Few foods summon nostalgia universally like popcorn. Enjoyed at a range of outings from the movies to afternoon baseball games, popcorn is a truly an one of a kind snack. Few people have not had the enjoyment of trying freshly popped popcorn and the satiating taste of its buttery delight.
Popcorn may not have drastically changed overtime, but the way it is prepared has improved. No longer do you need to go to vendors to get a taste of those memories. Between the instant bag microwaveable popcorn to freshly made popcorn via a quality popcorn popper, you can enjoy it anytime.
In this guide, we will take you through everything you've ever wanted to know about not only popcorn but popcorn poppers. If you have had any questions about popcorn poppers, this guide will surely leave you feeling satisfied.
Popcorn is made of a few vital pieces. The endosperm, the germ, and the pericarp. Each of these together is what makes it unique. Popcorn can only pop if it is a kernel, unlike other maize items.
The reason popcorn pops and other corn products don't come down to the body itself. It has enough protection that it can gradually heat up and expand outward without becoming burnt to the core.
The heat causes a cracking process to enact that leads to the result that you see when you are making it. It comes from the moisture that is inside. There is a minuscule amount of moisture on the inside of the center of every kernel that is needed for it to pop.
It’s known that water expands when it is heated. This process happens on a minute level which causes the expansion as the water is converted into a gas. The ideal temperature for the core reaction to happen is about 390 degrees. Once the core pressure builds up, you get the explosion of flavor that is popcorn.
A popcorn popper is a device or machine that heats up kernels until the desired temperature using water, heat, oil or a mixture. They can be extremely complicated or quite simple.
It is completely dependent on what kind of machine you get, how large of an amount you want each batch of popcorn made, and how much you want to spend. The cost can vary from only ten dollars up to a few hundred dollars. The difference between a commercial and personal popcorn maker is in the quantity and creation process.
There are multiple types of popcorn as well, The two types that sell best are butterfly popcorn and mushroom popcorn. These can vary in their consistency, size, their fragility and more.
Butterfly popcorn is named so after how their shape protrudes like a butterfly. They have "wings" that jut out and are lighter and more fragile than mushroom popcorn.
Mushroom popcorn has less overall size but has far better concentration which makes it feel more solid and has less broken bits. It resembles a circle opposed to the fluffy bodies of butterfly popcorn.
If you've ever had cracker jacker popcorn, the chances are that you have had mushroom bodied popcorn. Most popcorn makers can make both, but the cooking style will vary.
Popcorn appliances can come in a variety of forms. They range from a glass encased box with a holding tray for heating up the kernels to a small encased piece of microwaveable plastic to keep in the heat. All in all, there is a myriad of ways to heat popcorn and end up with a delicious result.
Popcorn has been enjoyed as a snack for thousands of years. As far back as the 3rd century, popcorn makers have existed in some primitive form. Popcorn has been a part of several cultures ever since.
Popcorn originally would be popped using a mixture of sand and oil over a fire and its embers. Members of tribes would gather together to try and catch popcorn bits. They would either eat it or put it into a bowl and enjoy the snack, much as we do now.
Overtime, how they enjoyed popcorn changed to heating stones and using cobs of corn to pop them into popcorn. While it wasn’t a modern popcorn machine or popcorn maker, it still got the job done.
Popcorn was such an essential part of these cultures diets that for some, upon death, unpopped pieces or kernels would be placed on their graves with them as an offering to the dead as the last rite. Other cultures believed that popping kernels was one way to assure a long life.
As popcorn grew in popularity, eventually by the late 1700s, more and more people were trying to find ways to pop it more efficiently and cleanly.
This lead to the invention of using pieces of metals folded into a cylinder shape that would be able to be put over an open flame and hold the pieces as they popped. It was the beginnings of the first true machines that understood rudimentary safety.
By the late 1800s, an inventor had arrived that would revolutionize how it was made forever. The inventor's name was Charles Cretors, a business owner from the Midwest of America.
The owner of a shop that specialized in treats and delectables, he invested in a machine that is used to boil peanuts. While the machine failed to make him money, he stumbled upon the idea of using it to pop kernels.
He re-engineered his peanut machine to make popcorn, and it became a hit. He debuted it at some science and innovation showcases which led to a rise in interest. He eventually moved onto making the first popcorn truck, which would ride around and deliver bags and boxes of his premium popcorn.
