Is the size/capacity of the kettle important?
The kettle’s capacity is important; however, the diameter, depth and shape of the kettle are even MORE important. The depth of the kettle should be deep enough to keep large batches of corn in the kettle as they pop (as you stir, the corn goes up the sides of the kettle), yet shallow enough that you can easily stir. A kettle with a spherical shaped bottom (like our 160 quart kettle) creates the best heat/flame distribution and allows for easier stirring. Its large diameter has more surface area in contact with the flame, which helps the oil, corn & sugar heat up faster. This is one of the secrets to being able to produce massive amounts of kettle corn in a short amount of time. A kettle that’s too deep is simply unnecessary, wasted volume. We could easily add 4 inches to the top of our 160 quart kettle, which would increase the capacity to over 200 quarts – but it would still have the same popping production times.
Our kettle has an actual volume capacity of 160 quarts. In fact, we were the first to manufacture a 160 quart kettle corn popping machine. There are some manufacturers who advertise a 160 quart capacity on their kettle, but in reality the capacity is much less than that. It is unknown whether this is a deliberate act of deception or simply ignorance. As the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” However, be careful to actually GET what you pay for! You might get only a 110 quart kettle when you ordered a 160 quart kettle. Be sure to verify the kettle dimensions and calculate the volume. Calculating the volume of a sphere may take you back to your high school geometry class, but it will be well worth it. And remember, there are 57.75 cubic inches per quart.
You may see 80 quart machines on the market. These actually utilize commercial mixing bowls intended for use with a commercial mixer; these bowls are cheap and readily available. They are narrow, deep, and do not have a smooth bottom; there is a “bump” on the bottom made for the beaters to go around. These factors make it awkward for the person stirring; you cannot move your paddle in a push/pull motion, but must stir (with your arms extended!) in a circular motion around the bump. We have had many customers switch from an 80 quart kettle to the 160; they are always amazed at how much easier it is to pop a batch – even batches twice as big as they had been popping! Another thing to consider is that these 80 quart bowls are made from a thinner material, so it’s much easier to burn your kettle corn. The size, thickness & shape of our 160 quart kettle is designed for popping large batches of kettle corn with relative ease. Do your research; buy smart.