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Best popcorn popper uses least oil or butter?

I just saw a stovetop popper that they claim uses only one teaspoon of oil for great popcorn in the King Arthur Catalog. Anyone have experience with it? Any other recommendations? We like popcorn but some of the packaged microwave stuff smells oily and fake buttery and the odor lingers long after you might want it to.

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  1. I bought an old-school hot air popper a few months ago for $14 from a low-brow department store recently. It's makes a lot of noise like a hair dryer but it works great. You need a big bowl because the stuff comes out like a rocket jet.

    Zero fat, unless you want to microwave a little bowl of real butter and add it yourself afterwards.

    1. Is the King Arthur one the Whirley Pop?

      We have a Whirley Pop. We LOVE it. I haven't eaten much popcorn over the years as I hate microwave popcorn...and well it's stupid, but can't stand the sound of the pot scraping on the stove top when we make it in a pan(we have an electric flattop range).

      So when I was working at at kitchen store my co-workers convinced me to try the Whirley Pop. Best homemade popcorn ever!

      We use very little oil in it...a couple teaspoons at most. It raelly does work with just a little oil. Popcorn turns out delicious and crispy everytime.

      we use a little olive oil and just as it's starting to pop put some Penzey's Brady Street sprinkle mix...mmmm honestly really good stuff!

      1. Whirley Pop all the way (that's the one KA has for sale). Once it's seasoned, you really don't need to add oil again, though it the seasoning sticks better to the kernels if you add a tsp or so with each use.


        1. Whirley Pop, Whirley Pop, Whirley Pop!! WE love ours, too.

          1. I use a non-stick stir-fry pan and really don't see a need to spend money on some overspecialized doohickey.

            I use clarified butter or ghee. Dry popcorn is as much fun as rice cakes.

            5 Replies
            1. re: SnackHappy

              I use my 16" carbon steel wok and use the steaming lid as a cover. I can pop 1 cup of popcorn in less than 2 teaspoons of peanut or sesame oil. There is just enough fat so that the salt with stick, but it is never greasy.

              1. re: Kelli2006

                I use the wok too! It works great. All the popcorn settles to the bottom where it is the hottest. I end up with very few unpopped seeds or old-maids (to be politically incorrect).

                1. re: Kelli2006

                  The wok is a great idea! Can't believe I didn't think of it. And now I'll have some use for the lid which I otherwise never use.

                2. re: SnackHappy

                  Since popcorn usually only pops in a very hot pan, I would avoid using Teflon, since that is not supposed to be used over high heat.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    You're right about Teflon. I'm phasing out all my non-stick cookware since I heard the Health Canada warning about cancer risks related to Teflon.

                    I'm going back to steel and cast-iron.

                3. Whirley Pop? Never heard of it, but I imagine it is just like the one I have. A pot you put on the stovetop, with a handle that you turn to keep the kernels moving. I LOVE it. Perfect popcorn literally every time. And it pops much much faster than using any other method. I also use very little (or no) oil in mine. And top with salt and pepper. Yum!

                  1. From a tip on chowhound I learned you can make your own microwave popcorn -- just put some regular kernerls in a brown paper bag. Works great. No oil. No chemical taste. Super cheap.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Produce Addict

                      Please be careful: you can't put all brown paper bags in the microwave. I started a fire in my microwave and then learned that some brown paper bags are made of materials that are dangerous to heat in a microwave. That's why my manual actually said not to put brown paper bags in the microwave, but I forgot that when a friend told me to try popping corn in a brown paper bag in the microwave!

                      1. re: browniebaker

                        Trying to find out more info about this. Alton Brown who you'd think would know about fire concerns, recommends this approach http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip... . But then I found a bunch of sites reiterating browniebaker's point. And I can't find any discussion of which brown bags are ok and which are not.

                        1. re: Produce Addict

                          I'd love to learn the science behind this and whether some brown paper bags are safe while others are not, but in any case I am NEVER again going to put any brown paper bag in a microwave. Until you've had the utter fright of a microwave on your kitchen counter going bzeep-bzap and filling with flames, you might not know how strongly I feel about this!

                    2. I love the Presto Power Popper - use in the microwave, with or without oil. It's awesome! http://www.cookingandcanning.net/prpo...

                      1. Sounds like the whirley-pop is a winner. So, thanks, all, I'll order one from King Arthurs Flour or Round Table or Groaning Board or whatever they're calling themselves these days. Really appreciate the feedback, sharing experiences.

                        1. I like my Orville Redenbacher air-popper because it pops with no oil at all. It's a $20 machine that lasted four years through weekly use.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: browniebaker

                            Ditto. I've had mine almost 15 years, and I got it secondhand.

                            Cleanup is a snap because there is no oil to splatter or film, and storage is great because of its small diameter footprint.

                            It's fast, too, and once you get the hang of the right amount to load, there's absolutely no scorching.