Alas, his success was overshadowed by a pair of entrepreneurs that decided to wholesale a machine based on his design. From the edits that they made, the first modern popcorn machine was made. Fred Hoke and James Holcomb founded the company that made it possible for popcorn machines to be widely distributed.
Now, no two popcorn poppers are made equal. That said, the differences can vary from being slight to massive. Every popcorn maker has advantages that breakdown into a few things:
The convenience factor can mean how much space it takes up, the cost to use it, and how much time you have to spend cleaning it and maintaining it overtime. Durability comes down to how long it can last after heavy or light use without maintenance issues.
Obviously, the amount of money spent and where you purchase the machine matters. Buying from a no-name company will yield fewer quality results and you may end up with a shifty or shoddy product.
The cooking rate varies from machine to machine. Some models take only a few minutes, and others take longer. Lastly, the output is the actual amount of popcorn that you can make at one time.
The main four types of popcorn poppers are:
Each has their own positive attributes. It is a matter of space, cost, and convenience in these cases. For the most part, they are all fairly easy to use. The differences are in how the unit heats the kernels themselves to create the popping effect.
A microwave popcorn popper is exactly as it sounds, a popper that you place in the microwave. It is full of kernels that upon being heated will produce tasty popcorn quickly. It can take two to four minutes to heat up to twelve cups of popcorn depending on the size you choose.
It’s as easy way to cook popcorn, adding a bit of oil or butter and then placing the container in the microwave. These can be made of plastic, glass, or a few other materials and are the most economical.
They're a great alternative to using contaminated bags of instant popcorn, and the savings are massive as well. The bonus of producing even better popcorn is just another fantastic benefit.
Hot air popcorn poppers use heated air and a fan system inside of a compartment. You can add in whatever you like to create fast quality popcorn.
It shoots out fresh popcorn within minutes after it uses the air heating process to cook your kernels thoroughly. They are a bit pricier, but their convenience is perfect for those that want a healthier alternative to using microwaves for their popcorn without wanting to go the trouble of using a stove top popcorn cooker.
A stove top popcorn popper is the best of all three options for making a lot of popcorn that tastes like movie theater quality within minutes. They are primarily specialized pots that can contain and cook popcorn to the desired temperature quickly while not sacrificing quality.
Stove Top Popcorn poppers are the best option for those that care about quality. The materials they are made from are usually stainless steel.
As for the commercial option, we will get into that later. As you have read, each has their benefits for convenience, speed, and more.
The stove top and the hot air popcorn maker are harder to clean but healthier and taste better. The microwave popcorn maker is good for ultra convenience and initial cost.
There are a few ways to make popcorn in a popcorn popper. Each type of popcorn popper isn’t complicated. All you have to do is read the instructions. If that seems a bit tedious and you think you have the hang out of it and just need a refresher we have you covered.
If you are using a microwave popcorn popper, you will want to check to make sure the unit is clean. You will empty the appropriate amount of popcorn (usually less than a cup) of kernels into the container and then add a bit of butter or oil.
Place it inside of your microwave for 2 to 4 minutes or until you hear the popping stops. If your microwave has a popcorn function feel free to use it but be sure to check it because sometimes it can overcook or burn your popcorn.
Put your popcorn in the cup used for measurement provided by the company.
Place your popcorn kernels into the head of the hot air popcorn maker.
Place a bowl under the spigot.
Turn on the popcorn maker and wait for it to spout out the popcorn.
Add butter and other seasonings.
You should add a spoonful of veg oil to your popcorn popper while it is still room temperature. Swish it around until the bottom and sides are lightly covered and then heat it for about 15 to 30 seconds.
Let it cool down and turn off the heat.
Add in your popcorn kernels and spice. Then, close the top and turn on the heat.
Use the adjustment/stirring mechanism to stir the popcorn around while it cooks and you should hear the popcorn begin to pop as proper temperature is reached.
When it's done, remove it from the surface and wait a bit. Then pour your popcorn into another container and add your butter or whatever else you like to have on it.
The main materials that a good popcorn maker is made from being one of three choices:
It depends on what kind of popcorn maker you are using. Steel is predominantly reserved for hot air, stovetop and commercial popcorn makers with glass addons. The tray itself for holding the popcorn or the pot and stirring mechanisms are made from stainless steel. It’s good for holding heat, quickly heating and cooling. It makes them safer and quicker for getting quality results.
