Why You Need A Whirley-Pop Popcorn Maker

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The popcorn scene at our house exploded once we got a Whirley Pop, a specialty stovetop popcorn popper. It’s about half the size of a microwave oven, which can also pop corn.

Times we have popped corn in our microwave: 0.

Times we have popped corn in our Whirley Pop during the three years we’ve had it: dozens. Dozens!

Times I set the break room smoke alarm off at my old job because of my microwaved popcorn incompetence: 2

Times I have burned popcorn in our Whirley Pop: 0.

The Whirley Pop is fast; it takes 2 minutes, tops, from start to finish. The thing is so responsive it’s almost virile. In terms of dependability and elegance, it is the anti-Jiffy Pop.

So those two minutes at the stove are highly pleasurable ones. There’s magic in popping corn yourself, a magic that thrives at the impossibly teeny intersection of childlike wonder and grownup self-sufficiency. Popping corn makes me feel capable and studly, yet it’s also delightful and surprising. Every time I do it, I still marvel at the startling transformation from a few tablespoons of hard little kernels (I get the bulk stuff, nothing special) to a big, steaming bowl of popcorn.

Sure, you can pop corn in a large pot with a decent lid, but the Whirley Pop a) is much quieter and easier on the wrists than frantically shaking a pot, and b) prevents burning. You turn the crank on the lid, and an agitator rotates against the bottom of the pot, keeping the corn kernels moving constantly. And it yields the fluffiest popcorn around. This all happens over very high heat, lending the process an air of edginess. Even if you are using an electric stove.

Our Whirley Pop came from the Goodwill and cost $3. A new one will set you back $20-$25. Whirley Pop makes other, fancier models, but you want this one, “the original” It’s lightweight aluminum and might seem a little jenky at first, but we’re not searing steaks here, okay? It can handle kettle corn, too. As for other grains, I tried to pop amaranth in my Whirley Pop once, and I don’t recommend it. At all. It’s a one-trick pony, the Whirley Pop, but it does its one trick with popcorn so, so well.

If you eat a lot of popcorn, you’d easily spend thirty bucks this year on freaky packages of the microwave stuff. So a Whirley Pop is a fantastic gift, especially to yourself. Mine even helped us decorate our Christmas tree. (Note: make popcorn garlands with stale popcorn, which is soft and won’t crack when pierced with a needle. I found out the hard way.)

Gimme some melted red palm oil and nutritional yeast or za’atar I’m all set, because I’m a hippy. It’s okay to use butter, though, or even that powdered neon-orange sprinkle cheese. We’re not here to judge.

Though if you like, make popcorn salt yourself. Just pummel kosher salt in a mortar and pestle until it’s good and dusty, and it will cling lovingly to your fluffy white popped kernels.

Thus equipped—Whirley Pop, cheap bulk kernels, ground-up salt, hippy seasoning blends, movies streaming from Netflix—you will never need to go to the Mega-Plex again, because the best popcorn in town will be at your house.

Sara Bir is Paste’s food editor. Be glad she does not share a break room with you.

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