An air popper is what we use in our house. We always need to check the taste of the popcorn without anything else. Some of our smaller kernel popcorn like Mixed Baby Rice, may not pop well in an air popper. The kernels are light and tend to fly out before they pop. You can tilt the popper back til you build up a "head" of popped kernels to keep the unpopped kernels in, then set the popper down normally, or use other methods, like popping it on the stove.
Some of our customers love popcorn poppers that work in a microwave, others like air poppers and some like it done on top of the stove. Below is a method for cooking it on top of the stove in a pan.
What you need: A heavy pan with a lid, some oil that will take a high temperature (not butter) and your popcorn. Salting kernels toughens popcorn. So, salt the popcorn after it has been popped, or skip salt altogether and add salt-free spices such as garlic powder or cayenne pepper.
A heavy 3 to 4 quart pan with a loose lid that allows steam to escape is best and pour at least enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan, one kernel deep.
Use about 1/3 cup of oil for every cup of unpopped kernels.
Heat the oil to 400 - 460 degrees Fahrenheit (if the oil smokes, it is too hot). Test the oil with a couple of kernels. When they pop, add the rest of the popcorn, cover the pan and shake to evenly spread the oil. Continue to move the pot gently. When the popping begins to slow, remove the pan from the stove-top. The heated oil 0will still pop remaining kernels. (Some people like to put their popcorn in a brown paper bag after popping,)
Without moisture,13.5 to 14 percent, popcorn can't pop. That's why it's important to store popcorn correctly. An entire percentage of moisture can be lost if your kernels are left uncovered on a hot day. And though that may not sound like a lot, it adds up. A loss of 3 percent can render popcorn unpoppable. And even a 1 percent drop in moisture will harm the quality of your kernels. That's why our retail bags are oxygen barrier and airtight, unlike other retail bags. After you open one of our bags, place the remainer in a glass jar with a tight lid or something equally airtight.
Airtight containers, plastic, metal or glass are your best bet to avoid moisture loss. Put the container in a cool place out of the sun. Avoid the refrigerator. Some say that freezing makes the popcorn pop better, you could do your own testing on that. Refrigerators contain little moisture and can dry out the popcorn if it's left in a baggie which is not airtight.
Choose poppers that have undergone scientific laboratory testing and have proved to do the best popping job, producing maximum popcorn volume and minimal waste. We are not fans of poppers that work in the microwave but some people find them very convenient.
If children will be operating the popper, look for:
Easy-to-follow instructions; and
A popper that is not too heavy for a child to maneuver.
Convenience features that make the popping job easier:
Oil line for easy measuring;
Easy-to-clean surfaces; and
It's best if it provides for the escape of steam during the popping cycle, this minimizes the chance of the popcorn from becoming soggy. Also the risk of spattering is less.Steam-escape features vary in design from popper to popper. Many include small vents or indentations around the cover, some are designed so that the cover fits into a ridge around the popper base with enough clearance for steam escape. Look for this feature.
Before you buy, check for an electric popper has an automatic shut off. It would feature a thermostat that automatically shuts off the heating element at the end of the cycle. Unless you want to watch the popping closely, this is a great feature. Otherwise you to have to closely monitor to prevent burning the popcorn once the cycle is complete and promptly disconnect.