7 best popcorn makers
From extravagant cinema-style popcorn makers to efficient microwave and stove-top devices, which machine is top of the poppers?
As some of you may have learnt the hard way, making popcorn without a specialised device is tricky, and may result in spillages and burnt or unpopped kernels.
Popcorn makers dodge these pitfalls through the ways they heat and stir, which vary from device to device.
Air-based popcorn makers use hot air to pop your corn, which tends to result in supremely healthy popcorn. If that sounds a little ascetic for your taste, you can always add sauces or seasonings after the popcorn is made.
A more traditional and indulgent alternative is to use an oil-based popcorn maker. These are typically designed to heat corn kernels with oil or butter on a metal surface, usually employing a stirring mechanism to stop the corn sticking and burning.
Some oil-based popcorn makers work automatically, while others require the user to manually operate their stirring mechanism by turning a handle. It is also best to check whether your popcorn maker of choice requires cooking oil to safely pop your corn; vegetable or sunflower oil will do nicely.
Dinky Diner popcorn maker: £24.99, Prezzybox
This fabulous retro popcorn maker by Dinky Diner strikes just the right balance between function and novelty value. Its air-popping action makes healthy popcorn with minimal effort, and its 1950s styling is 100 per cent popcorn-maker appropriate.
We found it really pleasing to watch our corn kernels spinning inside its drum, before welling out of it and through the spout. Life’s about the little things, isn’t it?
If you decide to buy this machine, we suggest using a wide-rimmed receptacle to collect the popcorn, as its trajectory on leaving the machine can be unpredictable. A few stray pieces are always likely with popcorn machines that fire out corn rather than collecting it – but in our view, that can be part of the fun.
Smart retro kettle popcorn maker: £99.99, Harrods
For those of you who really, really love popcorn, there could hardly be a better popcorn maker than this glorious example from retro specialist Smart.
While most popcorn makers can be classified as somewhere between a kitchen appliance and a toy, the Smart retro kettle popcorn maker is a far more serious proposition. Its build quality is a class apart, from its robust, tempered glass window to its stainless-steel kettle. An inbuilt stirring mechanism ensures your batches of popcorn are cooked evenly.
You’ll need to add a measure of oil to every batch of popcorn you make with this machine, so do bear that in mind if you prefer your popcorn on the healthier side.
Joseph Joseph m-cuisine microwave popcorn maker: £20, Joseph Joseph
Here’s something a bit different. Joseph Joseph’s m-cuisine popcorn maker pops your corn in as little as 90 seconds when heated in the microwave. Simply load some kernels into the maker, place it in the microwave, and off you pop. Should you so wish, you can then add seasoning, close the lid and shake to achieve an even taste. It’s marvellously effective.
One downside to the m-cuisine popcorn maker is that it doesn’t put on quite so much of a show as some of the other machines reviewed here. If you’re seeking a spectacle for you, your family and guests, look elsewhere.
No doubt some of you will simply want a machine to produce healthy popcorn as efficiently as possible. In our view, this is the one.
American Originals popcorn maker: £22.99, Argos
American Originals’ machine pops your corn with hot air – the healthiest method for making popcorn. This means its freshly popped produce tastes pleasant but plain, so if you’re craving a flavourful snack, you’ll need to apply salt, sugar or sauce after the corn has popped. The process takes about three minutes in total, but, as is also the case with Dinky Diner’s popcorn maker, you’d do well to place a wide-rimmed container close to the machine as soon as you set it off. Popcorn flies out of it at quite a speed.
This machine’s domed lid makes it is easier to clean than boxier, retro-style alternatives: a welcome bonus if your movie nights already create more than enough cleaning up.
The Source vintage popcorn maker: £19.99, Menkind
If old-fashioned, cinema-style popcorn stalls could have babies, this dinky homage is what they’d look like.
Far from being a mere tribute, the vintage popcorn maker is a fully functioning machine with 850 watts of corn-popping hot-air power, using a similar action to the other air popping machines reviewed here.
While this machine scores high on kitsch value, it’s not quite so easy to clean and does not feel so robust as some alternative models available for a similar price. But we love it for its cute factor.
Clas Ohlson popcorn maker: £24.99, Clas Ohlson
Here’s a good-value oil-based option from Clas Ohlson. Much like Smart’s relatively pricey retro kettle popcorn maker, it simply requires you to add corn kernels and a measure of oil to produce delicious popcorn, with an in-built stirring mechanism ensuring the corn is evenly heated. We rate this machine as it’s particularly fun to watch in-action, as all the popping happens in full view.
When your corn is popped, you can use the machine’s lid as a bowl to serve it in – a handy option, albeit not quite as exciting as using a cardboard carton.
Eddingtons one-piece traditional popcorn maker: £18.98, Amazon
The paradoxical problem with most popcorn makers is that they do too much of the popcorn making for you. Where’s the opportunity to add your own touch?
It’s here, in the form of Eddingtons’ one-piece traditional popcorn maker. Use it to pop corn on the hob, either with oil, or a slightly guilty yet delicious alternative, butter. You’ll need to keep turning the handle on the side of the pot to keep the corn from sticking to the bottom.
All in all, this is a delightful option for those who prefer to play an active part in making their own popcorn. We suggest taking it camping and using it to pop corn over a gas stove.
The verdict: Popcorn makers
Combining a sleek, vintage aesthetic with simple, effective popcorn-making capabilities, the Dinky Diner popcorn maker is our very favourite popcorn maker. If you’re in love with popcorn and flush with cash, you might also consider the fabulous Smart retro kettle popcorn maker.
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