We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Popcorn is a classic snack perfect for movie nights, watching a game, or an excellent alternative to chips when you’re craving something crunchy. But who wants to eat from a stale bag when you can make a pipping hot fresh bowl of your own? So, a popcorn maker is a must-buy for snack lovers.
There are three different types of popcorn makers: stovetop, microwave, and hot air. While stovetop models give you the most control over your popcorn and make it easiest to season, microwave popcorn makers can be incredibly convenient. On the other hand, hot air models are useful for people with small kitchens or who want minimal work and clean-up.
To help you decide which popcorn makers should be in your kitchen, we tested a few side-by-side at our Lab's dedicated test kitchen, rating each on their ease of use, the crispiness and flavor of the final popcorn, and ease of cleaning afterward. While most were simple to set up and start popping, there were a few winners that outranked the rest in all categories. Our best overall pick, the Crate and Barrel Stovetop Popcorn Popper, really impressed our testers with how easy it was to use and how tasty the popcorn was.
Whether you want to hand-crank a stovetop model or have a bowl of corn magically transform in the microwave, here are the best popcorn makers around.
Best Overall: Crate and Barrel Stovetop Popcorn Popper
What We Love: Easy to season and flavor popcorn, doesn’t require oil
What We Don’t Love: Difficult to clean
The Crate and Barrel Stovetop Popcorn Popper is an easy way to make up to six quarts of delicious popcorn on the stove. All you need to do is fill the aluminum pot with your favorite type of popcorn and then add one teaspoon of oil (you can add more if you like). This popcorn maker's four vents allow steam to escape, giving you tender yet crispy kernels. It even has a patented stirring mechanism that works similarly to commercial poppers, preventing sticking and burning.
Available in both black and red, this comes with instructions as well as a recipe guide. There’s even a 25-year warranty, which makes this popper a smart buy. The only caveat to keep in mind is that it must be hand-washed.
Capacity: 6 quarts | Dimensions (LxWxH): 18.5 x 10 x 8 inches
Best Budget: Zulay Kitchen Collapsible Silicone Popcorn Maker
What We Love: Easy to store, easy to clean
What We Don’t Love: Material can be flimsy
If you’re looking for an amazing popcorn maker at an affordable price, look no further than the Zulay Kitchen Collapsible Silicone Popcorn Maker. It’s such a convenient product that I'm surprised Zulay Kitchen doesn't charge more for it. Made of 100 percent food-grade silicone, the bowl collapses down to a height of 2.4 inches for easy storage in-between movie nights.
When extended up, the bowl can handle up to 100 grams of kernels, with measurement markings inside to help. The handles resist heat while in the microwave, and the lid prevents a popcorn catastrophe. It’s also light, weighing just 10.7 ounces, which makes it a solid choice for anyone who has a smaller kitchen or uses this for travel.
Need another reason to click add to cart? This popcorn maker doesn’t require oil. Best of all, you can clean this popper in the dishwasher as well as by hand.
Capacity: 15 cups | Dimensions (LxWxH): 7.8 x 7.8 x 5.75 inches
Best Stovetop: Wabash Valley Farms Stainless Steel Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper
What We Love: High capacity, works on all stovetops, high-quality components
What We Don’t Love: Must be hand washed, a little heavy
If you like making popcorn on a stove, you will love the Wabash Valley Farms Stainless Steel Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper. With a 6-quart capacity, this stainless-steel kitchen gadget can start popping a fresh bowl in just seconds.
Made in the U.S., the die-cast metal gears help rotate the kernels, making this popper a superior choice to similar models with plastic gears. During our testing, this maker ranked high for setup since it was incredibly easy. For the popcorn-making process, the testers 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. It will definitely churn out fluffy popcorn with no burnt kernels to ruin your next batch of caramel corn.
Note that while this popper is somewhat more expensive, it's extremely durable and comes with a full 25-year warranty. It’s also one of the few stovetop poppers that can be used on an induction cooktop.
Capacity: 6 quarts | Dimensions (LxWxH): 10 x 8 x 16 inches
Related: The Best Mixing Bowls
Best Air Popper: Williams Sonoma Open Kitchen Hot Air Popcorn Maker
What We Love: Ease of use, compact design
What We Don’t Love: Challenging to clean
If you like to use an air popper, the Williams Sonoma Hot Air Popcorn Maker is an excellent choice. Weighing just 1.8 pounds, it can pop up to 12 cups of popcorn in under five minutes. One unique feature is the cord wrap which makes it easy to store in a cabinet. It also has a lid-mounted cup for measuring and for melting butter onto your popcorn.
Smartly designed, it doesn’t require oil, which means you can use that popcorn for spicy caramel popcorn clusters or other fun snacks. Note that this model does take a bit of work to clean. It needs to cool down for 10 to 15 minutes and must be hand-washed.
Capacity: 12 cups | Dimensions (LxWxH): 9 x 6.5 x 13.75 inches | Wattage: 1200 W
Best Microwavable: Hotpop Original Silicone Microwave Popcorn Popper
What We Love: Easy to use, easy to store
What We Don’t Love: The silicone bowl is almost too light
Letting your microwave do all the work is a highlight of the HOTPOP Original Silicone Microwave Popcorn Popper. It can handle up to 15 cups of popcorn and is incredibly simple to use. Just add kernels and seasoning. You can add oil, but it is completely optional. Then place in the microwave.
