Some popcorn vendors sell their products all year round, but many churches, festivals, events, and other organizations only use their popcorn machines a few times a year. If you fall into the occasional-use category as a popcorn machine owner, you may not know which oil is best for your machine and your customers. You may also want different benefits from your oil than a popcorn vendor running their equipment for many hours a day. Consider these factors to make the right oil choice.
When it comes to cost alone, canola oil is the best option at around six cents an ounce in bulk. Vegetable oil is the only blend you'll find for a lower price, but it's not recommended for use in popcorn machines because it tends to burn. In comparison, the coconut oil preferred by many professional popcorn vendors costs around 50 cents an ounce. If you rarely make popcorn and don't want to store a lot of expensive oil, canola oil is most likely the best choice because you can find it at fair prices, even in relatively small amounts.
Coconut oil has a good flavor and produces a crisp and crunchy popcorn, but some people are concerned about its profile of saturated fats. However, these fats are still healthy when eaten in moderation. Canola or sunflower oil is a better choice for marketing your popcorn as a snack that is low in saturated fat. Start out with coconut oil if your customers aren't asking about the health profile of the snack they're eating. Most consumers prefer the taste and texture of popcorn popped in coconut oil, so there's no need to switch unless you know your customers are looking for a specific type of oil.
Not all oils can handle the heat of a professional quality popcorn machine. When you only fire up your equipment a few times a year, you definitely don't want to waste any time cleaning up burnt or scorched oils. Vegetable oil is definitely out, but most other oils that can handle deep frying temperatures will work in a popcorn machine. This includes oils like sesame and peanut oil that can have strong flavors and allergens. Always run a test batch of popcorn with a new oil product before assuming the flavor profile matches what you expect from freshly popped corn. Canola oil can handle the heat of a popping machine, but it still needs close attention and temperature adjustment to prevent burning.
The refined coconut oil recommended for popcorn machines has no flavor of its own. Instead, customers many notice a silky and buttery feeling that makes the popcorn feel fresh and high quality. Most of these oils feature a butter flavoring to enhance this effect. Canola, sunflower, and safflower oil all have very little to no flavor on their own. Peanut and sesame oils have stronger flavors that are not always pleasing to customers, so use them with care.
Finally, some oils allow popcorn to stand longer at room temperature without tasting or feeling stale. Sunflower oil is primarily recommended for this benefit, which is particularly useful for the occasional popcorn machine user who only needs to sell or give away a few bags of popcorn over the course of a day. The popcorn you pop will last for hours and freshen up with a little warming from the kettle without any loss of flavor or texture. Sunflower oil is also easy to store between uses as long as you keep it in an airtight container and keep it away from light so it doesn't degrade.
Contact companies that sell popcorn machines for more info.