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Why can't I make pancakes?

I am a reasonably good cook, and a reasonably good baker, yet I cannot make a decent pancake to save my life. Invariably, the outside cooks faster than the inside, so I either end up with a cooked-through pancake that is a bit burnt, or a beautifully golden pancake that is mushy in the middle.

What am I doing wrong?

I've tried with many recipes that others find reliable-to-excellent, so I don't think that the problem is, e.g. a mistaken ratio of wet to dry ingredients, or a lack of leavening. I know what I'm supposed to see before I flip: dry edges, bubbles on top. I know I'm not supposed to overmix the batter, and that I may want to let it rest. But adhering to all these guidelines isn't helping.

Is my pan too hot? Too cold? Are my pancakes too big? Tips, tricks, and surefire pancake cooking methodologies badly wanted.

(Note: I am currently saddled with an electric stove, so techniques which don't rely on super-refined temperature control would be most helpful.)

TIA!

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  1. have you tried a pancake mix ? not sure fm what you write whether you use a mix or from scratch. experiment with mixes first. easier to get good results then you can move on to the fm scratch stuff. i use a berndes crepe pan for my pancakes with pretty uniform good results.

    1. I always use buttermilk in my batter, in addition to extra baking powder; but if it's in the cooking itself, a hot cast iron skillet is key, with no grease (I put melted butter in the batter instead). I like mine a lot but who's to say.

      2 Replies
      1. re: coll

        Geez - I was just starting to praise myself for turning the heat down on my skillet and getting better results on my flapjacks... We've been using a nonstick pan and found that setting it on a medium heat let the cakes rise and cook a little more thoroughly... But I'll give the cast-iron a whirl when we get it out of our storage boxes - we're coming towards the end of our "beloved" remodel...

        1. re: bulavinaka

          I'm into the rise quickly, with a nice crust, kind of pancake. As long as I have real maple syrup, all is well.

      2. I put an iron griddle over two eyes on my (electric) stove. I put a small amount of oil on and then wipe almost all of it off with a paper towel. When the pancakes seem done I stack them on one side of the griddle while the others cooks, reversing the order of the stack periodically so each spends some time on top or on the griddle. Hope that helps!

        1. Chloe -- from your description of pancakes that are either burnt or mushy, it sounds like you need to adjust your temperature. Probably the easiest way is to get an electric griddle with a thermostat. I don't have one (and like you, I have an electric stove), so I experiment with burner settings until I find the set point for making the best pancakes, then I remember that set point. I use all 4 burners when I make pancakes. Not only does each burner have a different set point, but each pan also cooks differently, so I use the same pan on the same burner each time.

          4 Replies
          1. re: JepJonson

            Yes, it's all about temperature with pancakes. Try medium heat, about 350. The best method is to use an electric griddle where you can set the temp to that bullseye, otherwise you have to guess. It sounds like from your description that your pan is too hot. I think the mistake most people make with pancakes is temp, usually too hot because we feel like they should cook faster. But slow down, lower your temp and let them cook. You can pop them in a warm oven to keep them warm while you make the batch. Gas or electric makes no difference once you know the nuances of your stove. Good luck!

            1. re: sgwood415

              I agree with the suggestion to use an electric griddle. I just got one and not only can I control the temperature (350-375) much easier than on the stovetop, but I can make lots of pancakes at one time, which ultimately means I don't spend all morning at the stove while the rest of my family eats breakfast.

              On the recipe front, I actually have found that thinner/pourable batters don't work for me. I use plain yogurt thinned with a little milk in place of the buttermilk found in most recipes. I also separate the eggs and fold in the beaten egg whites at the end. My batter is definately thick and it produces some very fine pancakes-IMHO.

              By the by, I love Bette's Diner's "The Pancake Handbook." Great recipes and pancake cooking tips.

            2. re: JepJonson

              I agree with the suggestion to use an electric skillet. I have tried making pancakes in my cast iron skillet and in a non-stick pan on the stove and can never get consistently good pancakes the way I do with my electric skillet. I usually cook mine at somewhere between 350 and 375.

              1. re: flourgirl

                I just posted a thread on this same topic yesterday. I have a stove with a built-in griddle. I set the temp to 350 but the pancakes stuck to the surface of the griddle. I tried lowering the temp to 325 and while that helped with the sticking a little bit, none of the pancakes got any color. I'm at a total loss. Oh and I was using butter on the griddle as well.

            3. Thank goodness it's not just me. I have a terrible time with pancakes.

              One thing I've found that seems to make a big difference is using batter that calls for buttermilk.

              Usually, I just make fritatta.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mamaciita

                I'm in the same boat. My problem: they're beautiful and fluffy in the pan, but they collapse and become soggy the minute I plate them.