The Great American Popcorn Machine is older than Star Wars, cell phones and Nintendo game consoles.
Yet, this old-school gadget, created in 1976, has gotten a new life on TikTok. It’s all thanks to user Zachariah Porter (@zzzachariah), who discovered the machine at a thrift store.
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Porter’s clip of him trying the decades-old gadget went mega-viral, drawing millions of views and posing a highly important question: How on earth does this thing still work?
We had to find out for ourselves. So, the editors at In The Know scoured eBay and ordered a (hopefully) still-functional Great American Popcorn Machine. Then, we tested out the gadget to see if popcorn making really peaked in the ’70s.
To do that, we pitted the gadget against the cutting-edge of modern-day popcorn popping: an air fryer. To see which machine won out, watch the video above or keep reading below.
Is the Great American Popcorn Machine better than an air fryer?
Using the Great American Popcorn Machine is actually pretty simple. The gadget, which looks like an old-school covered wagon, plugs right into an outlet and powers itself up. From there, we simply poured our kernels onto the heated surface, attached the top and watched them pop. When it was all done, we flipped the wagon over and used it as a stylized popcorn bowl.
For the air fryer, we tried another viral method. Coating the inside of the machine with foil, we poured in the kernels and set the gadget to cook for eight minutes at 400 degrees. It’s that easy.
Then, we compared. We decided to rate both gadgets on three factors — convenience, taste and fun — and see which one was best.
Convenience: Despite the extreme convenience an air fryer brings to any recipe, the Great American Popcorn Machine was actually faster. It cooked in less time and involved literally zero prep whatsoever.
Taste: Another win for the ’70s. The Great American Popcorn Machine popped our kernels more evenly, giving a more consistent taste. Meanwhile, the air fryer technique left some kernels unpopped and others a little burnt.
Fun: Surprisingly, a full sweep for the old school. The Great American Popcorn Machine is a lot more fun to use and to eat out of. There’s nothing that says movie night like eating out of a bowl that looks like it’s straight out of a Western.
Shockingly, it looks like popcorn technology may be on the decline. The Great American Popcorn Machine is an amazing little gadget, and if you can get your hands on one, it’s definitely worth trying.
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