
  • Easy to clean

Cons

Consider these factors before you buy:

  • Takes up a lot of storage space; this gadget is about the size of a stockpot
  • On the expensive side for popcorn makers

Price: $50

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Joseph Joseph M Cuisine Microwave Popcorn PopperVia Amazon.com

Best Individual Popcorn Maker

Joseph Joseph M-Cusine Microwave Popcorn Popper

Enjoying your favorite guilty pleasure TV show solo (hello, 90 Day Fiancé)? You don’t need to haul out a big air popper; this Joseph Joseph M-Cuisine mini microwave popcorn popper is just what you need for a single serving.

Using this gadget is extremely easy, according to Sarah. Just add an ounce of popcorn to this silicone pouch (there’s a handy fill line so you don’t need to break out any measuring cups) and microwave for 60 to 90 seconds.

In the end, there were just a few unpopped kernels left in the bottom of this microwave popper—about a half-tablespoon. Not bad for the four cups of perfectly popped kernels this little gadget produced.

But how was the quality of the popcorn? Sarah says it turns out light and crunchy. Because this popper uses no oil at all, it can be a bit dry. This being said, no one likes plain ol’ popcorn. Snackers, add as many seasonings as you like to liven up this batch.

Pros

What our Test Kitchen liked about the Joseph Joseph M-Cuisine Popcorn Popper:

  • Perfect for single servings
  • Pops fast!—just 60-90 seconds
  • Makes healthy, oil-free popcorn
  • Easy to store
  • Inexpensive

Cons

Consider these factors before you buy:

  • Produces slightly dry popcorn because it uses no oil
  • Small servings (not for your next football watch party)

Price: $15 for a package of two

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How Do You Add Flavor to Popcorn?

Many at-home popcorn makers don’t use any oil or butter at all, which means you’ll want to season your snack. But how do you add flavor (beyond butter that is)? Here are some flavor combinations to inspire you as you enjoy that next episode:

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.