HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Pancake Tricks?

Total cooking novice looking to make pancakes for GF. Will buy any mix (or even the bottles of pre-mixed batter).

But what about cooking them? What's the dancing water drop trick? Do I let the batter sit (in fridge? on counter?)? What are the tricks?

(I assume the first pancake will be used to test the heat of the griddle...)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I use the "fluffy pancakes" recipe from allrecipes.com. I substitute brown sugar for the white, use buttermilk instead of regular and add a couple of shakes of cinnamon and ground ginger. I let the batter sit in the fridge to the buttermilk and the baking powder have time to react (about an hour or so) and then I use a double griddle from Pampered Chef sprayed with a little pam. 1/4cup at a time, flip when the edges are dry and slather with real butter and legit maple.

    1. One trick is to not use a mix. The ingredients for a pancake are pretty simple. You probably either have the ingredients on hand or should have them in your pantry anyway.

      Also, don't overmix the batter: it will turn out tough. Mix it until it just comes together. There will be lumps...but that's OK.

      1. My mom can make good pancakes from a mix, my grandpa can make good pancakes from a mix, I cannot. However, the other night I made the most perfect pancakes, if I do say so myself, using this recipe: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36612... You will not fail with this recipe! Also, I let my batter sit for about 15 minutes, purely by coincidence, but then I read in King Arthur Flour's magazine that you should let it sit for 15 minutes for a fluffier pancake!

        1. Pancakes are pretty easy to make from scratch. I learned using a Better Homes and Garden cookbook recipe, but now I pretty much throw it together, adding in whatever spices, nuts, fruits, chocolates, etc that I'm up for that day (ooh...try banana and dark chocolate pancakes...YUM). The basic recipe Katie Nell posted would also be a great starting point.

          As others have noted, barely mix the batter...needs to be lumpy. Also, let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before making the pancakes. Do try to make buttermilk pancakes. And, if you are like me, then you have it right about the first pancake. Mine is always a bust.

          When I'm making pancakes for a crowd, I put my serving tray in the oven at 200 and put early batches in there while I cook up the rest of the batter.

          1. I happen to like Bisquick pancakes. Big thick and fluffy. That's what I grew up on and I don't enjoy any other mixes. I've had restaurant pancakes and I still think Bisquick hits the spot! I'm not much into putting stuff in the batter, however, chopped pecans make a great addition.

            I use a cast iron griddle at about 300 degrees.

            1. I put my pan to medium heat or perhaps a little bit lower. I have found this to be the common rookie mistake:
              Even if I preheat my pan for a few minutes, it never seems to be fully heated and the first batch seems to cook too slowly. RESIST THE URGE TO INCREASE THE HEAT. If you do, by the third batch you'll be left scratching your head at why they are all getting burnt on the bottom before they are firm enough to flip.

              1. Some fresh blueberries never hurt a good pancake. If you want to impress GF make a heart shape out of anything and dust the top pancake with a powder sugar heart stencil. Guarenteed to win points. Just lightly though., let her add butter and maple.

                1. Put in slightly more milk than called for to get better intitial spread and even thickness, and a slightly lighter pancake.

                  1. Do not overmix - I couple of quick stirs with a big spoon will do it. Pancake batter relies on the baking soda/baking powder to react with the buttermilk or other acids in the other ingredients to make little bubbles and fluff up the mix. It does not need to be beaten like cake batter.

                    Add enough liquid so the batter can pour easily from a ladle - the consistency should be thinner than yogurt, but thick enough that it doesn't pool and loose it's shape.

                    If you have a friend in Canada, the Loblaws' supermarket house brand of President's Choice Complete pancake mix is pretty good, especially with real Canadian maple syrup. If you're going to take the trouble to cook your own pancakes, better have the real McCoy on hand, not the Log Cabin fake stuff.

                    1. Thin = flapjack. Thick = panCAKE.

                      That's my word and I'm stickin' with it :)

                      1. I remember someone once telling me when using pancake mix to use seltzer instead of water. I usually don't use the ready-made mixes but I was wondering if anyone has ever heard of this/tried it.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: L_W

                          I read that tip in Cooks Illustrated -- they said they tested it and it worked, creating fluffier pancakes.

                          1. re: Pia

                            my dad puts seltzer in his waf!

                        2. You're right that the first pancake is normally the "sacrificial pancake" :) Put it on when the pan seems hot (one possible criterion is that when you throw a few drops of water on it, they should sizzle and evaporate-- but not *too* instantly!) By the time the first pancake is done and brown, the pan will really be ready.