Glass and silicone popcorn materials are usually reserved for microwave popcorn makers. It’s because steel or any metal would cause your microwave to malfunction or even explode. The difference in material can also decide how resilient your popcorn popper is to damage.
While glass and silicone popcorn makers are cheaper for a good reason, the quality that steel popcorn makers offer lies both in their safety, durability, and visual aesthetics.
We searched over all the major and minor companies comparing prices and features. After many hours online we narrowed it down to four major popcorn machine companies:
Nostalgia has been making popcorn poppers for a long time. A nostalgia popcorn popper is more than a namesake.
Their popcorn poppers are stylized after the classical look of the original movie theater popcorn carts. They are perfect for adding a bit of distinct style to your home or venue and are suitable for smaller popcorn production as well as for large group offerings.
While they used to be on the pricier side, they have optimized their production methods to deliver visual appeal for a fantastic cost.
Cuisinart is one of the oldest and longest running home appliance manufacturers in the world. With decades of experience and quality control, they are responsible for a large market share of popcorn makers.
They make a variety from microwaveable popcorn poppers to stove top, usually for the most cost efficient price. A Cuisinart popcorn popper is reliable and long lasting.
Presto makes a variety of microwaveable and hot air popcorn poppers that are usually red in design. They are economical and tend to be easily replaceable in the event of damage. Presto's name suits their product because it works quickly and almost magically turns any kernel into a delicious snack.
Whether you need a microwave popcorn popper or a hot air popcorn machine, a Presto popcorn popper won't disappoint.
The typical whirly pop popcorn popper is almost always a stovetop machine. They craft the best stainless steel popcorn popper for without skimping on the details. Whirlypop poppers are durable and lightweight while being extremely safe for cooking in any household.
The most expensive machines available, professional popcorn poppers typically make the most delicious popcorn. The purchase price ranges between $150 to $400. For this price, you can get a great machine that allows you to make popcorn that is the same quality as in the movie theaters. However, they require more materials to manufacture, so they tend to be more expensive. Also, they take up a lot of space due to their size.
They are bulky, usually big glass boxes with ornate designs that are meant to be interesting conversation pieces in the home when not in use. They are ideal for large events or just for making some for the family.
Operating them isn't too complicated, and you can make large batches of popcorn in approximately fifteen minutes.
Using a professional popcorn popper is pretty easy. All you will need is a bit of oil, some kernels (a small cup full), and some salt.
There is usually a metallic holding tray that is on the top of it. You will keep that turned off when it is turned on, the unit will get hotter, and you will hear the rotary turning so that it churns the kernels.
Pour in the cup of kernels and half a cup of buttery oil. Then, close the metallic top, and turn on the machine. Be sure to shut the glass door and let it run.
As it heats, the popcorn will pop until all the kernels are cooked. You will then turn off the machine and wait to make sure that all the kernels are completely cooked. You have to be patient, if not, a hot kernel covered in hot oil can fly out and smack you in the face.
Once it is cool enough, pull the lever on the side of the metallic container and empty out all the popcorn onto the bottom. Put a bit of salt into a cup or use a salt shaker and season your popcorn with whatever spices you prefer. It’s that easy to make popcorn using a professional popper.
Cleaning popcorn machine is pretty similar for all of them with a few minor differences.
For any electrical popcorn popper don’t use water on the outer surface in surplus. Only use water and damn napkins or wipes to clean out the compartments that can be removed. On the ones that can't be removed as well as the surface, use only the wipes and napkins.
For the stovetop cookers and microwave poppers, you can wash them like you would any other appliance, soap, and water and if need be,some degreaser.
For the larger machines, it requires a thorough wipe down and the removal of the catching tray that will need to be emptied after every use. This tray should be cleaned in warm, soapy water.
Some choose to spot clean their popcorn poppers. It's better to be thorough and wipe down whatever has been used if it's for a larger machine. It's easy for old popcorn to attract pests and rodents. So you should be thorough as possible to remove any popcorn remains and oil.
We hope at the end of this article that you understand the basics of the different types of machines and ways to care for them. If you are interested in picking up one for your home, office, or business, check out our accompanying buying guide to choosing the perfect popper.
What did you think? Have any tidbits to share? Leave a comment below!