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I see your standard popper comes with a black powder-coated finish, but you also offer stainless steel and aluminum. Can you explain the differences?

The previous question and answer address why our oven box is powder-coated, so we’ll focus on the other two available finishes. Stainless steel has always been a leading material in the fabrication of commercial food service equipment. It’s easy to clean, looks professional, is a hard and durable metal, and resists corrosion. The only disadvantage to using stainless steel would be the amount of grease, oil spatter and sugar the popper will show after several batches are popped. Because of this, the machine needs to be wiped down constantly in order to appear clean. Stainless steel has a very “commercial” look; many people prefer the old-fashioned appearance of our black popper.

We’re hesitant to recommend aluminum. From a fabrication standpoint, it’s relatively cheap and easy to work with, but it’s not necessarily the best choice of metal for a kettle corn popper. To be honest, we only offer aluminum in order to remain competitive with lower grade poppers out there. So, if a customer wants it, we’ll make it for them in superior fashion. Unlike stainless steel, aluminum will corrode over time unless it has an anodized finish. Aluminum’s rust forms as a white chalky oxide. Aluminum has a “grippy” property to it which makes cleaning a chore. Aluminum has a low melting point; when exposed to heat, it discolors much sooner than other metals. In fact, we have received feedback from some of our customers who have owned aluminum poppers before upgrading to a North Bend popper. They said the aluminum on their machine would become extremely hot, very quickly. Its ability to conduct heat is approximately 5 times more than that of powder-coated carbon steel or stainless steel, so without proper ventilation the sides and top will gather more heat than other metals. The only potential upside to aluminum is that it’s a bit lighter in weight. A common misconception is that aluminum is equal in strength to carbon and stainless steel; in reality, steel is twice as strong as aluminum. To make up for the strength dilemma, a thicker gauge/thickness of aluminum must be used (otherwise aluminum will bend, crack and warp over time). So in the end, a “lighter” piece of equipment is not really achieved. We had a customer who had purchased a competitor’s aluminum model. Within a few months, his machine had serious bending and warping in the hinge area. From an engineering standpoint, aluminum is a poor choice for building a kettle corn machine. Hopefully, you as the customer will do your research and make an informed decision. Buy smart.

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