10 Mistakes You’re Making with Your Pancakes

Updated: Jan. 12, 2024

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.

Is your weekend not complete without a towering stack of pancakes? We get it! But sometimes even the most enthusiastic pancake flippers make a few flubs. To help you have the best Sunday morning breakfast ever, check out the most common pancake mistakes—and how to avoid them.

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Heating griddle with butter and spatula
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Not Heating Your Skillet

Putting batter in a cold skillet is a recipe for wimpy pancakes. Make sure to heat your skillet over medium heat (or about 375ºF on an electric griddle). When the batter hits the hot pan, it’ll start to cook right away giving you a golden exterior and those slightly crispy edges you crave.

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Mixing Batter in a Bowl
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Overmixing the Batter

Avoid the temptation to overmix the batter. Overmixing can lead to tough, chewy pancakes. That’s because excess stirring can overdevelop gluten.

Instead, make a well in your dry ingredients and stir in the wet components. Whisk until the batter is just combined. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps left; the pancakes will turn out just fine.

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Cup of sugar
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Skipping Sugar

Looking at pancake recipes—including our best-ever pancake recipe—you’ll see they call for just a touch of sugar. You might think since it’s just a tablespoon or two, you could skip this ingredient. However, don’t skip the sugar! Its role in the recipe isn’t so much for sweetness but for crystallization and caramelization.

A touch of sugar in the batter will help the pancakes brown and will create that slightly crispy edge around each hotcake.

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Using the Wrong Pan

While your stainless steel skillet may see a lot of use in your kitchen, it’s not the right tool for the job. For making flapjacks, opt for a large nonstick skillet or electric griddle. You can even use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. If using cast iron, you may want to add a touch of butter to the pan to prevent sticking.

No matter what pan you choose, make sure that you have plenty of space so you can fit a few pancakes in the pan.

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3 pancakes on a pan
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Crowding the Pan

First and foremost, crowding the pan makes it very difficult to flip the pancakes. If you can hardly squeeze your spatula into the pan, you won’t have any luck flipping the perfect pancake.

Also, giving pancakes a little space—an inch or two—allows them to brown more quickly and evenly.

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Making Pancakes Only on the Griddle

If you’re making breakfast for a crowd, odds are you don’t want to be hovering over the griddle all morning. In these instances, you can make pancakes right in the oven. Sheet pan pancakes, like these baked blueberry pancakes and coconut-macadamia sheet pan pancakes, allow you to get that same pancake feeling without any flipping.

Sheet pan pancakes are made in a large jelly roll pan. You can make them from scratch or even use a pancake mix as a base.

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Flipping the pancake
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Flipping 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.

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Sun rays shining on a pan in kitchen
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Not Monitoring the Heat

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.

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Pancakes, pancake pre mix box, bacons and milk in the glass

Skipping a Good Mix

Think that if you don’t have time or ingredients for from-scratch pancakes you should skip flipping altogether? Think again! There are some really excellent pancake mixes on the market. Our Test Kitchen sampled 10 different mixes to find the very best. Some of their top picks include Krusteaz and King Arthur Baking Company.

And if you want to take these shortcut flapjacks to the next level, learn how to make pancake mix taste homemade.

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Opting for Just Maple Syrup

Don’t get us wrong: Maple syrup is a delicious pancake topper—but it’s not the only way to top hotcakes. Top your shortstack with fruity syrups; try blueberry syrup or apple spice syrup. You can also top flapjacks with jams, compotes, sliced fruit and whipped cream. Try a few!

Think you’ve gotten a handle on hotcakes? How about moving on to mastering the art of making French Toast?