6 Best Popcorn Makers for an At-Home Movie Night

From microwave-friendly poppers to carnival classics.

March  4, 2022
Photo by MJ Kroeger

In fifth grade, I participated in a science fair, and amidst my classmates researching which diapers were the most absorbent and showing off clay volcanoes bursting with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar, I stood besides my own project: Which brand of popcorn kernels pop the best? In retrospect, this was an entirely on-brand experiment that had little to do with science and a lot to do with the quality of the popcorn kernels. Was Orville Redenbacher really the best? The constant was my electric popcorn maker: an old-fashioned red hot air popper that had a partially melted plastic vented lid.

Fifteen plus years later, I have made dozens of batches of popcorn in the hopes of getting a bowl filled with buttery, well-salted popcorn without any unpopped kernels left behind. Some of this is in fact determined by the quality of the kernels, but the type of popcorn machine also makes a difference. From stovetop popcorn makers to microwave poppers, these are the best makers that have popped on the market.

The Best Popcorn Makers

Overall Best

Cuisinart Easy Pop

This is, hands down, the best hot air popper I’ve ever used. The plastic lid includes a measuring cup that doubles as a cover, so the popcorn shoots out directly from the angled spout, rather than up in the air. One of my favorite features is that it has an on/off switch so when you plug the machine in, it doesn’t automatically turn on, thus sending spurts of kernels flying across the countertop. Why aren’t more electric popcorn makers like this? Oh, and that’s the other thing. This Cuisinart popcorn maker leaves very few unpopped kernels behind, so you get the most bang for your buck.

Best Classic Popcorn Maker

Cuisinart Classic-Style Popcorn Maker

When you want the feeling of eating carnival-style popcorn from the comfort of your home, this classic popcorn maker will deliver. It features a removable popping kettle, which has nonstick finish that’s easy to clean, plus a tilting design that drops fresh popcorn into the large basin. Be sure to generously butter the popcorn for honest to goodness movie theater flavor.

Best Microwavable Popcorn Maker

The Original Popco Silicone Microwave Popcorn Popper with Handles

The convenience of microwavable popcorn without the waxy kernels? Yes please! This under-$15 model from Amazon collapses into just a two-inch tall popcorn maker when you’re not using it, which saves a ton of space, especially if you have a small kitchen. Oh, and for the record, more than 21,000 Amazon shoppers agree that it’s one of the best poppers for buttery popcorn. Cue the Harry Potter movie marathon.

Best Stovetop Popcorn Maker

Whirley Pop Popcorn Maker

There’s something super satisfying about slowly, methodically popping popcorn kernels with an old-fashioned hand crank and a stainless steel pot. And you don’t need much fat to flavor a big batch of popcorn with this model—in fact, use as little as a single teaspoon of oil for six quarts of popcorn. Of all the stovetop popcorn poppers, this is the one I’ll turn to (pun intended) time and time again.

Amazon’s Favorite

Ecolution Original Microwave Micro-Pop Popcorn Popper

Nearly 50,000 Amazon shoppers (yes, fifty thousand!) use this family-friendly microwavable popcorn machine to pop cups of buttery kernels. A silicone handle makes it easy to grab and remove the popcorn maker from the microwave as soon as the glass canister is filled with freshly popped kernels. Choose between the 1.5 quart model for snacking or 3 quarts if you’re hosting a movie night and feeding a crowd. Bonus: the popper can easily double as a serving bowl!

What’s your favorite way to make popcorn? Do you keep it simple with butter and salt, or add extra seasonings? Let us know!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Karl
  • Kelly Vaughan
    Kelly Vaughan
Former Food52 Staff Editor


Karl March 4, 2022
Use corn oil for popping corn unless you want the flavor of coconut oil. Corn oil is the perfect oil for popping corn, and has the perfect flavor match.
Kelly V. March 17, 2022
Yum! Great suggestion.