watch week

We Tried a Dozen of Those Microwave Popcorn Poppers — This Is the One We Liked Best

published Feb 5, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

You would think that making microwave popcorn would be… a fairly simple task. I’d put it up there with boiling water in terms of life skills. In other words, it’s essential, but not exactly rocket science. And yet, achieving that perfect bowl of microwave popcorn can apparently be elusive. How else do you explain the fact that there are so many different gadgets to help you pop popcorn in the microwave?

There’s one that looks like a teapot, a few that are shaped like the bag of popcorn you get at the movie theaters, and there are even options that look like fun origami experiments. Sure, you can technically pop popcorn in the microwave without any of these special poppers (you just need a brown paper lunch bag!), but maybe you make a lot of popcorn and need something more substantial? Or you want something you can reliably take from the microwave to couch?

In honor of Kitchn’s official Watch Week (that’s this week!) I set out to test as many microwave poppers as I could get my hands on. There were hits and misses — and one clear winner.

First, though, before we talk about the winner, let’s have a quick chat about oil and salt. Ready? You need them! Chat over. Seriously. Popcorn without either of these things is just incredibly bland. I’ve found that stirring in even a teaspoon or two of oil and a pinch or two of salt makes all the difference. So just add a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt to your kernels before you put them into the microwave.

Now for the winner!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Of all the contraptions I tested, I liked Colonel Popcorn the best, hands down. In a nutshell: It’s easy to use, easy to clean, and collapses to make storage easier. I tested other models that had very similar designs but this one felt sturdier (the top rim was slightly more reinforced) and was less expensive (by as much as $5) than rival versions.

I also liked that the included directions were super-clear, telling you how much popcorn to add based on how many people are snacking and how long to zap each batch for. Just pop open the silicone bowl, add your kernels (don’t forget the oil and salt!), drop the lid on, and nuke. Once your microwave beeps, you can remove the lid (it has a little nub in the middle just for that step), and bring the whole bowl right to the couch.

For what it’s worth, I’m not the only one who likes this popper: It’s a bestseller on Amazon and has more than 1,700 five-star reviews. But if you do want to take my word for it, know that I’ve spent decades working in professional test kitchens and have also spent plenty of time, recently, cleaning up popcorn messes in my microwave, thanks to inferior poppers.

What do you use when it comes to making popcorn at home?