Popcorn fans know that there’s no better tasting popcorn than popcorn that’s made with a hand crank popcorn popper. That’s because the tool uses oil to pop the kernels into their crispy and puffy state. And depending on what kind you use (some recommend coconut oil, others walnut), the oil is a key element in providing flavor to this popular snack.
Also known as a stovetop popper, this type of cookware is basically a specialized pot that has an integrating stirring mechanism to prevent kernels from burning in the hot oil. It’s also useful for making caramel popcorn, as the hand crank allows the easy mixing of sugar into the kernels before they pop.
The original hand crank stove topper models were heavy-duty kitchenware that was durable and easy to clean. These days, most of them now use aluminum which is more lightweight and has an even heat distribution.
When compared to a microwave or a hot-air popcorn maker, a stovetop product is a more affordable investment because they’re relatively inexpensive. They’re also a more fun way to cook popcorn because who doesn’t like turning the crank and hearing them pop inside the pot?
Some hand crank models even provide a nostalgic element in the process of cooking popcorn. That’s because they come in vintage designs that evoke the movie theater experience. These make great companion pieces in any home theater set-up.
The best hand crank popcorn poppers are those that are easy to use and are durable enough to withstand regular use. In this list, I’ve picked the best ones that will make the process of making homemade popcorn faster and easier, while tasting just like actual movie theater popcorn.
Here are my top 5 picks for hand crank popcorn poppers on Amazon.
Best Hand Crank Popcorn Popper
- Cook N Home 02626 6 Quart Aluminium Stovetop Popcorn Popper
- Franklin's Original Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Machine
- Great Northern Popcorn Original Stainless Steel Stove Top Popcorn Popper
- Nostalgia Vintage 2.5-Ounce Tabletop Kettle Popcorn Maker
- Nostalgia KPM220CTBK 2.5 Oz Professional Popcorn & Concession Cart
1. Cook N Home 02626 6 Quart Aluminium Stovetop Popcorn Popper
This stovetop popcorn popper is made from lightweight aluminum which gives it a better and even heat distribution for cooking popcorn. A half-cup of kernels is enough to fill the whole pot.
It has a lid that has steam vents and a crank with a wooden handle and knob. It will work on gas, electric, glass, and ceramic burners. It also disassembles easily for cleaning with a moist cloth.
It’s easy to use and the cranking is smooth. Users who’ve tried this reported that, when used properly, it cooks popcorn in less time, with rarely any unpopped kernels. The popcorn comes out fluffy and crisp.
- Fast heating
- Efficient venting system
- Not induction cooker compatible
- Not dishwasher safe
2. Franklin's Original Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Machine
This is the original brand of popcorn poppers that have been manufactured in the US since 1978. It’s a 6-quart aluminum stovetop that uses all-metal gears and a patented hand crank mechanism that stirs the kernels and oil efficiently so that the popcorn is not burnt. The handle is made out of wood.
This model is best used in the kitchen, although it can also be used outdoors. There’s a version that has a longer handle that’s ideal for campfire popcorn popping. It’s easy to clean and the manufacturer recommends wiping it down with a damp paper towel after every use.
Reviewers said that it heats evenly and quickly although there are some lightly burnt kernel shells leftover after cooking. The popcorn, however, tasted fresh and had zero burnt spots.
This product includes a Gourment Popcorn Kit and comes with a lifetime warranty.
- US made
- Lifetime warranty
- Some concerns about the aluminum easily dented
- Not for dishwasher or induction cooker
3. Great Northern Popcorn Original Stainless Steel Stove Top Popcorn Popper
This is a stainless steel popcorn maker that can produce 6 1/2 quarts of popcorn in just minutes. It uses an aluminum core in its base to act as a heat spreader.
Like most classic stovetop poppers, it comes with a vented lid for moisture release. A wooden safety handle makes its spinner stirring mechanism comfortable to use. The gears are metal which makes this also ideal for cooking caramel or kettle corn.
Those who’ve used this said that it’ll make popcorn in just 3 minutes. The flavor is also the closest equivalent to movie theater popcorn.
This product comes with a 30-day limited warranty.
