Published March 1, 2007. From Cook's Illustrated.
Sometimes simplest is really the best.
Update: May 2013
The Back to Basics popcorn popper has been discontinued. We recommend the Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper as our new winner.
Bags of microwave popcorn are convenient, but the quality is mediocre. Here's how to spend fewer dollars and barely a minute longer to get a better-tasting result: Pour plain kernels into a microwave popcorn popper and press "start" on your microwave. We tested four all-plastic (glass can shatter and metal can spark) popcorn poppers. After several batches, we realized the simplest popper style was best. Ashy fumes and grease spewed from the "self-buttering" bowl, while a more complicated model demanded disposable (read: need-to-buy-more) cardboard disks. The simpler models yielded fluffy popcorn, with few stragglers at the bottom, and were simple to clean.