                            1. re: FoodFuser

                              Yeah, one great machine it is. I have a few tricks to make it perform even better: tilting the machine backwards keeps stray unpopped kernels from shooting out as happens more when the volume of kernels is low, shaking the machine a bit in the first few moments before kernels start popping keeps kernels from scorching, and letting the potential "old maids" sit in the popper just as I unplug the popper lets the residual heat of the heating element pop them. For every half cup of kernels, I end up with less than ten "old maids."

                              I should say mine *has* lasted four years -- it's still going strong.

                              1. re: browniebaker

                                Ahhhh... what perfect tips to further improve the almost perfect production of a very good and simple machine. Thanks.

                            2. re: browniebaker

                              My only objection to air poppers, which do the job great, are that I need to introduce fat somehow to the popcorn anyway, just to get the salt to stick to it. I think that leaves me using as much fats as one would in other methods.

                              But then, if very low salt and fat popcorn is your aim, an air popper is the perfect tool.

                            3. Alright already! Enough about the Whirley Popper. I'm nutty about popcorn. Where do I find this mysterious popcorn maker? I live in Chicago. Thanks. Alex. afinance@rcn.com

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: amoncada

                                Do you have a Cost Plus World Market in Chicago? I just saw the Whirley Popper there. They also have them online at the King Arthur website. Thinking about getting one, but storage space in my kitchen is at a premium and the thing has a very unwieldy crank that could make it difficult to stash in a cabinet.

                              2. You might find it elsewhere for a few dollars less, but here's the official site: http://whirleypop.com

                                P.S. It does do a great job as so many have said.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                  Wow, it's cheaper at the official site than at Cost Plus World Market, which I thought was supposed to be a bargain although I guess you save on shipping buying it locally.

                                  1. re: omotosando

                                    Thanks for the info omotosando & mick ruthwen! Yes, I have a Cost Plus in Chicago but it looks like I'll be buying it at the official site instead due to price.

                                    1. re: amoncada

                                      Target and Wal-Mart usually carry them, too, especially during the holday period for gifts. But, perhaps you've alreaydy bought one by now?

                                2. Just to let everybody know ... I bought a Whirly-Popper and have made a few batches, some with olive oil and some with coconut oil, using some old popcorn kernels that I found after five years in the back of my pantry. They tasted great, the popper worked as expected, I only used a tablespoon of oil with half a cup of kernels, and almost every kernel popped. The popcorn is tasty, not like air-popped, and I added a pinch or two of salt, that's all, after the corn had popped. So call me a very satisfied user. My wife likes it, too. No more microwave popcorn for us.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: EclecticEater

                                    Someone mentioned Alton Brown earlier, so I'll put in his two cents. He uses a 6-qt stainless mixing bowl over medium heat (gas range) with aluminum foil over the top, perforated for steam. Haven't tried it yet, but I might tonight!

                                  2. If you don't want to use a microwave or a hot-air popper, the West Bend Stir Crazy works well with only 1 tablespoon of oil. It has a stirring rod that ensures that there are no unpopped kernels left, and you can use the top as a serving bowl.

                                    The top is fragile, and even though it has a Teflon popping surface, you need to clean it thoroughly after use. The butter melter doesn't work very well, either. Still, it makes excellent popcorn.


                                    1. Okay, I finally bought a Whirley-Pop from the manufacturer's website (www.popcornpopper.com) and it is going back pursuant to their money back guarantee.

                                      The first batch I made in the Whirley-Pop, I used the manufacturer's "Real Theater Popcorn" which was supposed to taste "so good you'll think you're at the movies!" The Real Theater Popcorn is a bag that consists of unpopped corn on one side and goop that is the consistency of peanut butter on the other side. The goop consists of oil, "secret Buttery Salt" and according to the ingredient list, "artifical butter flavor"). Anyway, I put the goop in the Whirley-Pop, added the popcorn and popped away. Well, it tasted awful - a chemical aftertaste (just as you might expect from artificial butter flavor).

                                      Next, I tried making popcorn in the Whirley-Pop with just a tablespoon of plain canola oil. This was certainly better than the manufacturer's Real Theater Popcorn, but still I found the popcorn dry and not much tastier than if I had air-popped with no oil at all. I still felt like I needed to melt butter or cheese or something to pour over the popcorn to give it some flavor (which would have meant hauling out a second pan, which I wasn't in the mood for).

                                      The Whirly-Pop is large - takes up a lot of real estate on your stove and is difficult to stow away because of its big crank handle. Since in my mind, the popcorn didn't taste much better than air-popped and required the hassle of a second pot (to melt butter to give it taste), I decided back it goes rather than add to kitchen clutter.

