Pancakes are easy enough, right?
Mix batter, fry in pan, slather in butter and syrup, and voila, mission accomplished.
The perfect pancakes, though?
You know… round, fluffy, golden, and crispy confections that you simply can’t get enough of?
Making those take some skills.
The secret is in how you mix, rest, heat, and flip, and I’m going to break it all down for you in this article. By the end, you’re going to know how to take your pancake game to a whole other level.
Let’s dig in.
The first pancake mistake many people make is trying to get too fancy with their ingredients. More ingredients doesn’t necessarily make better pancakes.
All you really need, at least to learn how to make great pancakes, is flour, eggs and milk.
As far as pancakes are concerned, eggs are eggs and milk is milk, but different flours will produce different results.
First, I recommend that you stick with wheat flour (unless you have problems with gluten or simply prefer another type). Generally speaking, it’s the easiest to work with and produces the best pancakes.
You have three types of wheat flour to choose from:
1. Plain flour
This is best for thin, crepe-style pancakes.
2. Self-raising flour
This produces thicker, fluffier pancakes and is what most people prefer.
3. Whole wheat flour
This makes heartier, nuttier-flavored pancakes.
You can go with just one flour or combine two or all three in varying proportions to get different flavors and textures. Experiment and see what works best for you!
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I mentioned in the beginning of this article that mixing and resting are two of the “secret” to making the perfect pancakes.
Well, I was referring the batter, because how you mix and rest it makes all the difference in your pancakes.
That’s what we’re going to talk about here, and to help keep it simple, I’m going to recommend that you work with the simplest pancakes recipe out there:
For Thicker, Traditional-Style Pancakes
1 cup sifted self-raising flour
1 cup milk
Generous pinch of salt (optional)
For Thinner, Crepe-Like Pancakes
1 cup sifted plain flour
½ cup milk
Generous pinch of salt (optional)
Or, if you want something in the middle, experiment with various mixtures of the two types of flours until you find your sweet spot.
Oh and the reason for the sifted flour is makes smoother batter and pancakes than unsifted. It’s worth the effort, I think.
Now onto the prep.
First, for the best possible results, all your ingredients should be at room temperature.
Add your flour(s) to the bowl first and mix them up if you’re using more than one type.
Next comes the wet ingredients, which you want to whisk vigorously (or blend or food process) until you have a creamy, lump-free batter (don’t overmix, though, or you’ll wind up with a tough, dough-like paste that makes poor pancakes).
Next is the resting period, which is an often overlooked step to making the perfect pancakes.
Rest the batter for at least 15 minutes, allowing the starch to absorb the liquid and swell. This, in turn, sets your batter up for the telltale sign of fluffy, delicious pancakes: bubbling while they cook. When you see the bubbles, you know you’re doing it right.
After your batter has finished resting, your prep is done. You’re ready to cook.
And now we get to the fun part.
The first step is heating a heavy pan or skillet over a medium heat.
You want something hefty, like cast iron, because it heats more evenly than lighter cookware, which helps prevent half-cooked, half-burned pancakes.
Very important: you need to give the pan time to heat thoroughly before you start cooking.
Even though you’re cooking over a medium heat, the pan needs to get hot. You know it’s ready when you flick water on it and it sizzles.
The next step is the test run.
Despite conscientiously following every step given so far, the batter may be slightly too thick or too runny, or the pan might not be quite hot enough, and so forth.
You can find out with your first pancake, or you can do a small test run, which is very simple: pour a small amount of batter into the pan and see how the mini-flapjack turns out.
If the batter spreads out while still holding a shape, and then begins to bubble, you’re in business.
If it doesn’t spread, it’s too thick and needs more liquid, and if it spreads too much, it needs more flour. The bubbling, we recall, is the product of resting the batter adequately (if it’s too thick, that can prevent proper bubbling, too).
When you have all green lights, start by coating the pan with a light film of butter or oil.
An easy way to do this is toss a small dollop of butter in the pan, run it over the entirety of the cooking surface, and then give it a quick wipe with a paper towel.
If you prefer oil, pour a small amount in a bowl, dip a paper towel in it, and coat the pan.
Depending on how big you want your pancakes, either use a ladle (for full-plate size pancakes or crepes), or a serving spoon to evenly pour the pancake batter into the pan.
If you’re going for thick pancakes, spoon the batter into one central point and let it disperse itself into rounds.
If you’re doing the thinner variety, pour into a central point and gently tilt the pan to spread it wider.
Cook each pancake for 1 to 2 minutes, until you see bubbles breaking and the edges lifting.
There’s no need to touch the pancakes until this is happening, at which point you want to check for color before flipping.
Use a spatula to gently look under one edge, and if you see golden brown, then you’re ready to flip. Slide the spatula underneath, lift it off the pan, and gently flick your wrist over to begin cooking the other side.
Don’t flatten the pancake with the spatula after flipping it. All this will do is make it tougher and harder.
Cook the other side for approximately the same amount of time as the first, and then check for color. Once it’s golden brown, it’s ready to be set aside or immediately devoured (my preference!).
Before you cook the next pancake, wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and reapply butter or oil.
And that’s it!
You now know how to make pancakes so good that you’ll be looking for excuses to eat them every day.
Oh, and a little tip: if you wrap freshly cooked pancakes in foil and stick them in a 350-degree oven, they’ll keep warm for about an hour before they start to dry out and lose their luster.
You can store excess batter in the fridge overnight. Simply cover the bowl with some plastic wrap.
Before making a new batch from the refrigerated mix, let it stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. You may also need to add extra liquid to reach your desire texture.
You can store cooked pancakes in an airtight container or on a plate covered by plastic wrap. They’ll keep for 3 to 4 days and can be reheated.
You can even freeze pancakes. They are just little disks of bread, after all!
This means that you can cook up large batches in one go (as a part of a meal prep, for example) and enjoy them throughout the week.
Freeze them in an airtight container or ziplock bag, separating each individual pancake with parchment paper to keep them from freezing together into a solid lump.
The easiest way to reheat pancakes is to send them to the microwave.
If they’re refrigerated, cook times vary between 10 seconds for one pancake and about 30 seconds for five (I don’t recommend trying to heat up more than five at a time) should be good.
If they’re frozen, change those times to 20 and 60 seconds.
You can also reheat your pancakes in the oven.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees, stack your pancakes into a foil packet or lay them out on a roasting tray and cover with foil, and check every 10 minutes until they’re warm and ready to eat.
It’s the little things that make the difference between rubbery, flat pancakes that disappoint and fluffy, golden ones that delight.
Here’s how it breaks down:
Do all that and I promise that you’ll be making perfect pancakes every time.