I always pop corn the same way. I’ll add a lot of oil to the pot, sprinkle in three (3) test kernels and heat them over medium-high heat. Once those test kernels have popped then—and only then—would I dump in the remaining popcorn. It turns out those test kernels were completely unnecessary.
Why was I bothering with these three kernels to begin with? The internet had told me to, and the internet is a great resource. What made me change my mind? Empirical data. Yesterday morning (a normal time to make popcorn) I was making some cheese popcorn and—in a pre-coffee haze—I dumped all of my unpopped kernels into the pot before the oil had had a chance to heat.
At first I was all “oh no,” but then I started to question the necessity of those three test kernels—what had they ever really provided? The truth is that the test kernels had never varied in texture or flavour from the ones that were added once the oil was heated, though they had provided a little snack for me to enjoy while the “real” popcorn popped. But waiting for them to pop meant I had to hover around the stove until I heard three, faint, singular pops, and I found that to be the hardest part. (You know what’s much easier to hear? A whole bunch of pops.)
Anyway. I let the popcorn heat along with the oil then, once I heard the sound of corn popping, returned to the kitchen to shake the pot like I usually do, ensuring no kernel was left unpopped (or allowed to scorch). The resulting popcorn was of the exact same quality as corn that had been popped in pre-heated oil, and I had successfully eliminated a step in my popcorn making process, which is great news, because I simply love to streamline.