While I feel most of us will still associate popcorn with going to the cinema, we have long ago entered into the era of at-home movie watching. Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime and of course Sky are all making that cosy cinema experience readily available, and sometimes all you need to make it extra special is some extra popcorn.
Not to mention popcorn is actually a really good snack.
If you are looking to jazz up your movie nights (or just love to snack on popcorn), take a look at my list of the best popcorn makers available in the UK today.
But first! Let’s cover some basic popcorn facts:
Who invented popcorn?
Popcorn as we know it today was invented by Charles Cretor from Chicago – or at least he is the inventor of the first mobile popcorn cart, which hit the streets in the 1880s.
However, the process of popping corn is actually over 5000 years old, and fossilised popped corn kernels were found at an archaeological site in Mexico. The process of popping popcorn then included tossing kernels onto a pan over an open flame – which is not quite what we are doing today.
How does popcorn work?
Simply put, each kernel of corn contains a droplet of water, which is what makes the popcorn pop. When heat is applied to the dried kernel, this droplet turns into steam and pressure begins to build. Once the pressure becomes too much, the kernel explodes, turning starch into the white “stuff” that we consider popcorn.
You can apply different heat sources to your kernels to make them pop. What is known as the dry method uses dry heat – like fire or air in an air-popper. There is also the wet method, which involves the use of oil to distribute the heat.
Is popcorn healthy?
On its own, popcorn is in fact very healthy. It is high in fibre but low in fat and sugar, contains protein and does not contain any cholesterol.
In order to keep your popcorn healthy, pop it with the use of air, as opposed to using oil. You can do this with an air-popper or on the stove.
On the other hand, microwave popcorn often has extra additives, which makes your favourite snack less healthy. Pre-made popcorn also tends to be full of salt or even sugar.
In short, the more butter, salt or other toppings you add to your popcorn, the less healthy it will be, so try sticking to the plain air-popped option.
Which is precisely where the below popcorn makers come into the picture.
11 popcorn makers to look at in 2021
Now let’s take a look at 11 popcorn machines that will help you bring that cinema feel to your movie marathons, or deliver that healthy snack whenever you are plagued by the munchies.
The one thing you will notice about most of the popcorn makes I list here is that they tend to adopt a retro or vintage design. Makes sense, when you consider the quintessential appeal of popcorn: cinemas, fairs, sideshows.
They tend to be red and white, compact and light, as well as easy to use.
Let’s take a look:
First on my list is this 50’s-inspired popcorn maker that will certainly look fetching in your kitchen. The top is clear and the body vibrantly red with white stripes – classic and reassuring.
This VonShef model uses hot air to pop your corn, so you will not need to use any oil at all – meaning your snack will be as healthy as can be when coming out of your popcorn machine. What you choose to do with it afterwards is up to you.
You will require a bowl to catch your popcorn in, but other than that, this popcorn maker is all you need to take a night in front of the TV a better experience.
It comes with a measuring scoop (which also doubles as the lid) so you can get your amounts right, and it also comes with 6 cinema-style red and white striped bags. All you have to do is pick a movie.
Another neat red popcorn maker from Cusinart that will make 10 cups of some very tasty popcorn.
It’s also a hot air popcorn machine, so you won’t need to add any oil to it, but you can use the lid as a butter melting cup if you are looking to add some extra flavor to your popcorn. The lid also doubles as the measuring cup, so you’ll get your amounts right too (add half a cup per load).
When ready, the popcorn will fly out of the plastic chute and into your waiting bowl, which should be particularly entertaining for the kids.
Easy to use, easy to clean (as the lid is dishwasher safe), and a speedy popcorn machine that won’t take up more than 3 minutes of your popcorn-making time.
Another red model here (no surprise there) that also uses hot air for popping – in other words, no oil or butter to clean up, and no added calories, just plenty of fiber.
This one also comes with the nifty chute that shoots popcorn out, so you will need a bowl to catch it. All you need is some quality kernels and 5 minutes, and you will be ready to park yourself in front of the screen.
In short: easy to use, easy to store as it does not take up too much space, stylish and super easy to clean – what more could you want from a popcorn machine?
Red, stylish and retro – another reliable and easy to use and maintain popcorn maker makes it onto this list.
You are already familiar with the process by now: use a scoop to fill your popcorn maker, snap the lid on, turn it on, provide a bowl you want to fill with popcorn and wait around five minutes. Once your popcorn is done, wait for the machine to cool off and wipe it with a moist kitchen towel.
You don’t have to use any oil or butter with this one either, as the hot air will do all the work for you – and you can also try to stick to no toppings if you are aiming to stay lean this year.
We are still in the realm of retro red and white popcorn makers here with another neat machine that wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen in a 70’s cinema.
