Is a Popcorn Machine Worth It?

Is a Popcorn Machine Worth It?

One of my favorite parts about going to the movie theater was the salty, buttery popcorn. Now because of the pandemic, many people (myself included) are no longer comfortable going to the theater but opting instead for at-home streaming. Who is to say how this will affect the movie theater industry in the future as the world eventually returns to normalcy.

Production companies may choose to stay with the streaming route putting a nail in the coffin of the theater industry which has been struggling to stay afloat long before the pandemic hit. Either way, in-home streaming is the wave of the future, and what better brings the theater to your home by accompanying a big box film with movie theater-style popcorn. Is a Popcorn Machine Worth It?

The bagged stuff just doesn’t cut it the way movie theater popcorn is. Freshly popped, buttery popcorn is far more satisfying and can be made at home easily with a popcorn machine.

Is a Popcorn Machine Worth It?: How Popcorn Machines Work 

popcorn in a container that says 'popcorn'.

Traditional popcorn makers are usually bigger than 2 feet tall. Height varies based on the volume of the popcorn that is being popped. The clear box contains a metal canister where the oil and kernels are placed. Inside the canister is a heating element that will pop the corn. The heating element heats up to 400 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. When hot, the popcorn pops out of the canister in the box eventually until the box is full. 

These traditional popcorn makers come in a variety of sizes and prices. There are the cart-style models that are more expensive starting at around $150. These are ideal for large parties and are not necessary for just you and your immediate family on a normal movie night. There are small countertop models that take about 4oz of popcorn. This is ideal for feeding about four or five people and usually cost between $25 to $50. Then there are large countertop models that hold 8oz and can feed seven to eight people. They usually start at about $60. Most countertop models will have a clear door to easily serve the popcorn. 

If you are not a fan of the idea of using oil for health purposes, there is an air-popped popcorn alternative much like an air fryer. Instead of heating oil to pop the kernels, a fan blows over the heating element to pop them.  

Stovetop Poppers are also an option. They are easy to use, but some models can get hot very fast and burn the corn. For this reason, popcorn machines tend to be more convenient, but stove poppers come with a bonus. They also can be the best popcorn popper for roasting coffee. Yes, coffee!

Although it is an investment, it is one that is worth it. Microwaved popcorn tends to be more expensive in the long run than investing in a machine and kernels. Plus nothing beats the authentic movie theater flavor or experience at home.

What to Look for When Buying a Popcorn Machine

  • Consider the size: What size would be ideal for your situation? Small Countertop, Large Countertop, or Cart Model? 
  • Easy to clean: Make sure if you invest in a machine, you get one that is easy to clean otherwise you will not use it very often. 
  • Stirring Mechanism: Ensure the machine you buy has a stirring mechanism overwise your popcorn will not pop correctly, leaving unpopped kernels in the canister. 
  • Nonstick surfaces: Having a canister and nonstick warming plate will make the cleanup process easier. 

What Type of Oil Should I Use?

If you decide to go with a traditional popcorn machine over the air-popped version, the oil you decide to use will affect the flavor of the popcorn. Canola oil is lower in fat and cholesterol but coconut oil has the best flavor and is quite rich. Experiment with different kinds until you find the one that you like the most. You could even try sunflower oil, soy oil, or peanut oil. Popcorn machines do not need a lot of oil which makes the clean up easy. 

If you are looking for a copycat movie theater popcorn recipe, many movie theaters use different oils. Some use a combination of coconut and canola as coconut is flavorful while canola is cheap, allowing them to cut costs without sacrificing flavor. It’s all up to experimentation to find which oil or combination of oils you like the most. At the end of popping the corn, you can add melted butter or an aerosol butter spray.

How Long Freshly Popped Popcorn Lasts

If you don’t finish all your popcorn in one sitting, freshly popped popcorn can keep a few days if sealed in a Ziploc bag or airtight sealed container. With a popcorn machine, this popcorn can be reheated on the warming place or you can do it on the stovetop. Make sure to keep the heat setting on low and don’t walk away from it. 
Popcorn from a popcorn machine is still as flavorful when leftover.

While it may be slightly different it still beats microwave popcorn. The flavoring on microwaved popcorn tastes- well microwaved- and burns quite easily. It is not easy to burn popcorn in a popcorn machine. For fresh, buttery movie theater-style popcorn that is easy to make and clean, a popcorn machine is well worth the investment. If you would rather have a stovetop popper you can get a popcorn popper that can also be used as a coffee roaster.

Written by: Jack Leduc

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