I Will Defeat You, Dreaded Pancakes

No, “Dreaded Pancakes” is not the nickname of my nemesis.

Here’s the deal.

I bought a waffle iron (cue readers saying, “Buh buh buh but he said pancakes) and have been enjoying the unholy fuck out of it. It’s a Presto something-or-other. Pretty standard Belgian waffle-maker. Gets hot. Cooks the waffles in three minutes. Bam. Boom. Deliciousness. (I am at present using a recipe, aptly called The Best Ever Waffles, supplied to me by the wise @xiehicks on the Twitters.)

(Cue readers saying, “Uhh, he’s still talking about waffles. Does this dim-bulb know the difference between a waffle and a pancake? Honey, I think this guy’s a real dum-dum. So sad.”)

The point: I’m getting to it.

The reason I wanted to procure a waffle-maker is that my pancakes never turn out right.

I’ve made pancakes for years. Years. I’ve tried dozens of recipes — and, let’s be frank, it’s not like you have that many varieties of pancake recipe out there. It’s not like you find that one special recipe where you’re suddenly all, “OH MY GOD, this recipe uses seal blubber and oregano! That’s the secret! Holy shit!” And after that it’s just an endless reiteration of perfect motherfucking pancakes, right? Right.

My pancakes, to clarify, are not bad, per se. They’re edible. They’re sometimes even good. This is where you’re likely asking, “So what’s the problem, moron? Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

To which I say, “Yes, good point.” Except — when I go to a diner, or frankly any establishment that makes pancakes, I get these big pancakes that are light and fluffy and porous and heavy too at the same time and really, they’re just great. They are restaurant-quality flapjacks.

I cannot achieve this at home no matter how I try.

Mine are always these little puffy urinal pucks (though one presumes better-tasting).

A little thick, a little cakey.

So, I demand to know your secrets.

Someone out there is making kick-ass pancakes, and it ain’t me. Are you making diner-quality pancakes? What’s your trick? Is it a batter thing? A heat component? A matter of cooking surface?

Gun to your head: GIVE UNTO ME YOUR SWEET PANCAKERY.

60 comments

  • My husband is the pancake maker in the house, and he passes along these tips:

    Sift the dry ingredients together, beat the wet ingredients together.
    Whatever recipe you use (we like Fannie Farmer’s), add a teaspoon of lime juice.
    Let it sit for a wee bit while your pan heats up. This allows the chemical reactions to take place.
    Unless you have a griddle that is consistently hot from end to end, a cast iron pan works just fine.
    Make one pancake at a time, unless you have two cast iron pans (we do), in which case, make two at a time.

  • A few people have mentioned this, but if yours come out like dense hockey pucks, you are probably beating them too much. Just stir the batter enough to combine the ingredients. Using fresh ingredients, with buttermilk instead of regular milk, is also key.

  • This sounds really weird, but I make mine with half all-purpose gluten free flour and half white flour. The reduced amount of gluten keeps them from getting rubbery. If you want very thin, flexible pancakes that are basically fluffier crepes, use all gluten-free flour.

    3/4 c all-purpose white flour
    3/4 c all-purpose gluten free flour
    1 T sugar
    1 t vanilla extract
    1 t salt
    1 1/2 c milk, very cold
    1 T baking powder (I usually use a rounded tablespoon here for a little extra lift)
    1 egg
    3 T butter, melted

    Mix the dry stuff together. Add the wet stuff and whisk until it’s not lumpy. Let it rise for about 5 minutes while your griddle heats up. Just scoop and drop on the griddle, no more stirring.

    I tend to use butter-flavored cooking spray instead of more butter on the griddle, just because the pancakes brown a little more evenly and don’t get greasy on the edges, and you still get that buttery perfect flavor from the melted butter in the recipe.

    Flip them when there are bubbles open across most of the top. Do not press.

    One more thing, I keep a clean kitchen towel nearby, to cover the pancakes that are done while I’m making enough for a big stack. Keeps them from getting cold.

  • Make up your normal batter but…

    only add egg yolks, keep the whites separate. Once you’ve beaten all the other ingredients together whip the egg whites until they are forming little egg white peaks then slowly, carefully, fold the two mixes together. Makes big fluffy pancakes.

  • OK, so this might sound weird, but… when I picked up some Bob’s Red Mill GLUTEN-FREE pancake mix, I suddenly found myself making the best pancakes of my life. Note that the batter turns out crazy thick and you’ll have to spread it out a little when you put it in the pan.

    It also does help tons to swap out buttermilk for the regular milk.

  • First of all, recognize that the FIRST pancake always sucks. You’re making it to feed the dog. Next, mix the batter from any old recipe, but leave it chunky, like, shall I say, something the dog might barf up. Let it sit in the bowl for the same amount of time it would have taken you to clean whatever the dog barfed on the floor.

    Now you have pancake nirvana, IF you drop it on the lightly oiled, hot whatever, and watch for the bubbles in the middle. Then you flip it over, not that pansy flip-in-the-pan, just slide that pancake-egg-burnt-bacon flipper under the happily bubbling flapjack you just created.

    Scrape off the burnt edges where you took too long to turn it over. Add syrup, and you and the dog are ready to chow down.

  • Chuck – everyone is making this all too complicated.
    1 – Use a receipe with baking powder, not baking soda.
    2. (as Deanna said ) Bisquick will give you correctly measured dry ingredients everytime. It’s not cheating.
    3. Cast Iron skillet or even better a griddle with peanut oil (or other high temp oil). If you don’t have a cast iron skillet you really should get one. They’re a few bucks at World Market and are pre seasoned and ready to go. My sis in law has one that’s over 75 years old and is still cooking great.

    Since you’re in a waffle mood – corn meal waffles are awesome (corn bread batter with more milk). Also chocolate waffles.

  • For what it’s worth, if you’re still looking, try Betty Crocker’s recipe. Follow the directions exactly. Exactly. The only change I make to it when is when I double the recipe and instead of 6 tsp of baking power, I only put in 5. I also make them ‘dollar size’. Other than that, simple and tasty. Good luck.

  • No one has mentioned King Arthur Flour pancake mix. The distinct taste to diner pancakes comes in part from barley malt. The King Arthur mix includes it, or you can buy it as a separate ingredient to make your own. IMHO, making pancakes should be so easy that I can do it while half asleep. Therefore, King Arthur mix. Beating egg whites separately most likely makes an amazing pancake, but not while I am half asleep.

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