I am a Pribbenow. Pribbenows love popcorn. Ergo I love popcorn. This is fact. My Grandpa P. made it almost every night, graduating from shaking the copper-bottom pot on the stovetop to the dome-shaped oil popper and, later, to the air-popper. He even owned the butter melt-and-sprayer (that’s TOTALLY the name of it, without a doubt). My dad was mostly an air-popper guy but he moved on to bagged microwave popcorn in the mid ’80s and, more recently, to a microwave popper. I’m a microwave popper gal myself and, like Dad and Grandpa, I insist on real butter and good coarse salt.
SIDE NOTE: My boyfriend is not a Pribbenow (because that would be WEIRD) but I did swoon when, early in our dating phase, he drove to a movie theater just to buy us a tub of popcorn.
The original purpose of the tasting was to test four popping methods to determine which made the best-tasting popcorn. Well, to be honest, all four methods we tried came out tasting pretty delicious with very few flavor differences. But, by recruiting my fellow Sur La Table-ers to not only taste but also to actually pop the popcorn, I learned that there are strong preferences about how to pop and what devices pop the best. So if you need a great gift for the popcorn lover on your holiday shopping list, here are a few tips to determine which one is the perfect match for them or for you.
The Low Effort, Low Maintenance Method: The Cuisinart EasyPop Hot Air Popcorn Maker
Raves: Easy to use and maintain, just throw chute in dishwasher after popping. It requires no oil, so it’s a great option for people conscious of their health. You can make large quantities quickly – whether that’s for a slumber party, Star Wars marathon, or making a festive holiday garland. And hey, butter tray! You can melt your butter as you’re popping. Additional perk: Some people swear air poppers are fantastic for roasting coffee beans.
- Most simple to use
- None left unpopped
- White as snow!
- I felt like there was more of a buttery taste to this
- Kind of mushy
- The best! Just add butter and you’re done.
Other Options: Waring Pro Popcorn Maker is also a great countertop appliance with little effort needed to use and clean. The lid doubles as a bowl and all pieces wipe clean after use.
The Nostalgic Approach: Waring Pro Old-Fashioned Popcorn Popper
Raves: First off, it’s just so cute! This is the closest you can get to authentic movie theater kettle-popped flavor from home. Serve yourself right out of the cabinet (just like the theater!) and top with your favorite butter, flavored salt, cheesy goodness, popcorn seasonings, or what-have-you. And it is fun to watch – it actually drew an audience during our tasting session.
- Tasted a bit burnt
- I love the “snap” this one has when you bite down.
- Extra crispy
Other Options: Go deluxe with the Waring Pro Classic Kettle Popcorn Maker which features stainless steel housing and interior light. Bonus: you can buy a retro trolley accessory for your home theater or game room. (Because you all have home theaters and game rooms, right?)
The “I Don’t Want Another Appliance On My Countertop” Way: Lèkuè Popcorn Maker
Raves: While our tasting comparison was so close it has become a side note, the Lèkuè Popcorn Maker was the technicalwinner. This was the first microwave popper I’ve used that required oil and it enhanced the flavor quite a bit more than the one I currently use (that would be a HINT to anyone looking for a great stocking stuffer for me …). If you’re low on extra cabinet space, this silicon bowl can collapse down onto itself and squish into a tight space. The lid keeps the popcorn from flying all over inside your microwave and it’s quick and quiet. Perfect for small apartments or dorm rooms.
- Surprisingly good!
- Really good, even without butter
- A few unpopped kernels in my sample
- Best crunchy texture
Other Options: For a non-oil microwave option, try the Chef’n PopTop 10-Cup Popcorn Popper. This little wonder origamis in on itself, expands during popping, and even allows you to use butter as you pop.
The Party-In-A-Popper Popper: Whirly-Pop Popcorn Popper
Raves: Definitely the most interactive popper we have. This aluminum pot works on your stovetop and the hand-turn crank stirs the kernels during popping. This one also has a cool retro look, especially with the wooden accents on the crank and handles. Fun to use or watch, the Whirly-Pop is a classic.
- Pretty easy. Required hand cranking but it is fun and entertaining
- Golden hue like it has a pinch of honey.
- Squishes and sticks in your molars
- Loved the taste, especially since there was no salt present
Other Options: When you want the flavor but not the labor, the Waring Popcorn Maker with Melting Station stirs your popcorn for you and the melting station makes it even easier to add butter or make caramel or kettle corn with one unit.
So there you have it – our less-than-scientific but more-than-delicious testing of different popping methods. If you are picking one up as a gift, don’t forget to complete the experience with some popcorn (this mini trio is also a great stocking stuffer), gourmet salt , and popcorn buckets. Cheers to a popping good holiday!