Popcorn Maker Comparison
West Bend 82306
Nordic Ware Microwave
Great Northern Popcorn 6010
Great Northern Popcorn 2-1/2-Ounce
Great Northern Popcorn Red Matinee
Great Northern Popcorn Machine Pop Pup
|18 cups||6 quarts||5 quarts||12 cups||10 cups||12 cups||3 Gallons||1 Gallon||3 Gallons||1 Gallon|
|< 2 1/2||< 5||< 3||< 4||< 3||< 1 1/2||< 5||< 5||< 5||< 5|
|Voltage||120 V||120 V||NA||NA||120 V||NA||120 V||120 V||120 V||120 V|
|Warranty||1 Year||1 Year||5 Years||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||5 Years||5 Years||5 Years||5 Years|
Popcorn Maker Buying Guide
What is a Popcorn Maker?
Popcorn poppers have been around for over 100 years. People love to eat popcorn because it is abundant in fiber and can be a healthy snack if it is cooked without a lot of oils or high calorie additives. Popcorn on its own provides a salty and crunchy snack that is easy to make and fun to eat. It also has a neutral enough flavor that you can add seasonings that are either sweet or savory and really add a lot of variety to this simple snack.
Popcorn poppers offer an alternative to microwave popcorn. The top rated units cook just as fast as microwave popcorn and are much healthier. For these reasons popcorn poppers have increased in popularity since the 1970’s, when healthy eating emerged as a concern. Over the last few decades concern over healthy eating has increased in awareness, which has led to an increase in products that produce healthy foods. Popcorn poppers are a favorite among those who focus on healthy snacks that are also full of flavor.
Health Benefits include a lower calorie snack because when you cook the popcorn yourself you control the fats and oils that are included. There is also a wide range of low calories flavors that can be added to the popcorn offering a variety of flavors while still maintaining the low calories. Popcorn is a whole grain which contains fiber, which is needed for a healthy body. Whole grains lower the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It will also help you remain full longer and can potentially help maintain a healthy weight or help with weight loss. Popcorn is considered a good source of antioxidants with help with other health concerns like maintaining good vision.
Speed. Popcorn poppers can create a healthy snack in around the same amount of time as microwave popcorn. With the ease of plugging in a unit, you can have fast, healthy popcorn in less than five minutes.
Financial Savings.Making popcorn from scratch offers a very inexpensive snack that only costs pennies to make. It is much less expensive than using microwave popcorn and is also less expensive than most available snack alternatives. Homemade popcorn does include the initial cost of a popcorn maker, but after than the cost of popcorn kernels are much lower than the cost of microwave popcorn bags. For example, on Amazon, you can purchase a 5 pound jug of Orville Redenbacher popcorn kernels for $17.19. Each batch takes only ¼ to ½ a cup depending on how many quarts of popcorn you want to make. A 4 pound jug of Snappy popcorn kernels is only $10.98. On the other hand 28 bags of Pop Secret will cost $19.99. Naturally prices will vary depending where the popcorn is purchased.
Variety. Popcorn lends itself to the creativity of adding multiple flavors, allowing you to add a lot of variety to the snack. Flavors that are salty, sweet or savory will all go well with the neutral popcorn taste. Making it at home provides endless options for trying new and adventurous flavors. Want it to taste like a potato chip add ranch flavored powder or Bar-B-Q powder. Want a sweet snack add Carmel or cinnamon seasonings. Cheese, salt and garlic are also popular choices.
Types of Popper
Hot Air Poppers are available for those looking to enjoy a popcorn snack without using any oils. Without oils and salt, popcorn becomes a very low calorie and a low fat snack that can be enjoyed in a few minutes. Provided you do not add oils and high calorie seasonings it will remain a healthy snack. A 3 cup serving only has 93 calories. There is 1 gram of 5, 3.5 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. With powdered seasonings available it is possible to add a lot of flavor without ramping up the calories.
Oil Poppers provide most of the health benefits of the air poppers but are for consumers who really want to add a little oil to the popcorn. Oil can make the popcorn crunchier and will provide a small amount of oil base which provides a sticky surface for flavored seasonings to stick to. Most oil poppers do not use much oil. Generally a few tablespoons of oil are required. Once the oil is heated you can add the salt or seasoning to the oil and then as it pops the popcorn will be coated with the seasoning. A word of caution is that you do not need to add much seasoning to the oil to coat a complete batch of popcorn. If you pour or sprinkle seasonings on afterwards then more is needed than if seasoning is added to the oil.
Two other key benefits to the Stir crazy oil popper are that you can put butter in the well on top of the lid and it will distribute butter evening over the popcorn. This again allows the use of smaller amounts of butter and a more even distribution so there are not some kernels that get soggy, while others are unbuttered. Lastly is the stir mechanism provides the ability to roast nuts and coffee beans.
Stove Top Poppers are great for users who want to be an active part of the popcorn popping experience. The other two methods require the user to watch the process but are mostly a plug and go process. The stove top poppers require you to physically hold the pan and turn the crank in order to produce popcorn that does not burn. The stove top poppers must either be shaken or stirred during the cooking process. Oils needed are similar to the oil poppers, with only a tablespoon or two required. The seasoning process will also be the same with a stove top popper.
What are Options for Healthy Toppings?