                          If you're using a good non-stick skillet, you need little or no grease. I used to wonder why my pancakes (cooked in butter) were always more unevenly browned than my mom's-- turns out, it's because with less grease, the pancake has a chance to be in even direct contact with the surface.

                          For taller pancakes, you can also drop slightly smaller scoops onto the griddle than you'd otherwise be inclined to do, and then once you've put down all of them, go back around and add a little more. (That way, tthe very bottom part has had a chance to set slightly, you get less spread and more height)

                          I've had good luck with one on epicurious.com called "buttermilk pancakes"-- they're a good plain base, that can be jazzed up with additions or toppings as you please.

                            1. I like using a lot of butter in the pan. Gives you nice crispy edges which I think make even a decent pancake incredible. I also like to make silver dollar pancakes which increases the crispy edge ratio for each pancake. Also, I grew up eating silver dollars at my local diner so I just got used to enjoying the size of them and eating each in one or two bites so they don't get soggy under the syrup.

                              Regarding the batter, definitely don't overmix. Stir just enough to get a decent amount of the flour mixed in. If there are still some chunks of dry ingredients its okay. Then let the batter sit for 15 or so minutes. The batter will thicken slightly in this time and will get thicker the longer it sits, so make sure it is the right consistency before resting it.

                              1. I add a teaspoon of Vanilla and a dollop of Ricotta to my pancake batter. People like / notice the difference but can't tell what it is.

                                Best mix for 2 by far are the Hungry Jack pre-measured pouches. These are excellent!

                                I'm currently using Alton Brown's recipe w/ pre-mixed dry ingredients in small plastic 1 cup containers.

                                1. A way to tell if they're done (if you don't already know!) is that the pancake
                                  batter will bubble in the middle, then you know it's time to flip them.
                                  The secret to really fluffy pancakes (I feel), is in the baking powder.
                                  That is, if you're making them from scratch. Obviously make sure it's fresh,
                                  and they'll turn out really fluffy.

                                  1. Whip your egg whites until stiff and fold in just before making. Light & Fluffy!

                                    1. I swear by the joy of cooking recipe. Its fantastic, easy, always works great. For a super easy sunday morning you can always mix the dry ingredients in advance (DIY pancake mix) and then add the egg, milk, and melted butter when I'm ready to make the pancakes. I use a non-stick frying pan with just a little cooking spray.

                                      The real secret is to add a little cinnamon and vanilla in the batter. I also like to core an apple and slice in thin into rounds, put one on top of each pancake after you pour the batter in the pan. When you flip the pancakes the apple with carmelize and cook slightly. Yum! You can keep the pancakes warm in a low 200F oven until you've got them all done. Real maple syrup is of course essential. Its very hard to go wrong.

                                      1. My cousin, The Engineer, peels and cores an apple, and then shreds it into the batter.

                                        1. It may not be wise to share this here, but in a pinch, I recently made pancakes with Aunt Jemima mix and they were gross. I like Bisquick too (grew up on it) but also have tried the Trader Joes multi-grain mix and that's pretty good. Good luck!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: jenhen2

                                            Trouble with Bisquick and TJ's Multi-grain is that they contain buttermilk powder. I always use the real thing so I have to read labels to make sure that a mix is buttermilk-friendly.

                                          2. There are a number of little things that can go wrong, that I would minimize potetnail issues and KISS (kiss the gf afterwards as well).

                                            1 - First time use a mix. Do NOT use one of the "all in ones" where you just add water. You gotta have some skin in the game.
                                            2 - Take the syrup out of the fridge or pantry and place the container in a bowl of warm water to warm up.
                                            3 - Follow the directions and BLEND gently with a fork and do not overmix. Do NOT use a whisk.
                                            4 - After you blend the mix, set the timer for 10 minutes and go make a Mimosa
                                            5 - When the buzzer goes off turn it off and place a non-stick skillet on a medium heat. When you think it is at temperature, place a drop of water on the skillet. If it bounces it is too hot. If it sits there and starts to bubble and evaporate, you got it.
                                            6 - Use a soup ladle or a 1/4 cup and place the pancakes onto the griddle.
                                            7 - Leave it alone
                                            8 - Take a sip of the Mimosa
                                            9 - The pancake will begin to have some bubbles on them as they cook . THIS IS GOOD. When you see the edge has a little color and the top is pretty dry flip it carefully. Try not to have the pancake fall on another one.
                                            10 - Cook the second side. Flip onto a plate
                                            11 - A little powdered sugar, to the table with the syrup.
                                            12 - Smile and enjoy
                                            13 - NICE JOB!!!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: jfood

                                              Why use a mix for the 1st time? It's actually only really 2 steps.
                                              Make the flour mixture, and the milk mixture (with things added to both,
                                              depending on the recipe!), and then add the flour mixture almost all @ once!
                                              Not too hard, even for the 1st timer! :-) (Although I do like the Mimosa idea!) ;-)
                                              I also agree with the little bubbles on them as they cook. However, I think that
                                              most people could make pancakes from scratch if they tried! :-)

                                            2. Boy jfood really covered it!

                                              I make the batter the night before. I find the ingred. settle up nicely. If I intend to add fresh fruit or other stir-ins, I do so just before I plan to start makin' pancakes.

