Is a Popcorn Machine Worth It? (features, costs, benefits)

Most of us love popcorn, but let’s face it. Bagged and microwave popcorn is just not as good as freshly popped popcorn. But is a popcorn machine worth it?

Popcorn machines start around $25. Most have non-stick surfaces for easy cleaning & a stirring arm to reduce unpopped kernels and have 100’s of near 5-star reviews. More expensive models have a classic movie theatre look, larger size & are a great addition to home theatres. So for many people, they are well worth it!

But there’s a lot more to know about popcorn makers than just that. So let’s dive in deeper!

In this article, we’re diving deep into the world of popcorn makers! Yes, you can have delicious movie theatre popcorn right in your home with a popcorn machine.

But are they really worth it? How much does a popcorn machine cost? How big a popcorn maker do you need? And is it any better than microwave popcorn or popcorn made on the stovetop?

Keep reading to find out!

How do popcorn machines work?

Traditional popcorn makers (like you see at a movie theatre) can stand anywhere from 2 feet to several feet high. The height depends on the volume of the popcorn being popped and the height of the stand.

It is usually a clear box that contains a metal canister with a heating element inside. The oil and popcorn kernels are placed in the canister.

When the heating element is turned on, the oil heats up to 400 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. The popcorn then begins to pop out of the metal canister into the box, filling it up, eventually overflowing into the clear box that surrounds heating can.

Air-popped popcorn is an alternative to traditional popcorn popped in oil.

It contains no oil at all. Instead of oil, the air popper uses a fan to blow air over the heating element to pop the kernels.

Like the traditional popcorn maker, the popcorn then fills the clear box full of popcorn.

If you don’t care about the aesthetics of a popcorn machine, but want air-popped popcorn, you can even use your air fryer.

Just set your air fryer to 390° F and add your popcorn kernels. You may want to spray them with avocado or coconut oil, but it’s not necessary. In 15 minutes you’ll have freshly popped popcorn with little mess.

In fact, you can do a lot of cooking in your air fryer.

Just read this recent article on my site. I get into all of the pros of air fryers and the 1 con that makes some people steer clear of them.

Click the link to read it on my site.

What should I look for when buying a popcorn machine?

Nothing completes the movie theater experience like real movie theater popcorn. It’s no surprise, either, as popcorn is one of the most popular snacks in the world.

Aesthetics are a big part of owning a popcorn machine. It is part of what makes owning a popcorn machine so appealing.

Whether or not you care about the aesthetics, there are a few basic features you should look for.

  • Easy to clean: If your machine is a hassle to clean, you probably aren’t going to use it very often. If you’re going to invest the money into a machine, you are going to want to use it as often as possible.
  • Stirring mechanism: Your machine should have some sort of stirring mechanism. This is how most of the kernels will get popped. Nobody likes unpopped popcorn.
  • Nonstick surfaces: If the kettle and warming plate is nonstick, it’ll make cleanup a breeze.

How big of a popcorn machine do I need?

The size of the machine depends on how many people you are serving, but a 4-ounce machine is plenty big enough for four or five people.

If you have a larger crowd, you can always pop multiple batches. If you are inclined to spend the money and don’t want to pop multiple batches an 8-ounce machine might be the better option.

Does freshly popped popcorn taste better than microwave or bagged?


If you’ve ever been to a movie theater or baseball game, you know that freshly popped popcorn tastes better than microwave popcorn hands down.

If you don’t want to purchase a popcorn machine, making it on the stovetop is super easy and just as good. It’s also infinitely better than microwave popcorn.

Microwave popcorn tends to be full of artificial ingredients (i.e. “butter flavor”) and is generally more expensive than popping it at home.

How long does freshly popped popcorn last?

Freshly popped popcorn lasts a few days.

If you have a popcorn machine, it can be reheated on the warming plate. It can also be reheated on the stovetop. Just make sure the heat is low and you keep a close eye on it.

Of course, you can always eat it room temperature, but it’s not going to be near as good as freshly popped. The best way to store it if you aren’t eating it all in 1 sitting is in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag or other air-tight containers.

What is the best oil to use in a popcorn machine?

The type of oil you use will affect the flavor of the popcorn.

Depending on the flavor you enjoy, canola oil or coconut oil may be best. Canola oil has lower fat and cholesterol content, but coconut oil will have more flavor.

Experimentation is going to be key.

You can also try using sunflower oil, peanut oil, or soy oil.

The nice thing about popcorn machines is that they don’t need a ton of oil. As a result, cleaning them can be super easy.

