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Pancakes

Pancakes are a test of any home chef's ability and a cornerstone of American cuisine. What is the best way to make pancakes?

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  1. Sift your dry ingredients, don't overmix the wet and dry ingredients, let the batter rest at least an hour (if not overnight) before cooking.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Letting the batter sit is fine for either crepes (without leavening), or pancakes using double acting baking powder. It is not a good idea for baking soda recipes.

      Sitting has two potential advantages - allowing full hydration of the flour, and relaxing any gluten developed during mixing.

      A resting period is common in crepe recipes. However CI claims that it isn't needed, or even desirable, in the case of sauced crepes (crepes suzette) since they should be sturdy enough to stand up to the sauce.

      1. re: paulj

        When I started cooking, I used Bisquick and other pancake mixes. They always came out tough and rather flat, until someone told me to let the batter sit for at least 20 minutes, until there are a lot of bubbles on the surface. That solved the problem.

        I also think it's important, in the case of typical hotcake/flapjack type pancakes, no to use much oil in the pan, and to keep the heat no higher than medium, depending on your stove.
        Flip when the edges are visibly dry and the surface evenly covered with bubbles. Take a peek at the underside before flipping and make a note of what the uncooked top looks like when the underside is the right color and ready to flip.

        When cooking for a friend who needed to minimize fat and dairy while getting over an illness,
        I made flapjacks subbing applesauce for half the milk, and omitted egg yolks. These came out very tender and moist so though I use whole eggs when making pancakes for general consumption, I still like to use some applesauce as part of the liquid.

    2. Follow a recipe in a good cookbook. Joy of Cooking for starters.

      In my experience, the need for skill and experience is in the cooking, not in mixing the batter. For a beginner, a pancake mix makes a perfectly good batter. Where you need practice and knowledge is in selecting a good pan, right heat, judging when to turn them, flipping them, etc. Burnt pancakes, uneven cooking, splatters during turning, etc are all the result of wrong choices during the cooking process, not a matter of the wrong batter.

      1. "Pancakes are a test of any home chef's ability"

        You're kidding right? Children make pancakes, it is one of the simplest and earliest dishes a child makes in learning to cook..

        I disagree that making pancakes is a test of a home chef's capabilities.

        10 Replies
        1. re: FrankJBN

          I agree, an omelette is a better indicator of cooking skill than pancakes.

            1. re: tim irvine

              yikes Caneles, I consider myself an excellent cook, but I don't even dare to try Caneles.
              \

          1. re: FrankJBN

            Not everyone makes good pancakes. Good technique is required. Omelets are indeed more complex.

            1. re: Ruthie789

              Can you talk about complexity of omelets without specifying the type? Even if talking about quick French ones, Jaques Pepin demonstrates two versions, the more refined one, and a more rustic one that his mother made. And ignoring the filling for the moment, the 'batter' for omelets is simpler - just eggs.

              1. re: paulj

                Heat management, technique and texture make for complexity with cooking eggs IMO. The perfect mix of cooked and set but still soft and creamy, the perfect level of incorporation of yolks into whites and of air (or not) whipped into the mix, the perfect thickness of the egg layer, the perfect roll, or with scrambled, the perfect curd size. I agree that suberb eggs are much more difficult than superb pancakes. Egg cookery is a common test of skill in a professional kitchen with good reason.
                It's all about the minutiae. A lot like bread. Bread made with decent technique can be very good. Outstanding bread is a whole nuther level.
                Often the simpler something is, the more difficult it is to get perfect. OTOH, most people probably wouldn't notice or care. You're either a detail person or you're not.

                It seems like pancakes have vastly different versions of perfection depending on the eater. Perhaps because they aren't burdened by the mandates of French technique. Less wiggle room with eggs, no pun intended.

                1. re: splatgirl

                  Perhaps because they aren't burdened by the mandates of French technique. Less wiggle room with eggs, no pun intended.

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                  What does French techniques have to do with making eggs well?

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    'they' demand that scrambled eggs be insubstantial soft curds, and omelets be perfect pale footballs ... :)

                2. re: paulj

                  "Can you talk about complexity of omelets without specifying the type?"

                  Yes.

              2. re: FrankJBN

                Did you know you can make a pancake in the microwave? You know, with batter.

              3. My guy makes the most outstanding pancakes I've ever had. He is not even sort of a cook--this, egg sandwiches and popcorn are about the extent of his (mad) skills. I'm not sure if that means I agree or disagree with your statement about ability :)
                Anyway

                Cast iron skillet and bacon grease. The recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. A crispy and dark bordering on burnt welt around the edges. Blueberries if I ask nice, and extra bacon for the cook.
                Those texturally blah nonstick skillet-cooked pancakes can suck it.

                1. It depends on the kind you want but the lightest fluffliest ones are when you whip the whites and gently fold into batter, eg Cake Bible. My favorite is Cook Ilustrated's Best Recipe one w/ buttermilk. It's denser than the Cake Bible one.