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How To Use A Popcorn Maker – The Ultimate Guide

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Nothing screams going to the movies more than a giant container of deliciously buttery and perfectly popped popcorn.

Salty, crunchy, and buttery, it is the perfect evening snack whether you’re at the theater or enjoying a night at home watching the latest new releases. 

But what do you do if you want that perfect movie popcorn experience in the comfort of your own home?

You’ll have to pick up a popcorn maker and learn the skills to keep your popcorn from turning into a burnt mess that stinks up your house for days afterward. 

Luckily, there are tons of different popcorn makers on the market that you can use on the stovetop, in the microwave, on your counter, or even like the professionals with a popcorn cabinet and scoop. 

So how do you use a popcorn maker? Most popcorn makers are self-operating and only need the addition of oil, kernels, and any extra ingredients that might be used in the process to be added to the popcorn maker.

Before you get popping you’ll have to figure out which kind you want to use and then follow the directions below.

Keep reading to discover what you need to buy and how to use the different models so that you can pop your perfect bowl of popcorn.

Oil-Popped Vs Air-Popped Popcorn – What’s The Difference?

There are two main ways to make your popcorn, which use either hot air or hot oil to pop your kernels. 

As you might have guessed, the air-popped popcorn uses hot air to make the popcorn kernels pop. This method of cooking isn’t as messy and it also creates popcorn that is lower in fat than oil-popped popcorn.

The downside is that it can have more of a bland and slightly cardboardy taste and texture.

Oil-popped popcorn is a method where the hot oil makes your delicious popcorn kernels pop.

You can use the oil-popping method on the stovetop, with an electric popcorn maker, or with an old-fashioned, professional-style popcorn maker.

The downside to oil-popped popcorn is that it is higher in fat, which makes it more of a mess to clean up afterward. But the flavor and crispy texture are so delicious that I think it’s worth using the oil method if you prefer that style. 

What To Buy 

To make your perfectly popped bowl of popcorn you are going to want to have a few crucial items on hand. The basic ingredients are simple and include:

  • Popcorn kernels. Don’t buy the bags of microwaved popcorn. You will want to buy plain popcorn kernels specifically for popping. They should be labeled at the store as such. Some styles of popcorn makers may suggest you buy their kernels for best results. 
  • An oil to pop the kernels for oil poppers. You can use anything from canola oil to coconut oil to olive or to avocado oil. Each different oil will give your popcorn a slightly different flavor so you can get creative and use different oils each time for a unique popcorn experience. 
  • Salt. Adding salt is what really brings your popcorn alive. You don’t need to use a ton of salt, but using at least a little will take an ok popcorn eating experience to the next level as it awakens your taste buds. 

These three ingredients are the basics you’ll need to create a delicious bowl of perfectly popped popcorn, but if you want to get fancy you can experiment with different toppings.

I like to use combinations to change it up depending on my mood. Some that I enjoy include:

  • Butter. Nothing screams popcorn like good, old-fashioned butter. Get a salted variety and gently melt it on the stovetop before pouring over your popcorn after it’s been popped. 
  • Popcorn seasonings. There are so many flavors to try that include everything from salt and vinegar to dill pickle to cheddar cheese and everything in between. If you really love popcorn, pick up a few bottles of your favorites to enjoy movie-style popcorn at home. 
  • Nutritional yeast with coconut palm sugar. You might be thinking “what are these things?” Nutritional yeast is a popular cheese substitute in the vegan community, but it gives an incredible cheesy umami flavor to popcorn. I like to combine it with coconut palm sugar for a sweet and salty combo that is impossible to resist.
  • Dried herbs. Adding dried herbs like rosemary and lemon zest can take your popcorn from ok to super fancy with just a couple of sprinkles. Take a look in your spice cabinet and pick out some of your favorites and test them out on a small bowl of popcorn.
  • Curry powder. This seasoning is a little different from the others because you’re going to add it during the cooking process. In order to give you the fragrant flavor of curry, the spices need to bloom in oil prior to consumption. You can add a few sprinkles of curry powder to the oil before you add your popcorn to bloom the spices and add an extra punch of flavor to your treat.

This list of ingredients and seasonings is in no way exhaustive. Feel free to combine them to create your unique bowl of popcorn. 

How To Use A Microwave Popcorn Maker

One of the easiest ways to make popcorn is to buy a microwave-safe popcorn maker. They are incredibly affordable and easy to use.

They don’t need oil like the electric or stovetop models, so if you are looking for a lighter snack, then this model might be your best bet. 

They work by circulating hot air within the popcorn maker to prevent burning and you can buy them in glass or silicone models

How To Use A Glass Microwave Popcorn Maker

  • You can use the lid to measure the right amount of popcorn.
  • Pour the popcorn into the glass container and set the microwave for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. If it is still popping a lot as it counts down to zero, add 30 seconds to the cook time. 
  • Remove the popcorn maker from the microwave and season with butter, salt, and/or your favorite seasonings, then enjoy. 

