- Value: 18/20
- Functionality: 20/20
- Quality/Ease of Use: 18/20
- Aesthetics: 18/20
- Nostalgia Factor: 19/20
- TOTAL: 93/100
With a tiny apartment and even tinier kitchen, I've resigned myself to “improvising” (read: living without) when it comes to most appliances. Slow cooker? Nope. Food processor? That’s what knife skills are for. Microwave? Hilarious.
Seriously—I don't have a microwave, which is a major problem when it comes to making my all-time favorite snack: popcorn. For one, our pre-war Brooklyn apartment barely has enough outlets to plug in a phone charger and a lamp at the same time. And don’t get me started on the counterspace. Sure, there are workarounds for making popcorn at home, but you tell me that while shaking a 15-pound Dutch oven filled with corn kernels and sizzling oil over a flaming gas stove two minutes before Jeopardy is about to start.
After considering purchasing an electric air-popper (ultimately too bulky for my kitchen) I had resigned myself to a life sans popcorn. That is, until I had a revelation inspired by a batch of Jiffy Pop—you know, that nostalgic stovetop popcorn made in an aluminum pan that balloons as it heats. Enter the Whirley Pop, a delightfully kitschy appliance that makes, no exaggeration, the best popcorn I've tasted this side of the movie theater.
It’s essentially a very lightweight aluminum pot featuring a fancy lid that’s fitted with steam vents, gears and a special stirring mechanism attached to an exterior handle. To make a batch of popcorn, you add about a tablespoon of oil (or, my preference, clarified butter) and a half-cup of corn kernels to the pot, set your stove to medium-high, then crank the handle nonstop until the popcorn does its magic. Once the handle gets too hard to turn, all your popcorn is popped. Easy-peasy.
What’s even better than the no-frills, no-electrical-plugs aspect is that the Whirley Pop is highly efficient at its job. No kernel gets left behind (and no burnt guys, either). That’s thanks to the inner stirring mechanism, which ensures even heat distribution among the kernels. The only time I’ve ever burned a batch was when I used less than the recommended half-cup of corn and I couldn’t tell when it was all popped. An excuse for a bigger bowl of popcorn? I think so.
I’m also a sucker for the nostalgic aesthetics of my Whirley Pop. Unlike an air-popper or microwave, it’s unassuming and blends in with the rest of my pots and pans. But it also makes me feel like I’m living out my off-the-grid, cabin-in-the-woods dream.
The cleanup, while not that much of a hassle, is the only drawback. The aluminum pot is easy; it’s the metal stirring apparatus that takes some wiping and can be finicky. (The brand says you can just wipe it with a paper towel, but I like to be more thorough.) But has anyone ever said they like doing the dishes after snack time? Maybe someone with a dishwasher…but I digress.
Once your popcorn is popped, you can toss it with butter, salt and your favorite seasonings, which is a major upgrade from the neon butter-flavored stuff in those microwave bags. If you like spicy things, Penzey’s Berbere seasoning is one of my go-tos.
Lest I forget the biggest perk of all: I got mine for less than $30 on Amazon, but I’ve seen it for even less—right now, it’s only $20 at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Have you ever seen a microwave for that cheap? Exactly.
This article reflects prices at publication that may change.