Using butter over popcorn will reduce the benefits of creating a low calorie snack, by adding fats and increasing the calories by over 40%. Using healthy toppings can create interesting flavors as well as maintaining the crunchy treat and enjoying the health benefits.
Spices like chili powder, cinnamon and garlic are popular flavor choices that add lots of flavor without adding lots of calories. These particular spices can also add additional health benefits and antioxidants.
Popcorn seasonings can be found in a variety of flavors like bar-b-q, dill pickle and even salt and vinegar. These seasonings will give the popcorn a potato chip like flavor without all of the calories found in potato chips. Carmel and other sweetflavoring will give the popcorn a sweet taste. Each of these flavors can be found in a powdered form designed specifically for flavoring popcorn.
What Are the Differences in Oils Used?
The oils used during the popping process will make a difference in the overall flavor of the popcorn. Oils also burn at different temperatures and since popcorn popping uses temperatures above 450 degrees, the oil used will impact the flavor.
Coconut Oil is one of the most popular oil choices for popcorn because it is thick and has a sweet and nutty flavor. It will last a long time without going rancid and is considered to be a very clean oil. Those with nut allergies should not use coconut oil.
Soybean Oil or what is commonly known as vegetable oil. This is also a common oil used because of its neutral flavor. It will not add a taste to the popcorn but will provide an adhesive surface for seasonings to stick to.
Canola oil is said to be the healthiest of the oil options. It is sometimes called Rapeseed oil and has very low saturated fats and contains beneficial omega 3 fatty acids. Canola oil is easy to find, inexpensive, and has a high tolerance for heat.
Corn Oil is commonly used because of its mild taste. It is also one of the less expensive of the oils used for popping popcorn and is readily available in most stores. It has a mild corn flavor which complements the popcorn taste.
Sunflower Oil is light in taste and contains vitamin E. It also has low saturated fat levels but includes preservatives to extend its shelf life.
Peanut Oil is rich and nutty in taste and is considered one of the healthier options. It should not be used by anyone with nut or peanut allergies. Unlike most oils, it should be refrigerated after opening.
What Determines the Quality of the Popcorn?
The quality of the popcorn will determine how many kernels pop and how large they become once they are popped. Key factors that impact quality are the moisture in the popcorn kernel, processing procedures and storage.
Popcorn is dependent on moisture. Each kernel of corn has a drop of water inside the kernel. The soft center is encased with the hard kernel or shell on the outside. When the popcorn kernel is heated the water expands and the popcorn “pops” turning the kernel inside out. If even 3% of the moisture is removed from the kernel either will not pop or a popped kernel will be very small.
Moisture content of the kernels ideally should be from 13.5 to 14 percent. The drier the kernel is the smaller it will be when it pops and the more un-popped kernels you will have. With moisture being a key factor in the quality of the kernel, it is best to store opened bags of kernels in air tight containers. Do not store kernels in the fridge as there is little moisture. Without moisture the popcorn will not pop.
If the popcorn is dry you can re-moisturize it with a simple process. Take ¾ quart of un-popped popcorn and put it in an airtight plastic bag. Add about 2 Tablespoons of water and shake to distribute the water among the kernels. Then let the bag sit for 1 to 3 days. This will rehydrate the kernels so they can be used for popping. Then pop as you normally would.
The corns processing impacts pop ability. A good ratio is considered to be a range of 35 to 38 to one. Some of today’s hybrid brands and gourmet popcorns offer a ratio of 40 to one, with respect to the popped size of the kernel compared to the original kernel.
While consumers have no way of following the popcorn processing, brand names can impact the quality of the kernels. In the case of popcorn, brand names really do matter with regard to quality. When measuring the number of popped kernels and the size of popcorn that is achieved, the least expensive brands and no name brands consistently have the poorest results. Better brands result in higher quality popcorn and better popping results. Even a great popcorn maker cannot recover from poor quality popcorn.
Good quality popcorn should result in at least 98 percent of the kernels popped and should be at least 35 times its original size.
What Types of Popcorn Kernels Are Available?
There are two basic types of popcorn kernels. They are either butterfly or mushroom. The butterfly kernel is large, light and fluffy. When popped it looks like it has wings. The mushroom variety is a denser and compact and looks like a ball when it pops. Mushroom kernels are best used for caramelizing, popcorn balls, candy coatings and other treats.
The two primary types of corn kernels are white and yellow varieties. Corn can also be found in red, blue, black or multicolored. Yellow popcorn, once popped can become as large as 46 times its original size. White kernels are smaller at 35 to 40 times. Yellow kernels tend to be fluffier and are butterfly shaped. White kernels are usually mushroom shaped when popped. White popcorn tends to be sweeter than yellow corn. Gourmet varieties can pop as large as 60 times its original size.
Regardless of which popcorn popper you choose, each of these three options provides a healthy way to enjoy popcorn. Select the popcorn maker that best suits the way you want to cook the popcorn and then dress it up with a selection of seasonings, oils and popcorn types that your family and friends will enjoy.
- Presto Poplite Hot Air popper Image: https://www.gopresto.com/
- Westbend 82306 Stir Crazy Electric Popcorn Popper Image: http://westbend.com/
- Wabash Valley Farms 25008 Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper Image: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/