“a consumer reports for the cheap” — the new york times
In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Popcorn Machines
  2. Oil, Stovetop and Air Popcorn Poppers
  3. Popcorn Popper Reviews
  4. Discount Popcorn Machines Features Comparison Table

Cheap Popcorn Poppers Buying Guide

Itís tough to beat the taste of freshly popped popcorn, and with a cheap popcorn machine you can savor those fluffy and tender morsels whenever the mood strikes. No need to invest hundreds of dollars in a concession-stand behemoth or fork over $4.99 for a bag of pre-popped stuff at the grocery store.

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For less than $30, youíve got your choice among air popped popcorn poppers, stovetop popcorn poppers, and electric poppers -- the former being oil-free and the latter two types requiring a tablespoon or two of oil. In five minutes or less, any one of these popcorn poppers will deliver a tasty, versatile, and healthy snack that you can personalize with a mix of salty, savory, or sweet flavor enhancers to suit your taste preferences.

For several years now health experts and scientists have cautioned consumers about the dangers of microwave popcorn. In 2007, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association recommended reducing the amount of diacetyl used in butter flavorings in the aftermath of several lawsuits linking the chemical to lung disease. While microwave popcorn may seem to be an easy way to satisfy your popcorn craving, take note: microwave popcorn contains more calories and chemicals than its air popped and oil popped counterparts, doesnít save much time, and is far more expensive over the long haul. Most cheap popcorn makers pop a batch of kernels at least as fast as a microwave, and the per ounce cost of regular or premium kernels is about half that of the microwave varieties.

What, then, is the best route to enjoying the high-fiber, low-fat joys of popcorn? If health is your top concern, cheap air popcorn poppers would be the best buy because the corn is popped without oil, butter, or salt. If that sounds a bit dry, and you donít mind some fat in your diet, a oil popped popcorn machine produce a snack with slightly more calories and slightly more flavor (i.e., you can even add flavoring to the oil). Of course, with either method you can up the taste and calorie ante by adding melted butter or margarine, grated cheese or chocolate, sugar or honey, or whatever once the popping is complete.

Review continues below

The home popcorn-popping market is largely divided into professional-style poppers, hot-air poppers, and oil and stovetop poppers. As might be expected, the professional-style models cost the most, ranging from about $75 for an off-the-shelf unit to more than $1,000 for an antique reproduction commercial-style home popper. These high-end machines are large and relatively complicated, and include electric components and require specific oil temperatures. Electricity-powered hot-air and oil-pop popcorn poppers are smaller and simpler machines than the upscale models and range in price from about $17 to $60. Stovetop popcorn poppers max out at about $20; they have no electrical parts and the aluminum used in their bases is often quite thin, which helps the popcorn heat evenly and quickly. You wonít be sacrificing taste or quality by going the low-end route, however. We found decidedly mixed reviews for pricier popcorn poppers in which consumers gripe about the consistency of the popcorn and the number of unpopped kernels.

Many companies make popcorn poppers, including the big kitchen appliance companies such as Cuisinart, Toastmaster, and Waring. But the best popcorn poppers are the simplest. In this segment of the market youíll find good inexpensive popcorn machines from companies such as Presto and West Bend and other specialized producers you might not have heard of. What you get with the best popcorn machines is a unit that pops the corn kernels evenly -- without burning or leaving too many unpopped -- and yields a light, fluffy, and crunchy end product. Good cheap popcorn poppers are also user friendly; that is, no hassle to operate and easy to clean, without too many parts or complicated deconstruction steps before you can wipe them down or quickly wash them out.

Our research into the low-priced segment of the market turned up several good popcorn machines. In the best bucket we put the stovetop Wabash Valley Farms Whirley Pop (starting at $20) and the Presto PopLite Hot Air Corn Popper (starting at $20); both offer consistent, delicious results with virtually no kernels left behind, according to scores of reviewers. In the good bucket we placed the West Bend Air Crazy Corn Popper (starting at $25), which receives mostly positive user reviews for the evenness of the popping but a few dings for its design. We deposited the Kalorik PCM28276 Hot-Air Popcorn Maker (starting at $19) in our donít bother bucket because consumers complain about that a design feature that interferes with the popping action.

Review continues below

by Maralyn Edid (Google+ Profile)

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Filed in: Appliance, Cooking, Family,

Best Cheap Popcorn Poppers

Wabash Valley Farms Whirley Pop
Gold Medal

Wabash Valley Farms Whirley Pop

An old-fashioned, manually-operated stovetop popper, the Whirley Pop makes up to six quarts of popcorn within three minutes, helped along by a bit of oil. Its aluminum pot heats quickly and evenly for maximum kernel popping ability, producing results that please legions of popcorn fans.

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Presto PopLite Hot Air Corn Popper
Gold Medal

Presto PopLite Hot Air Corn Popper

The Presto PopLite garners the top spot among air popped popcorn machines, with users raving about its evenly popped kernels and ease of use despite the lack of an on/off switch.

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Good Cheap Popcorn Poppers

West Bend Stir Crazy Popcorn Maker
Gold Medal

West Bend Stir Crazy Popcorn Maker

A cross between a hot-air popper and an oil popper, this machine wins high marks for ease of use but some demerits for uneven performance. Its stirring arm does the same job electronically that less complicated popcorn poppers get done by hand.

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Don't Bother

Kalorik PCM28276 Hot-Air Popcorn Maker

For a hot-air popper, the Kalorik PCM28276 is certainly cheap enough, but its performance pales compared to similar models in the same price range. Users critique the end product and are irritated by its automatic shut-off, which interferes with popcorn popping sessions.

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