Pancakes are the perfect cottage breakfast—they’re easy to prep and cook, even for a big crowd of hungry guests. Ideally, your pancakes will be high and fluffy, with a slightly crispy exterior and a soft, steamy interior—but too often flapjacks end up flat, tough, and just not as glorious as they should be. What’s the secret to perfect pancakes? We’ve got some hacks here.
1. Use fresh ingredients
Pancakes don’t have a strong flavour, so your ingredients need to be perfectly fresh—especially your baking soda, which loses its lifting power after six months. Flour and butter also go rancid, so make sure your building blocks are solid before you attempt a morning’s worth of flapjacks.
2. Use chemistry to your advantage
Acid reacts with baking soda to create carbon dioxide. The result? Fluffy pancakes. This is why tangy buttermilk is a classic pancake ingredient—but if you don’t have buttermilk, you can use regular milk soured with a little lemon juice or vinegar.
3. Don’t overmix
A few lumps are preferable to an overmixed batter, which will give you flat, tough pancakes. Kitchen nerds, just in case you wanted to know: mixing develops the gluten in your flour, which will turn your fluffy pancakes into chewy pucks.
4. Timing is everything
You know those lovely bubbles of carbon dioxide that make your pancakes lovely and fluffy? They disappear if you make your batter too far in advance (like overnight), leaving your pancakes flat and sad. A better idea? Let your batter rest after mixing for just five to 30 minutes to give those bubbles time to develop—but no longer.
5. Use the right pan
Something thin with sloping sides (like a classic saute pan) isn’t ideal, because the bottom is too thin to prevent your ‘jacks from burning. Use a flat griddle, or a heavy pan—just make sure it’s wide enough to flip your flaps in comfort.
6. Don’t be afraid of heat
Your pan should maintain a consistent medium heat. Don’t add your batter until the pan is hot, but not smoking. Trust us—leave it until you think it’s hot, then leave it a little longer longer. Then add your batter. If you don’t let your pan heat up enough, your pancakes will be pale and greasy. Blech.
7. Make friends with oil
Butter is yummy, but its milk solids have a low smoke point, especially in a pan that’s staying hot. Use a mild vegetable oil (not that super-fruity extra-virgin stuff) or clarify your butter first. Alternately, you can try a mixture of oil and butter, which raises the smoking point.
8. Add extras as the pancake cooks, not before
Mixing extras—like berries or chocolate chips—into the batter is asking for little burned bits all over your pancakes. Start cooking your pancake, then add extra ingredients on top. By the time you’ve flipped the pancake and are ready to eat, your extras will be warm but not burned.
9. Don’t flip too early
This is probably the most common mistake pancake cookers make, resulting in splattered batter and underdone middles. People look for different things to tell them when a pancake is ready: bubbles on the surface that pop and form holes, edges becoming solid, or a characteristic sheen on the pancake’s surface. Whatever method you use, don’t flip more than once!
10. Take a test run
If you’re not sure how hot your pan is, or are nervous leaving it, make a test batch of pancakes first. They won’t be perfect, but they’ll still be yummy.
11. Use real syrup
Please. Don’t insult your lovely flappies by pouring flavoured high fructose corn syrup over them. Get the real stuff. Yes, it’s more expensive, but you won’t need to use as much to get that fabulous maple flavour. And if you (gasp) don’t like maple syrup? Stop at that nice little shop in town and pick up some homemade preserves, or sprinkle your pancakes with icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon.
What are your secrets for perfect pancakes?