Without going into too much detail about how popcorn kettles work in this article, I will just briefly explain their operation.
Popcorn typically pops at a temperature of approximately 450 Degree F. Given this fact, we obviously need quite a bit of heat in the popcorn kettle. Most small popcorn machines are comprised of several different components, the inner kettle, the kettle shell, thermostats (or thermocouples), heating element(s), and wiring.
Popcorn machines work very much like your stove top element when you set a frying pan on top of the element. The element transfers heat to the inner shell, there by heating it. The element, thermostats and internal wiring are “sandwiched” between the inner kettle and the outer shell. The wiring in the kettles is so designed that when the proper temperature has been reached, the contacts in the thermostat “OPEN”.
Most of the problems I see with popcorn kettles are either thermostat or wiring related problems. Kettle wiring is susceptible to the cycles or heating and cooling over and over thousands of times over its life. Thermostats open and close thousands of times during their lives as well.
If you are having a problem with your kettle heating up properly, the easiest thing to check would be to see if the thermostat is opening prematurely.
Plug in your popcorn machine and turn on all the switches BESIDES the HEAT SWITCH. As you turn on the heat switch, notice the light that is inside the machine. As you turn the heat switch you will notice a slight dim of the light bulb inside the popper. This indicates that your kettle is drawing some of the amperage off the main system, therefore dimming the bulb. Continue to let the kettle heat, and watch for the light to BRIGHTEN prematurely before the popcorn pops. If your light BRIGHTENS before the popcorn pops there is a GOOD chance that your thermostat has opened prematurely and needs to be replaced. This is an easy way to tell if you might need a new thermostat(s).
In the future I will explain how to use a “MULTIMETER” to check your elements, and your thermostats and even your wiring for defects. STAY TUNED FOR MORE CONCESSION TALK!