How To Use A Silicone Microwave Popcorn Maker

  • If the popcorn maker is collapsible, open it up and measure out about 1.4 cups of popcorn kernels. You can add oil and some salt here if you would like. 
  • Place the popcorn maker into the microwave for 2 minutes. If the kernels are still popping away as it gets close to zero, then add another 30 seconds. Repeat until the popping slows down.
  • Remove your popcorn from the microwave and add extra seasonings before enjoying it. 

How To Use An Electric Hot Oil Popcorn Maker

If you want to try a technique that doesn’t include the microwave, then purchasing an electric popcorn maker is a great choice.

There are a couple of models on the market, but one of the easiest to use comes with a lid and a stir rod to move the kernels around to evenly pop your corn.

To use the popcorn maker with a lid (that can often double as a bowl), just follow these simple steps:

  • Add a quarter cup of kernels, 1/2 a tsp. sea salt, and one tablespoon of your preferred oil. I’ve had great success with coconut oil. 
  • Turn on the popcorn maker and let it do its magic. You will want to stay in the kitchen to listen for when it is done. The popcorn is finished when the popping of the kernels starts to slow down. You can let it go for a little while longer as they pop, but not too long or it can burn.
  • Once the popping has completed, turn the popcorn maker off, flip it upside down, and remove the base. 
  • Season with your favorite flavors or herbs and enjoy right out of the lid (or pour it into a separate bowl. 

How To Use A Standing Electric Popcorn Maker

These standing popcorn makers are a great choice for folks who want air popped as opposed to oil popped popcorn.

It is incredibly easy to use, and they are generally small enough that they are easy to tuck away. That makes them a great choice if space is at a premium in your kitchen. 

To make air-popped popcorn in your standing popcorn maker follow these instructions:

  • Measure out your popcorn and pour it into the popcorn maker.
  • Place a large bowl under the spout to catch your delicious popcorn.
  • Hit the one-touch button to start the cooking process. Some models come with butter warmers on the top, so you could add butter to that or pop it in a small bowl and melt it in the microwave.
  • Once the popping process is done, you can drizzle with butter, salt, and seasonings. 

How To Use A Whirley-Pop Popcorn Maker

If you want to feel like you’re back in the olden days making a perfect bowl of stovetop popped popcorn, then you will want to try out the Whirley-Pop popcorn maker.

It is an aluminum stovetop popper with a wooden handle that you turn to cook your kernels in about 3 minutes

To experiment with the stovetop popcorn maker method, follow these instructions: 

  • Add 1/2 cup of popcorn and one to three tablespoons of popping oil to your pot. 
  • Turn the burner to medium-high heat. 
  • Place the lid on top of the pot.
  • Hold the wooden handle with one hand and slowly turn the crank with the other for about 3 minutes or until the popping of the kernels slows down significantly. 
  • Once your kernels have popped, open the lid and pour your popcorn into a large bowl. Add butter, salt, and seasonings then enjoy with your favorite movie. 

This method is a little more hands-on than the others, but that can actually be a bonus if you’re someone who likes to play in the kitchen.

It could also be a fun activity to do with the kids on movie night. Just make sure the lid is closed fully to protect from oil splashes.

How To Use A Dropping Kettle Popcorn Maker 

If you want to get that movie-theater popcorn experience while using the hot oil popping method, then the kettle-style popcorn makers are a perfect choice.

These models have glass walls and a door that opens so you can scoop out your popcorn using the included scooper. 

They are simple to use and the final result is crispy, decadent movie-theater style popcorn that you can enjoy right in the comfort of your living room. 

To use this style of popcorn maker, follow these instructions:

  • Add 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels to the kettle along with 2-3 tablespoons of your oil of choice and 1 teaspoon of salt. 
  • Turn on the machine and let it do its magic. This style should tilt and empty the kettle as it fills with popped popcorn so you don’t have to do it yourself. 
  • Once the popping sound ends, turn the machine off and gently tilt out any last kernels from the kettle using the scooper to prevent them from sticking and burning.
  • Scoop out your popcorn and add butter and flavors or enjoy it as is. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you want to enjoy your popcorn air-popped or oil-popped, there is a popcorn maker on the market for you.

Each method is simple enough and completely customizable, so you can create professional-level popcorn right in the comfort of your own home

Simply decide which method you prefer, pick up your ingredients, and follow the instructions listed above to start popping like a pro.

There is no limit to the flavor combinations you can create. Take a look in your pantry or spice cupboard and see if anything there piques your fancy.

Do you have a favorite popcorn maker or popping method? Let us know in the comments!

Up Next: What Does An Ostrich Egg Taste Like?

One Comment

  1. Can you use the super fine popcorn salt instead of sea salt in the electric oil popper and if so, how much would you recommend?

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