                                      1. Has anybody used the new Cusinart Popcorn Popper/Maker. If so, any critique...good, bad, okay...whatever.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Quaich

                                          The Cuisinart (the one that costs 50 bucks and looks like a nuclear reactor) is terrible! I received one as a well-intentioned Xmas gift and found that it produces soggy, chewy, undersized popcorn that has a texture exactly like styrofoam. I got a lot of unpopped kernels, along with burnt ones, too. The reason is that the corn pops into an unvented bowl, which traps steam. The condensation collects inside the plastic bowl before the corn starts popping. Plus, it's HUGE. I returned it and got a Presto "Orville Redenbacher" hot air popper instead, which is infinitely better. In addition to popping the same popcorn a lot flufflier and dryer, it requires no oil (the Cuisinart needs some). Plus, it's less than half the price. I had been using a 13 inch Calphalon pan with a glass lid, which worked great, but I wanted something that didn't need any oil at all.

                                          1. re: 2m8ohed

                                            I second the recommendation on the hot air popper

                                        2. just buy a hot air popper, it works great, no oil needed, unless you add butter after. great hot popcorn, no hassle, no stove. its a bit loud, but other than that its the best way.

                                          1. I am on my second Stir Crazy popcorn popper. I bought the first one about 1983 or 1984, the lid cracked around 1990, and the whole thing fell & cracked a year or two later; have had current one for over 10 years now. Also got one for my parents. You can use very little oil, and you don't have to stand and shake it. Be sure to leave the plastic sealer off the lid while you're popping so the popcorn doesn't get soggy.

                                            I've never use the butter thing on mine. I don't like buttered popcorn.

                                            We have friends who've had air poppers, I've tried a zillion microwave popcorns (I can stomach one or two brands if I HAVE to), and, of course, we've done stove-popped popcorn. My Stir Crazy beats them all hands down. I buy the popcorn salt (the awful-looking yellow/orange kind - I get it at Sam's Club) and sprinkle some in the oil, pour in the kernels, and sprinkle more on the kernels, and then turn on the popper. The salt is very fine and sticks to the kernels rather than the usual way of having to get the salt to stick to the popped popcorn, which doesn't usually work and isn't as evenly distributed. (You do have to use a tiny bit more oil with this method to do it right, but it's still not a lot.)

                                            Anyhow, that's more than my 2 cents, but there you have it!

                                            1. WHIRLEY-POP is the only way to go. You can use as little as one tsp oil for 3/4 cup corn, or go for the gold and use 1 1/2 Tbs peanut oil, 1 1/2 Tbs butter, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp chili powder for the greatest kettle corn.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Fleur

                                                I agree, Fleur. Have one and love it. Use olive oil and sometimes canola oil, just a bit of salt, and find all kinds of corn pop and taste fresh. Yum.

                                              2. The Whirly-Pop is great for 'kettle corn':

                                                1/2 cup popcorn
                                                1 T (or less) oil
                                                1/4 to 1/3C Sugar

                                                Start with only the corn and oil, and when it starts to sizzle (after a minute or so) put the sugar in. Stir constantly!

                                                The sugar will caramelize as you pop and coat the corn very nicely. I was worried before I made this about cleaning up the pan, but very hot water does the job with little scrubbing.

                                                1. To the owners of hot air poppers: I recently purchased mine, unboxed it, eagerly put in the recommended amount of popcorn, turned it on and to my dismay noticed that almost as many unpopped kernels blew out the top as did popped kernels. Am I the only one with this problem?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: mercrulz

                                                    I had one that worked great until one of us dropped a Plastic part and we had to get a new one. We got the Orville redenbacker (sp?) one and the design is poor - the neck should be longer so that doesn't happen. I stick a butter knife or magazine or something else 1/4 to 1/2 thick under the front lip of the bottom of the machine. This makes the angle steeper and deters unpoppedkernals from flying out. There still are a few in the beginning and I grab them, usually burning my fingers a little and put back in

                                                  2. The whirly pop has another vote here.

                                                    However, I bought a (very large) model from the nostalgia outlet
                                                    for $180 that is wonderful when on constant use for parties, etc.

                                                    The West Bend stir crazy model is awesome as well.

                                                    1. My preferred way to make popcorn is in the microwave. I use a pyrex glass bowl, regular popcorn, and use a plate to cover the bowl placed slightly off-center (with a small gap so steam can escape). I like to use olive oil, but you can use butter or whatever you want. I mix salt and pepper in with the oil, and cook it that way. It takes about 2 minutes in my microwave.

                                                      I think this method is a good balance of convenience and quality. I think all of the chemical butter/flavorings are gross in the pre-packaged microwave popcorn bags - it makes everything taste like Cheetos. This way, you get the convenience of the microwave with the flavor of real popcorn.

                                                      1. I've owned the Stir-Crazy, a microwavable bowl gizmo and a Presto Poplite (air popper). The air popper gives the best results with minimal cleanup. As mentioned you can add butter or other fat as desired. One thing I learned is that amount of unpopped kernels blowing out the front is related to how much popcorn you put in. Put in the full amount and it's minimal. Also leaving the cap off of the top until the popping begins directs the airflow up and more kernels fall back in.