At The Lab, we found that the silicone stayed pretty hot post-microwave so we have to transfer it from the bowl. Once we did that though, our testers were wowed by the crunchiness and neutral flavor. There wasn't a scorched kernel to be had or that dreaded burned aftertaste. Some popcorn pieces did clump together in clusters and a decent amount of kernels were left unpopped, but that's to be expected with this type of microwavable popper.
Just like the Zulay Kitchen budget option, this can collapse to a height of just over 2 inches. Made of 100 percent food-grade silicone, you can eat straight out of the bowl. When you’re done, you can clean it in the dishwasher. Since it only weighs 10.7 ounces, it’s ideal for travel. Unlike the Zulay Kitchen bowl, this comes in 14 different colors making it an excellent gift.
Capacity: 15 cups | Dimensions (LxWxH): 9.6 x 9.6 x 5.7 inches
Related: The Best Microwaves
Most Decorative: Dash Fresh Pop Popcorn Maker
What We Love: Well-designed, easy to use, dishwasher safe parts
What We Don’t Love: Heavy, a little slow
Dash is a brand that’s known for its stylish yet affordable small appliances, and its Fresh Pop Popcorn Maker is no exception. Weighing 1.8 pounds, this compact popper is available in three vibrant colors: aqua, red, and white. You’ll definitely want to leave this out on your countertop.
This model can make up to 16 cups of popcorn, which is enough for a large group and should start popping in approximately two to four minutes. When you’re done, it’s easy to clean up because the chute and butter tray are dishwasher safe, while you simply wipe down the main body. This model can make popcorn with or without oil or butter and even comes with a recipe book.
Capacity: 16 cups | Dimensions (LxWxH): 8.4 x 4.8 x 13.5 inches | Wattage: 1400 W
If you're looking for an old-school air popper, the Williams Sonoma Open Kitchen Hot Air Popcorn Maker (view at Williams Sonoma) will fit the bill. If popping up corn on the stovetop will be easiest for you, the Wabash Valley Farms Stainless Steel Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper (view at Amazon) guarantees excellent popped stovetop popcorn every time.
What Are the Other Options?
Ecolution 1.5-Quart Microwave Micro-Pop Popcorn Popper: One of our former best microwaveable picks didn't pass our Lab's kitchen tests. After reading its directions, our testers followed the manufacturer's popping time suggestions, only to find that they were way off. Half of our kernels were left unpopped and the flavor wasn't great either, but it did rank above average in crispiness.
What to Look for in a Popcorn Maker
Ease of Use
While most popcorn makers aren’t particularly difficult to use, stovetop models require the most work. This is because you need to stand over the stove while the popcorn cooks and turn the handle to rotate the kernels. These poppers also have a more complicated cleanup process because everything needs to be cleaned by hand and not all components are durable.
On the other hand, microwaveable bowls are the easiest to use. Just measure the kernels, put them into the bowl, and push the popcorn button on your microwave. Most of these bowls are dishwasher safe, but these obviously require a microwave and electricity.
Air poppers are somewhere in between. You need to stand and watch because you may need to switch out the bowl. And the components are easy to wash and sometimes, they’re even dishwasher safe.
Some popcorn makers require oil while others do not. For the most part, stovetop models require oil, so the kernels don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Microwaveable popcorn bowls generally don’t since it's not necessary for silicone, glass, or other nonstick materials. However, you can add oil if you wish. Air poppers don’t require oil either, although you may want to add oil or butter when the popcorn is in the bowl.
If you are just making popcorn to snack on, capacity isn’t a major concern, but if you plan on preparing popcorn for your family or for baking projects, it is something to consider. Stovetop models can only make as much as will fit in the pot, so you may need to make multiple batches. The same goes for microwave poppers, though a second batch only takes minutes to make. Air poppers can make virtually unlimited amounts of popcorn as long as it is doesn’t overheat.
How do you clean a popcorn machine?
Every model can be different. You should read the manual that comes with your popcorn machine before cleaning it since doing so incorrectly may damage it. Note that some popcorn makers may have some dishwasher-safe components and other parts that must be washed by hand. But there are some general guidelines you can follow.
Stovetop popcorn makers can have fragile gears and must always be hand washed. If you’re going to use a sponge or dish brush, be careful and don’t apply too much pressure. Microwave popcorn makers, which are often made with glass or silicone, are the easiest to clean and are dishwasher safe. For electronic machines, the plastic spout can be dishwasher safe but isn’t always.
What kinds of popcorn can you make?
The first thing to know is that there are different kinds of popcorn for popping. Yellow kernels are larger and used most in movie theaters. White popcorn is more tender though. There are also red and blue popcorn kernels to experiment with.
There are lots of ways to enjoy this delicious treat. You can simply season it with salt and pepper. Popcorn with butter or oil and salt is another easy choice. Experiment with different oils (truffle, coconut, sunflower, etc.) to discover what you like best.
How do you choose the right popcorn maker?
The right popcorn maker really depends on your kitchen. Microwave popcorn makers and electronic ones are the easiest to use. For the most part, microwave popcorn makers also double as a bowl, so you don’t have to dirty or store an additional dish.
If you don’t have lots of extra space in your kitchen, electric popcorn makers are ideal because they’re compact and can even be left out on the counter. If you like to make flavored popcorns, opt for a stovetop model so you can easily season and add flavors. However, they are generally the most work when it comes to cleaning up.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Amanda Lauren is a freelance writer who has written hundreds of articles about home and lifestyle.
Read Next: The Best Air Fryers