This one packs 1200 watts so will pop your kernels in around 3 minutes, and you can add about 45 grams to it, which should be plenty to keep you going for a good hour and a half. Do an extra round or two if you also have company over.
You get 8 cinema-style boxes with this popcorn machine too, which will make sharing that much easier.
Neat, stylish, easy to use and reliable, another popcorn maker you will be proud to have and use.
Here is a popcorn maker with a slightly different design, and one that might appear to be more flimsy than the ones we have been looking at so fat, but as the proof is in the pudding (or in this case, in the popcorn), there is nothing to suggest you won’t be satisfied with the results.
The lid of this one is round, but the process is exactly the same – load it, turn it on (no oil or butter required) and wait for your bowl to be filled with popcorn.
This one is also a bit loud, but not so in the extreme, and as it only needs 3-4 minutes to deliver your snack, you shouldn’t be too bothered by the noise.
Another great little appliance for movie nights.
Another similar-looking model, this time from Giles & Posner, that will deliver the same quality bowl of popcorn. While it does lack the retro feel some of the other models have had, it still comes in red (is there a non-red popcorn maker even?), and is neat and compact enough to not be bothersome around the kitchen.
Still easy to use and easy to clean, this one also comes with a scoop (so you will always get the best possible results, as opposed to adding too many kernels), all you need to add is the bowl.
This model is an Energy Class A item, so it’s one of the greenest popcorn makers you can find on the market – ideal if you are still under the influence of the last “end of the world” movie you’ve seen and are looking to do your bit to save the planet.
Another more modern model, still finished in that classic old-movie-theatre red.
Easy to use and handy if you want to let the kids have a go at it, it also comes with a cup you can use for melting butter, if that is your preferred way of enjoying popcorn.
It also comes with red and white striped cups you can use to elevate your movie nights, and it will be fast enough to keep you away from the screen for no more than 3 minutes – ideal if you are also doing previews before the main flick at your home cinema.
Not as retro as some of the other models, but still a great option to have in your home.
And now, something different.
While all of the previous models used hot air to make popcorn, here is a popcorn machine that uses halogen energy for popping. It has a motorised stirring rod to rotate the popcorn around and cook it evenly.
Halogen ovens are a cost-effective way to make a healthy meal. They use halogen lamps as a source of heat, but the rest of the process of popcorn making is essentially the same.
You can spray some oil into the popcorn maker, add your seasonings and kernels and start the machine. It will pop your corn in a couple of minutes, and it will come out nice and fluffy.
This one does not have a chute for popcorn – instead, when the machine is done you will be able to turn over the top and use it as a bowl. This also means there will be less of a mess for you to clean up.
If you are looking for something a bit different – this can be a great option.
If you don’t want a popcorn making machine, but are looking to make your popcorn in a more traditional way – here’s a stove top popcorn maker for you.
This is a stainless steel popcorn maker that uses the heat from your stove to pop kernels – it can make plenty in one go, and it comes with a spinner mechanism that will keep your popcorn from burning. The handles and the knobs are made from wood and the entire contraption has a real old-world feel to it.
Granted, you need to operate this one yourself instead of just letting the machine do the work for you, but it can deliver some amazing results.
It’s easy to clean, as you can wash it or just wipe it if you’ve not added any oil to the batch.
All in all, a great option if you are looking for something other than an electric hot air popcorn maker and are ready to do a bit of work yourself.
Finally, if you are looking for more of an attraction than just a popcorn maker – this is your guy.
This is more of a commercial popcorn maker, but if you entertain a lot, host a lot of gatherings or a lot of parties for kids, or if you just really like to make popcorn and want to have a machine that is a statement and not just a kitchen gadget – this is what you need.
The design is truly vintage, it comes with a built-in warming light and it heats up really quickly, and it was actually built for at-home use.
It can fit on your kitchen counter (it measures 52 x 36 x 44 centimetres) and it also weighs only 12 kilograms (which is much less than what you would expect) – so it is still a popcorn maker you can use easily, but at a much larger scale.
It can make 16 cups of popcorn at a time and it has an automated stirring and heating mechanism. It can also hold a total of 180 cups though, and keep them warm, so you can keep serving your guests until they are just about ready to burst!
A great entertainment piece – and definitely a showstopper and party starter.
Which popcorn maker do I buy?
I knew this question would come up.
If you’ve read through the entire article (or even just skimmed through it), you’ll know that most of them are very similar: they are red and white, pop kernels with the use of hot air, easy to use and easy to clean, and they make some very good popcorn. Any of them will be a nice addition to your movie nights.
There is a halogen popcorn maker option under 9, a stove top popcorn maker under 10, and a larger scale popcorn maker under 11. Take a look at them if that’s what you are in the market for.
Now that you have your popcorn maker, all I can recommend is that you pop The Invisible Man or The Marriage Story or Knives Out on the TV, get that popcorn ready, and enjoy!