My mom made a batch of pancakes for us nearly every Sunday when I was growing up. She used a box mix when she made hers, but I love the tradition so much that I continue it with my own children now. If you estimate that I've been making pancakes once a week since my almost 6-year-old started solids, then I've made 286 batches of pancakes in the last five years alone. There's a lot to be learned from that kind of repetition. Here are my seven best tips for perfect pancakes every time.
1. Check the freshness of your baking powder.
Pancakes are beloved because they require just a few staple ingredients, but if your baking powder is old or expired, you'll end up with flat pancakes, not light and fluffy ones. I go through a tin of baking powder about once a month between regular batches of pancakes, waffles, and biscuits, but if you are replacing that canister regularly, check the expiration date or try this test to make sure your leavening is fresh.
2. Whisk your dry ingredients to avoid big lumps.
Growing up in a Bisquick pancake household, I have unpleasant memories of lumpy pancakes, as the boxed mix tended to clump and settle from being packaged. Because you want to avoid over-mixing the batter after adding the wet to the dry, do your self a favor and de-lump your dry ingredients with a few flicks of the whisk. You can certainly sift your dry ingredients too, but who wants to do that at 7 a.m.?
3. Resist the over-mix.
Some lumps in the batter are okay, and overall it's better to have a few small lumps than a stiff, sticky batter than will be rubbery after frying. If you've whisked your dry ingredients before adding the wet, you should be able to gently bring the two together with a few deft swirls of your spoon. Resting the batter will take cake of any small lumps.
4. Rest the batter.
Here's what my Saturday pancake making looks like: I mix my pancake batter before I do anything else (before starting the coffee maker or frying the bacon!) and then I let it sit for at least 15 minutes (ideally 30) before I warm the pan and get to pancaking. This is plenty of time to make a cup of coffee or cook some bacon while the flour absorbs the liquid, allowing some of the more stubborn lumps to take care of themselves.
5. Use a big skillet or, better yet, a griddle.
For most of my pancake-making life, I've used a large 12-inch cast iron skillet. The wide surface area enabled me to cook three silver-dollar-sized pancakes at a time, while retaining pretty even heat no matter what kind of stovetop I was using. I recently purchased an electric skillet and it's been a complete game-changer for pancake-making. I can make six pancakes at a time and every single one is perfectly golden all around.
6. Wipe out the pan between batches.
I personally believe that pancakes should always be fried in butter, despite my mom swearing by oil. The one problem with frying your pancakes in butter is that the butter will eventually burn in the skillet. To avoid any off-tasting or burned bits, just wipe the skillet clean and add a dab more butter between batches.
It's a game-changer: For Better Pancakes, Follow This One Simple Rule
7. Pay attention.
This is the easiest tip for better pancakes: Commit yourself to 20 minutes at the skillet and really pay attention while you cook the pancakes as they cook. Are they browning too quickly? Turn the heat down a bit and cool the pan for a minute before the next batch. Are they sticking a little or a lot? Add more butter or oil. Be sure to flip your pancakes after the raw side has a few decent-sized bubbles and the edges are just beginning to dry.