10 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Pancakes
Pancakes are the all-star of the breakfast (and brunch) table. They should be easy to make, and yet there's so many ways to ruin them. Here are the mistakes you may be making, and how to overcome them to craft the perfect pancakes.
Using the wrong pan
Ask anyone: an electric griddle with the temperature set to 375° is your best choice for your most predictable pancakes (predictable being a good thing here!). If you don’t have one, then the next best thing is a well-seasoned cast-iron griddle, or any large skillet that heats evenly and has a lot of flat surface space. A non-stick skillet will also work. Get yourself the right pan, and get started plowing through our best pancake recipes.
Using the wrong utensils
It’s crucial to use a bowl that’s large enough for you to comfortably and lightly mix all of your ingredients with a fork or a whisk. As for your spatula, use one that’s large, wide, angled and heat-proof. Some people say pancakes are all in the flipping. You won’t know if it’s true unless you have the right spatula.
Not using salt or sugar
Baking powder and baking soda will build lift and lightness. They also contain a slightly salty taste, but that doesn’t mean you should skip the salt. If you skip it, you’ll miss it. Same goes for sugar. It’s not about the sweetness so much as it is the crystallization that creates crispiness at the edges of your pancakes (although it is a little bit about the sweetness). Here is a pretty darn perfect buttermilk pancake recipe, which uses just the right amount of sugar for a sweet crispiness at the edge and the right amount of salt to bring out that sweet taste.
Not taking “buttermilk” seriously
Admit it. You’ve skipped the buttermilk, substituting whole milk, right? Big mistake. If the recipe calls for buttermilk, use buttermilk (here’s how). It brings a pleasant, acidic tang to this soothing comfort food, but more importantly, reacts with baking soda and helps to tenderize the flour. If your recipe calls for buttermilk and you use something else, your pancakes will lack in soft texture. But if you don’t have buttermilk, here’s a trick: stir in a few tablespoons of mayonnaise with your eggs and oil. Seriously, it’s the secret ingredient for the fluffiest pancakes ever.
Overmixing the batter
Pancake batter should never be overmixed. Overmixing overdevelops the gluten, which will make a tough pancake, regardless of your use of buttermilk (or mayo). Stir the ingredients until they’re just blended. One way to avoid overmixing is to mix the dry ingredients together first, and then make a well in the middle of them, into which you pour the wet ingredients. You can blend the wet ingredients in the well before stirring the whole thing together. And don’t worry about the lumps; they’ll take care of themselves.
Not fully preheating
Be sure to preheat the skillet fully before you add batter, or you won’t get those crispy edges you know you want in your perfect pancake. It should sizzle when you pour your batter (you can test that with a drop of water, which also makes the sizzling sound).
Using the wrong fat
Butter tastes great, but it browns too quickly on the high heat of your skillet to be useful for making pancakes. A good pancake requires a fat with a higher smoke point—such as canola oil, shortening, coconut oil or even ghee or clarified butter. Coconut oil’s slightly sweet taste makes it an extra attractive option if you’ve got it.
Crowding the pan
If you crowd the pan, your pancakes won’t crisp up at the edges because the relative coolness of the batter will cool down the cooking temperature of your pan. So be patient, and keep your pancakes at least one inch apart. (This’ll also give you more space to flip them.)
Flipping the pancakes too soon
Speaking of patience, resist the urge to flip your pancakes before you see bubbles all over the surface. Watch for them to pop—that’s when you’ll want to turn them, and not a moment later.
Not paying attention to the heat as you go
If you don’t have an electric skillet, you’ll need to pay attention to the heat as you go. The general rule of thumb is to use medium heat. Too hot means you’ll burn the outside before cooking the inside. Too low means you won’t get crispy edges. If while you’re cooking, the skillet starts to smoke, the heat has become too high—turn off the burner and wait a few minutes before continuing.
Think you’ve gotten a handle on hotcakes? How about moving on to mastering the art of making French Toast?