Popcorn Machines - An Introduction

If you have a popcorn machine question, then chances are that I may have answered it below.

Does the size of your popcorn machine matter?

The short answer is 'yes'. The long answer is that it all depends on the number of people you intend to serve with your popcorn machine. For small families or groups, a 4 ounce (110 grams) capacity popcorn machine may be fine. But if you are going to be entertaining a larger group, you may want to buy a six ounce (180 gram) or eight ounce (220 gram) capacity popcorn machine to avoid making multiple batches. Keep in mind that even with a big popcorn machine, you can make small amounts when ever you feel like it.

How long does popcorn take to cook in a popcorn machine?

This depends on the type of popcorn machine you have, but once your machine has heated up (on the stove for stove tops, or by plugging into the mains for electric machines) the popcorn will only take 3-4 minutes to cook. Once you have the oil in the machine, and it is correctly heated, it's a good idea to test with a few kernels. As soon as these pop, put in the rest and close the lid. Then it is up to the popcorn machine to do the rest - simple as that. You will start to hear popping pretty soon. Stove top popcorn machines cook popcorn more quickly than electric machines, but we are only taking a minute or two. Read the manufacturer's guidance on this point, and always follow the particular instructions given. You'll soon hear things getting rather exited in your popcorn machine and then the popping will start to slow around the 3-4 four minute mark. Then you are done. Enjoy.

What oil should you use to cook popcorn?

The key point to make here is that the oil you use will affect the taste of your popcorn, so choosing the right one to suit your taste is important. A big favourite with many is coconut oil because it burns the cleanest, and, arguably, tastes the best. However, the health conscious may wish to opt for canola oil (which has lower fat and cholesterol). Other oils available are sunflower, peanut and soy. Under no circumstances should you use vegetable oil: it will not appreciate the heat and will in all likelihood catch on fire! The only way you are really going to know which oil is best for you is to try them all and see.

What assembly is required with popcorn machines?

None, unless you buy a cart. Popcorn machine units are pre-assembled, but the carts will not be. If you don't buy a cart, then an electric machine can just sit on any flat surface. Stove tops obviously sit on the stove when in use. The hottest part of an electric popcorn machine is the kettle, which is always at the top of the machine. The base of an electric popcorn machine remains cool enough to sit on any flat surface. With stove tops the heat comes from the cooker and so the base will be the hottest part of the machine -- all pretty obvious really.

Why are hard-coat anodized aluminum 'kettles' considered the best?

There are two issues here: heat transfer and ease of cleaning. Aluminum gives the best heat transfer to the popcorn which gives a better result. Once the aluminum is anodized is has a smooth, easy to clean surface, and it is very hard-wearing.

How do I clean a popcorn machine?

You can clean popcorn machine surfaces using standard dish cleaning products and water. Let the machine cool then wipe it with a damp cloth. Stove tops can be cleaned just like any other cooking pan. With electric popcorn machines you'll find that after a while your 'kettle' will blacken through carbonization, and when this happens you will need to use a special cleaning kit (ask your supplier for one). Under no circumstances should you submerge an electric popcorn machine in any type of liquid because its electrical components will short out, as may you if you still have the thing plugged in!

Why does popcorn explode?

Now we come to the interesting science of the matter. A popcorn kernel is made up of hard starch with a small amount of water locked inside. As the temperature around the kernel rises, the water inside the kernel turns to steam and expands. The pressure inside the kernel rises until the kernel can no longer hold in the steam and it explodes. Popcorn kernels will dry out with age, so make sure that your kernels are fresh so that they go off with the required pop. Never store your kernels in a refrigerator or freezer, since this will dry them out. Neither should you store them in a moist place, since they will become chewy. The moisture level needs to be just right to get a good pop and the right taste. The best place to keep your kernels is in a sealed container at room temperature -- below 90°F. Don't expect your kernels to have a shelf life of more than 12-18 months.

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About The Author, Stephen Turner
© Stephen Turner 2006. Stephen has set up http://www.machinepopcorn.co.ukwhere you'll find popcorn machine information, advice, articles, discussion and specially chosen links.This article may be reproduced provided this resource box is displayed below the article.