Everybody knows how to make pancakes. You can prepare a fairly decent stack of pancakes even if you are a first-time cook. There is nothing simpler than making pancakes from scratch. Or is there? Have you ever wondered why your first pancake never works? Or why instead of the fluffy, tall pancakes yours look like flat discs?
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This post is about pancake PERFECTION. It will show you how to make easy fluffy golden pancakes in no time, with a minimum mess in the kitchen.
To make perfect pancakes, you need to own high-quality kitchenware elements. Here are the basics.
The first and most important cookware element is the frying pan. An unsuitable, sticky pan will ruin even the best pancake recipe. The three rules for pans are non-stick, wide enough, and no hot spots. If you have a griddle or a skillet, feel free to use them.
Avoid pans with sloped sides and choose a heavy-bottomed pan. If the pan’s bottom is too thin, your pancakes will burn. You will need a pan that is wide enough to allow you easy flipping. I recommend a ceramic coated pan that is nonstick and can be heated to very high temperatures. Another upside is that ceramic pans don’t rust. The ceramic coating conducts heat very well so there will be no hot spots.
Buying a high-quality pancake pan will pay off. If you buy a bargain-cheap, non-stick pan at the supermarket you might end up with flakes from the non-stick coat in your sweet treat. A more expensive pan will last forever!
Second on the list is the spatula. This tool is essential for easy and efficient flipping. I have tried to do it with a spoon once, trust me, it is impossible. That is unless you are a flipping master and you can turn your pancakes by tossing them into the air, like that guy who holds the world record for most tosses (140) in one minute.
The perfect spatula should have a thin edge to let you get under the pancake and flip it easily, without any tearing or wrinkling. You can use a metal one, but if you have a nonstick pan or skillet you can choose a silicone or rubber spatula.
Cups, bowls, spoons, and more
Besides the two above mentioned key elements, you will need a few more to have on hand to prepare a standard easy pancake recipe.
- Two cups (for flour and milk)
- A teaspoon (for raising agents and salt)
- A tablespoon (for sugar and butter)
- Two bowls (one big and one medium, preferably metal, ceramic, or glass, not plastic)
- Whisker (for mixing the ingredients)
- Brush (for applying fat to the pan)
The Fluff Factor
If the pancakes don’t look fabulous, I won’t bother eating them. I want to fall in love with the pancakes at first sight. I want them to be tall, soft, and fluffy. When it comes to texture, the first commandment is: choose easy pancake recipes. Easy equals foolproof. Check out our pancake collection with over 200 of the best American pancake recipes!
Let’s talk about the ingredients first. In an easy pancake recipe, there are dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt, and wet ingredients: milk, egg, and butter.
- Rule number one for fluffy pancakes: your raising agents (baking powder and baking soda) must be fresh. The shelf life is 6-12 months from opening date, but if you’re not sure, apply this simple test: add ½ teaspoon of baking powder or baking soda in 2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar. If the raising agent is fresh, it will bubble and fizz.
If you have forgotten to buy baking powder and have already started to make the pancakes, you can prepare a homemade baking powder, by mixing 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar and a teaspoon of baking soda in a small bowl. Store this powder airtight, in a dark and dry place at room temperature, for up to 6 weeks.
The wet ingredients should be at room temperature. If they are cold the pancakes will be sultry.
1.Use buttermilk instead of milk for lighter and more tender & fluffy pancakes. If you don’t have buttermilk at hand, know this: acidity equals fluffiness. Create a home-made “buttermilk” by adding a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into a cup of milk (any type of milk will do, even non-dairy).
You can also use Greek yogurt or mix the milk with plain Greek yogurt (1-part milk + 2 parts yogurt).
Another secret ingredient for fluffiness is carbonation. The fizziness in carbonated beverages, like beer or sodas (e.g. seven up) is responsible for making the pancakes extra fluffy. Did you know that beer pancakes are called “mancakes”?
- Separate the egg white from the egg yolk. Beat the whites separately and fold it into the batter to make it lighter. It’s a science thing: egg whites are made almost entirely of protein, so when whipping them, the proteins unfold and recombine in rigid structures, i.e. they transform into a mass of foamy bubbles.
- For best results, use all-purpose flour in the batter because it won’t affect the structure of the pancakes. Other good alternatives are whole wheat, buckwheat, or cornmeal. Mix and match any of these flours and find what works best for you.
- Make your pancakes immediately after mixing the batter. The fresher the batter, the better the pancakes. The raising agents start working immediately after coming into contact with the wet ingredients and their effect decreases with the time. So, if you want you can mix the dry ingredients in advance, but once you add the wet ones, you’d better start cooking!
- Leave the batter lumpy. The more you mix the batter, the chewier the pancakes will be, due to gluten development in the flour. You don’t want that. Stir the ingredients until they are just combined, but make sure there are quite a few lumps inside.
- Another idea to speed up the mixing process is to use a blender. First, add the wet ingredients. Once they are foamy, add the dry ingredients and keep mixing until smooth.
The Art of Cooking
Once you’ve prepared the best pancake batter it is time to learn how to cook perfect small golden pillows that simply melt in your mouth.
I recommend that you treat the first few pancakes as a test batch. Use them to adjust the heat and practice your flipping skills. Make sure the pan is not too hot to avoid burning the pancakes. On the other hand, if it is not hot enough, the batter will smear. Sprinkle a few drops of water before you start cooking. If they are shimmering, you’re good to go.
Use vegetable oil for frying, not butter. Butter burns easily, due to the milk solids contained inside. Especially when your pan is on medium heat for a longer time.
If you insist on using butter, chose either the clarified version, in which milk solids have been separated beforehand or the unsalted version which has a lower whey content and doesn’t burn as easily. The last option is to mix the butter with oil.
Use a heat-proof silicon pastry brush to apply the chosen fat onto the surface of the pan.
If you use too much oil, your pancakes will fry. Wipe the excess oil before you pour the batter into the hot pan or griddle using a paper towel.
Frying and Flipping
Do not flatten the pancakes with the spatula, even if you are tempted to do so, in order to cook them faster. They will cook faster but they won’t be fluffy.
How to avoid smearing the batter because of a sloppy flip? The problem is that you’re using the whole arm, instead only the hand. Slide the spatula under the pancake, lift slightly, and then turn it using your wrist.
Flip the pancake when bubbles appear on the surface and the edges have set. Don’t wait for the bubbles to burst, it will be too late! The bottom of the pancake should be light brown. It should take you about 2-3 minutes to cook the first side and 1-2 minutes more for the opposite side.
Your awesome & easy pancakes are now ready. All you need to do is choose a splendid topping to match these expert-made pancakes and enjoy.
Add-ins and Toppings
Add-ins, like berries or chocolate chips, can be easily burnt. That is why it is best to add them as late as possible. First pour the batter into the pan, then add the chips or berries (distribute evenly). Bananas, on the other hand, caramelize during cooking so you can add them directly to the batter, mashed or in slices.
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Standard picture perfect pancakes require a perfect topping. Out of respect for the perfect fluffy pancakes you’ve just prepared, choose pure maple syrup instead of the pancake syrups sold in plastic bottles that are full of sugar and God knows what else. Add a pat of butter on top and dive in!