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Air Popped Popcorn - Health & Entertainment Benefits

Updated on September 10, 2014

The first time I ever used an air popper to make air popped popcorn was over 20 years ago, when someone told me it made great popcorn without a lot of hassle. I asked them how it worked, and their reply told me it would save energy and make healthier popcorn, too. That was near the beginning of the energy conservation movement.

The Air Popper I Use
The Air Popper I Use | Source

I clearly remember my first experience with my new air popper. I had set it on the kitchen counter waiting for lunchtime, when I could race home from work to try it out. I quickly read the directions, poured in the right amount of kernels, cut a thick slice of butter to melt in the tray above, and plugged it in. Then I rushed into another room to find something for work while the popcorn heated.

I heard it start popping, faster and faster, and raced back to discover popcorn merrily shooting out of the machine all over the counter and floor. I started laughing so hard I could hardly find a bowl to catch the rest. That set me up for years of pleasant popping.

What is an Air Popper?

An air popper pops popcorn using heated air, rather than hot oil or microwaves. The popper's hard plastic cover has a removable tray that helps to trap and intensify the heat as it rises, and air vents on its front to prevent explosion and help create a flow. The tray on top also melts whatever meltable solid you put into it. My air popper, still the same one I used back then, starts working as soon as you plug it into the wall.

Air Popper Parts
Air Popper Parts | Source

The actual popping process works as follows:

  1. Electricity spins a fan under the popper, which pulls in air through vents in the bottom of the tube (in which you've placed kernels of corn). The electricity also heats the metal of the tube, which in turn heats the air, which then rises, creating a flow of hot air spinning and rising.

  2. Because the air blows through the vents sideways, it makes the kernels spin, evening out their exposure to the heat. The heat expands water inside each kernel, cracking their covers, and letting air in through the cracks.

  3. The hot air then explodes or "pops" the kernel the rest of the way into a light, fluffy thing, which blows up and out of the popper with the same air flow and is caught by a bowl you have hopefully placed under the exit chute.

Popcorn Clouds - A Poem

Clouds like popcorn filled the air with little white puffy dots and the wind blew and bumped them into each other but they just bounced off again and went skidding, sliding across the deep blue carpet of sky until they hit the edge of it and then bounced back again and bumped into each other again and again until finally the wind stopped blowing and the popcorn clouds stopped skidding around and now when they touch each other they embrace softly and gently merge until there is finally only one big fluffy cloud all by itself left in the sky and the little playful popcorn clouds have all arrived home.

The process is pretty ingenious, really. The intense heat inside the metal tube makes the popcorn kernels explode, much as their fires used to in olden Native American times. (Yes, popcorn is a gift from Native Americans - one of the many they gave to the world.)

Energy Use Comparison

Air poppers save energy - kinetic (human) and gas or electric, whichever you would otherwise use to make popcorn with, if you cooked it over a stove. If you would otherwise use a microwave you will not save energy, but you will have a much better tasting popcorn that is healthier too.

The model I use is the West Bend Poppery II. I've been using the same popper since 1989 and have never had any problems. I've been told you can use it to roast coffee, too. West Bend still makes air poppers, even after all these years.

Other Benefits

  • There is a higher ratio of popped kernels with this method, as compared with others. If you find a number of unpopped ones, try different types of popcorn before blaming the air popper.

  • The kernels are generally lighter and fluffier than either the pan cooked or micro-waved methods. Micro-waved popcorn also carries a health risk from the coating inside the bag and another from the fake butter flavoring.

  • You can choose whatever oils or flavorings you want to add. This allows you to make your popcorn more flavorful and/or as healthy as you want it.

  • No risk of burning the popcorn or drying it out. Make sure you store the kernels in the freezer to preserve their moisture. No need to unfreeze - just pop them right into the popper when needed.

  • Not much cleanup is required. I just pour out the few unpopped kernels and wash the little butter tray with soap and hot water. That's it.

  • Takes only 15 minutes from beginning to end (including cleanup).


Frugal Living & Having Fun

Buying popcorn in a theater to enhance a good movie is a favorite common practice. However, complaining about the taste or lack of it is also common. You can fix that by making your own popcorn at home - making it taste much better than theater popcorn - and watching a movie of your choice in comfortable surroundings, while saving money too. You can even match the recipes below with the type of movie you watch to have a more fulfilling and fun experience.


In this Academy Award-winning Asian drama, a newly unemployed cellist undergoes a profound and sometimes comical journey with death after taking a job at a funeral home. 255 viewers have rated it five stars.

  • For example, make or go out to an Italian dinner. Then come home, make the Italian popcorn, and watch a European home movie or Italian opera on You Tube.
  • Or you could eat sushi for dinner, make the Asian popcorn, and watch a kung fu movie or an Internet documentary on the history of martial arts or Asian sects of Buddhism.
  • Or you could eat a vegetarian dinner, make the hippy popcorn, and watch a light love movie or a You Tube rock concert of your choice.

This all sounds like so much fun, I think I'll do it myself!

Tip: If you are watching a documentary online and it keeps stopping and starting in order to load up, try putting it on pause while you go into the kitchen to pop your popcorn. The video will continue to load on pause. By the time you start it up again it will play smoothly.

Italian Ingredients
Italian Ingredients
Asian Ingredients
Asian Ingredients
Hippy Ingredients
Hippy Ingredients | Source

Popcorn Recipes: Italian, Asian, Hippy

Italian - Ingredients: Popcorn kernels, butter, olive oil, ground sage or marjoram, sea salt.

Add popcorn kernels to the popper's hopper. Melt 2 T butter and add a 1/2 T of olive oil before mixing with the finished popcorn. Add sea salt and ground sage to taste.

Asian - Ingredients: Popcorn kernels, coconut oil, ginger, sea salt.

When you add the popcorn kernels, instead of putting butter in the top tray, put a scoop of coconut oil (semi-solid in its natural state). After the popcorn has popped, mix in the coconut oil, then add ginger and a little more sea salt than normal (since coconut oil is seldom salted).

Hippy - Ingredients: Popcorn kernels, butter, brewers yeast, sea salt.

This is what we all used to make in the early hippy days, to make sure our popcorn was healthy. It actually has a pretty good taste, once you get used it - kind of sweet. Pop the popcorn, melting butter in the tray. Add the melted butter to the popcorn, then add a teaspoon of brewers yeast and sea salt to taste.

Try them all and let me know which one you like best!

A Sweeter Recipe

Try the recipe in this video for a toffee popcorn. It's very sweet, so is not as healthy for you, but if you don't mind the occasional indulgement, it can be quite fun and tasty. In addition to the air popped popcorn, ingredients are: Melted butter, corn syrup, a touch of sea salt, and lots of brown sugar. I do suggest you use two forks instead of a spatula to mix the syrup into the popcorn. It gives you more control.


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    • Beverly Stevens profile image

      Beverly Stevens 5 years ago from College Station

      I'm going to have to drag out my air popper and try that Asian recipe. Thanks.

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 4 years ago from Malaysia

      Well written and I like your layout and format. I don't have air popper and will buy the 'microwave friendly' version. Voted useful and shared.

    • leahlefler profile image

      leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      This is a great hub, Sustainable Sue! I love air-popped popcorn. We actually make our own "microwave" popcorn by putting popcorn kernels in paper bags and then microwaving. Cheaper than the store-bought version and healthier than corn popped in oil!

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