                                              Consider adding a teaspoon of almond extract for a light, fragrance
                                              Grate some orange peel over prepared pancakes and serve with warmed maple syrup

                                              Use a frying skillet with low sides, flat is best
                                              Melted butter brushed on a heated pan between every three-four pancakes keeps the consistent browning going

                                              Have fun !

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                HJ, you got me inspired this morning with your Food Snob/Lover comment.

                                                If the OP really wants to impress, slice a couple of strawberries 3/4 the way through, fan carefully and place on the plate. Then for the piece de resistance, one beautiful rose in a simple vase on the table.

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  ah shucks jfood-there's enuf inspiration on these threads to last countless food -eatin life times! best, HillJ.

                                              2. Stonewall Kitchens pancake mix never fails, but add more vanilla extract

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: bettyb

                                                  Interesting! Why use vanilla extract?
                                                  I have a slightly "older" Fannie Farmer recipe/cookbook,
                                                  that doesn't call for any vanilla extract.
                                                  What does that do to the pancakes? Just curious.
                                                  I might just try that! :-)

                                                  1. re: pianochikke

                                                    I add either vanilla extract or powder (powder's better for this, but I don't always have it) it tends to cut any "doughy" flavor you might have, and it just enhances the flavor. I also put a little extract in the syrup, which again gives it a fuller, richer flavor. Try it and enjoy!

                                                2. If you can find it there is a great pancake mix called "Snoqualmi Falls Pancake Mix". It comes from the Pacific NW and is realy quite good as far a mixes go. I has lots of flavor and doesn't make the gumy pasty pancakes most mixes do. It also doubles for a nice waffle mix as well.

                                                  After you get a little experience under your belt there is a book called the "Bread Bible" that has some wonderfull breakfast ideas (pancakes, scones, coffee cake, ect.). The buttermilk pancakes from the bread bible are really good.


                                                  1. Okay, I see a bunch or warnings here not to over-mix and just have to pipe in with a counter-warning -- still have shuddery memories of my dear well-intentioned dad's pancakes with clumps of raw flour and backing powder/soda in them and it was truly a dreadful experience biting into one of them. Have issues with pancakes to this day because of it. Just had to put that out there.

                                                    When I do make pancakes for little bite-bite 2 which I actually do quite a bit, I use Whole Foods pancake mix out of laziness (some day will motivate to make mixture myself and keep in a tin) and add the suggested optional egg. Personally I don't worry about the water-drop thing. Just melt butter in pan at medium temp (too high and it will burn, too low and it can get butter-logged and do adjust temp depending on how first pancake cooks). When butter is sizzling, pour in 1/4 cup or less pancake mixture, wait until batter gets bubbly on top and flip over. Sometimes add blueberries, chocolate chips or bananas to uncooked top side while underside is cooking. Have noticed that when I make too much batter and leave in fridge, it is a little bubblier/fluffier that next day.

                                                    BTW -- Making pancakes for the first time for the girlfriend too adorable. Good luck!

                                                    1. Funny, I found Krusteez to be a good mix. Bisquick is OK. Frankly, the ingredients are so basic and easy to put together, from scratch doesn't take too much longer. that little bit of salt is important for flavor!

                                                      As everyone said, definitey let it rest.

                                                      I like to mix in canned pumpkin and cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and ginger. (or, heck, pumpkin pie mix).

                                                      or perhaps some very mushy bananas.

                                                      My sister in law drops chocolate chunks into my nephew's pancakes.

                                                      Adding some rolled oats into the batter before setting can add nice texture.

                                                      John o' Groats, on Pico in L.A. does a pancake with lemon curd and powdered sugar on top.

                                                      My mother used to make very thin english/european pancakes for Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday). We'd cover them in lemon juice, butter and sugar, roll them up and eat them that way. Every Pancake Day we'd have them for dinner.


                                                      Oh, yes, and buy a dog so you have someone to give all the "first pancakes" to. That's some sort of law, I think :)

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Diana

                                                        My dad does the same thing -- Easter pancakes -- yum!