Unlike deep fryers which can be a pain to change the oil and clean the machine. Not sure how often to change the oil in your deep fryer or the best way to do it?

Luckily, I cover everything you need to know in a recent article including the 1 trick that will double the length of time you can leave the oil in your fryer.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What oil do movie theaters use for popcorn?

Every theater makes popcorn differently.

However, coconut oil is usually the oil of choice. Or a combination of coconut oil and canola oil. Coconut oil has the richest flavor.

But canola, which has no flavor, is inexpensive.

However, if you don’t care as much about cost and want that flavor, go for coconut oil. But skip the fake butter flavor they add and add a little real melted butter to the finished product. Or get a can of aerosol butter spray to make that even easier.

How much do popcorn machines cost?

Like most home appliances, popcorn machines vary widely in costs.

Small countertop models can run anywhere from $25 to $50.

Larger countertop models that have the look and feel of floor models can start at $60 and go up from there. These will typically have the tempered glass box and the tilt-out door for serving, just like the ones on the cart.

The floor models, or cart models, are the ones that provide the most movie theater-like experience.

These machines can start at $150 and just go up from there.  Top-quality machines with authentic-looking features can run anywhere from $250-$300.

What is the best popcorn machine to buy?

“Best” is a subjective term. One person may prefer a popper that stores easily and cleans up nicely.

Another person may want the nostalgia of the traditional popcorn machine that makes you really feel like you are at the theater.

Below I’ve listed some options that vary as widely as the shoppers.

West Bend 82707B Stir Crazy Electric Hot Oil Popper

The West Bend popcorn poppers have more than 4,000 reviews and almost all reviews are 4 and 5 stars, so you know they make great products!

At under $50, it is a very affordable option for families that love popcorn. It pops up to 6 quarts of popcorn in under 4 minutes. The base nests inside of the lid for small storage spaces.

It’s got a nonstick plate and a motorized stir rod, so more of the kernels pop.

The cover and heating base align, making it safe to move around.

The cover even doubles as a bowl reducing the number of dishes used. Did I mention it’s got built-in butter melting capabilities??

It’s a great way to have freshly popped popcorn without the hassle of having a large popcorn machine.


West Bend 82515 Hot Theater Style Popper

If you want the look and feel of a traditional popcorn machine, but you don’t have the space for a cart, then the West Bend 82515 Hot Theater Popper may be the machine for you.

This countertop model holds 4 ounces of kernels.

It’s an Amazon’s Choice product with almost all 5-star reviews and runs about $60.

Its small footprint makes it a nice alternative to the popcorn machine with the cart.

It has the tilt door for serving and the kettle is nonstick, making it easy to clean.

But for a large kitchen, or especially a really nice home theatre room, this is the perfect addition without breaking the bank!


Nostalgia Concession CCP1000 Vintage Professional Popcorn Cart

The Nostalgia Concession CCP510 Vintage Professional Popcorn Cart is 59 inches tall and pops 40 cups of popcorn at a time.

It has the best ratings of any full-sized popcorn maker on Amazon, with hundreds of near-perfect reviews, and it’s an Amazon’s Choice product too!

This machine is just over $200 and completes your home movie experience. It holds 10 ounces of kernels and has a built-in stirring system to make sure more kernels get popped.

It’s got a tempered glass window so you can watch it pop, and it’s outfitted with a tilt-out door for easy serving.

It also has a storage compartment built-in so you can store all of your popcorn kernels and accessories.

This thing is nothing short of amazing!

Since it has wheels, it’s also fairly easy to move. Did someone say fresh-popped popcorn to go with your kid’s next lemonade stand?


Final Thoughts

I covered a lot of topics in this article.

Nothing quite matches the movie theater experience when it comes to popcorn. But having a popcorn machine can certainly help!

In this article, I talked about how popcorn machines work and what to look for when purchasing one. I also talked about what kind of oil to use in your machine and took a look at a few popular machines on amazon.

But most importantly, I answered the question of whether popcorn machines are worth it.

What is your favorite popcorn topping?

Popcorn machines are awesome. But they aren’t essential.

So if you’re just starting out getting your kitchen set up, you’ll want to start with the basic first. What are the basic small kitchen appliances every home needs? You have questions. Luckily, I have the answers in a recent article.

I cover all the must-haves every home needs AND what to skip and not waste your money on.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

As an Amazon Associate I may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases if you click to Amazon from my site and choose to make a purchase. You can read my complete affiliate disclosure for more details.

Jeff Campbell

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