- Good for making caramel and kettle corn
- Easy clean-up by wiping
- Not dishwasher safe
- Not for induction stove tops
4. Nostalgia Vintage 2.5-Ounce Tabletop Kettle Popcorn Maker
This 19-inch tabletop popcorn maker draws inspiration from the vintage popcorn carts from the early 19th century. Its interior is lit with a 360-degree clear view of the popping chamber. The tilt door and windows are made of hard plastic. It runs on 110 volts and uses a regular house plug.
The 2.5-oz kettle is made of stainless steel and is equipped with a built-in kernel stirring mechanism, as well as a dual-hinged lid to easily empty out popcorn. A warmer at the bottom of the chamber keeps the popcorn warm and fresh. There’s also a kernel measuring cup, an oil measuring spoon, and a popcorn kit included with this product.
This popcorn maker can make up to 10 cups of movie theater-style popcorn per batch. Users report that it makes 2 batches of popcorn in under 5 minutes.
- The light switch can be turned on independently of the warmer
- Vintage design
- No adjustable heat settings
- Short electrical cord
5. Nostalgia KPM220CTBK 2.5 Oz Professional Popcorn & Concession Cart
Why settle for a tabletop popcorn popper when you can also get a concession cart? The novelty of this model is that it also doubles up as a countertop unit because the top is removable.
When it’s in cart mode, it’s 45 inches tall. It also comes with a pair of 11-inch spoke wheels and a pull handle to make it easy to move around. There’s also a see-through storage compartment at the base of the unit where one can place their popcorn kits.
Like the previous model, the 2.5 oz stainless steel kettle, has a built-in kernel stirring system and dual-hinged lid. The crank is only for dumping the popcorn into the chamber. It also has a lighted interior and a tilted door. Accessories include a 5-quart popcorn serving bucket.
- Easy to assemble
- Can be converted into a countertop
- Some users had issues with its clean-up
- Has a California Proposition 65 warning
Buyers Guide to Choosing A Hand Crank Popcorn Popper
Hand crank stove pots are built from stainless steel, aluminum, or a combination of both. Ideally, a solid stainless steel unit with a heavy bottom is what you should get, but this type is hard to find online. Most models use aluminum because it is lightweight and the models distribute heat quickly and evenly so one can pop popcorn faster without burning the kernels.
However, some are made from very thin aluminum so they can easily be dented. Still, as long as one handles the product properly, this shouldn't become a major issue.
If you prefer one of those novelty popcorn poppers, be sure that the plastic is BPA-free and non-toxic. It helps if they come with a label certifying that the plastic is food grade and safe for cooking purposes.
You can pick between nylon or metallic gear. The Original Whirley Pop popcorn popper design, in fact, used nylon gears in its turning mechanism. This type of gear is durable and good enough for making regular popcorn.
Recent models, however, now feature heavy-duty metal die-cast gears. They’re heat resistant and won’t warp like some nylon gears.
They also provide a stronger turning which is useful when making kettle corn or caramel corn because the gears are strong enough to handle thicker and gooier textures which usually happens when one adds glaze or sugar into the pot. So if you like making caramel corn, your best pick would be one that uses metal gears.
Hand Crank Design
A hand crank for a stovetop popper should be ergonomic and easy to turn. The best ones are those that have wooden handles and knobs. Not only are these elegant to look at but they also provide a comfortable grip. If you’re using a campfire model, pick the one with a long handle so that you’re safe from the campfire.
Ease of Clean-up
Pick one that’s easiest to clean. Because of their material, popcorn poppers are generally not dishwasher safe. Manufacturers recommend wiping them down after every use. Some models require occasional rinsing under running water.
However, there are some stovetop poppers that have non-stick kettles and warming plates. These make cleanup even more convenient for a busy home cook.
Are you making popcorn for one or for a family? The largest one I’ve found is capable of producing 6.5 quarts of popcorn. While large ones may be bulky in storage, they can also be useful for those times when you have sudden company and need to make lots of batches of popcorn.
Stovetop or Novelty Popcorn Popper
Those who like their popcorn poppers simple and practical will opt for the classic stovetop design popularized by Whirly Pop. But if you feel like evoking the atmosphere of a movie theater, you can choose among the various novelty popcorn machines that are designed to look like vintage popcorn machines.
Choose one that comes with a warranty. The best one is, of course, the one that offers a lifetime warranty. Look also for a product that has reliable customer support for when you need assistance in using it or when requiring a replacement.