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Popcorn: Choosing a Popper

Choose the right popcorn popper for tasty snacking

Choosing the right popcorn popper is fairly easy. You can go for oil-based or air popping. This is assuming you have chosen to forego the microwave varieties, perhaps in the interest of cost and/or fat and salt control. The old-fashioned stovetop methods are making a comeback and the lid and manual-twirling handle as well. These are especially fun with kids as they'll get a kick out of the puffy kernels bursting out of the pan.

If you don't want to purchase the hand-operated models, you can - with patience and practice - product a perfectly good bowl of popcorn with a pot and lid. Just add oil and shake over the heat element. This is also the quickest way to burn the kernels as there are no controls; just your expertise.

A range of sizes are available in both oil- and air-based poppers. Electric options are the easiest to operate and microwave poppers can be a bit unpredictable.

The main decision lies in how much fat you want to incorporate - or leave out. Air poppers eliminate the need for any oil. However, the taste can be flat. In addition if you choose to add any flavorings, they won't stick. There is a workaround, however. Purchase butter-flavored or even plain cooking spray with zero fats. Spray and toss, then add salt or any other flavorings as desired.

With oil-based poppers, you can go all out and even purchase packets that simulate the taste you'll get at the theater. Those are loaded with fats, remember, but they are also incredibly delicious.

Poppers are inexpensive and you can find new models for under $20. From there, the price will go up, of course, based on wattage and size.

Always follow manufacturer's instructions for cleaning as each may be different. Ultimately, if you're using oil, then you'll need a good degreasing type soap. Once it burns in, you'll have a sticky residue that is difficult to remove. Leave it on and you'll have uneven or burned kernels.

In general, look for poppers that allow you to wash without the worry of getting the electrical components wet. Remember, too, that some common household cleaners will affect plastic parts. Dishwashing liquid is usually the best recommendation.


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