Everybody loves pancakes, right? They’re a staple breakfast, lunch, or dessert. Honestly, I’d happily eat them any time of the day. The issue is that they’re not the easiest breakfast to pull off. To get super light and fluffy pancakes, it doesn’t just require finding the recipe, you need to know the right pancake-making techniques too.
When you’re making pancakes, they can appear to be cooking fine. You’ll get through your batch of batter with a fat stack of pancakes, but on closer inspection, they’re dense and maybe even chewy. It’s not really enjoyable and you end up being disappointed…
Using too much egg and over-mixing are the two most common reasons for dense pancakes. Excess eggs will result in a creamier texture rather than being fluffy and light. Over-mixing causes gluten to develop, which leads to a tighter and more dense texture. It’s okay for the batter to have lumps.
Although it’s disheartening at first, don’t let that get you down. Like anything, pancakes take practice and experience to know how to do them properly. Once you’ve failed a few times, you start to learn and your pancakes will be fantastic in no time.
The key to improving is learning from your mistakes, so take a look through these common mistakes, and you’ll know where you went wrong for the next time you make pancakes.
Mistakes are there to be made, but some mistakes are more common than others. Here are some of the mistakes that you may have made.
Too Much Egg Leads To A Soggy Pancake
Using one or two large-size eggs in place of medium-size eggs in a recipe isn’t really going to make a noticeable difference. Pancake batter is pretty forgiving anyway.
The time where it might become an apparent issue is when you’re making a large amount of pancake batter with the wrong size eggs, or when you accidentally add one egg too many to the batter.
Although having too much egg isn’t immediately noticeable from looking at the batter, you’ll soon find out that something went wrong once you cook up and taste the pancakes.
Instead of being left with delectably soft pancakes, you’ll have something more akin to a thick, custardy mass, which really isn’t good.
Overmixing Causes A Tight And Chewy Crumb
When you’re making pancakes, you don’t want them to be chewy like bread, so stop mixing your batter like it’s dough.
You want to be very gentle with your pancake batter, making sure to fold everything together without mixing too quickly.
Mixing a lot much causes gluten to develop too much, which tightens the batter up and means that it can’t rise properly.
Some gluten development is okay (in fact, it’s necessary for the structure of the pancake), but you want to keep it limited. Clumps of dry flour in the batter is fine, so be cautious when mixing everything.
As a rule of thumb, you want to mix the ingredients together until you don’t see any dry flour, but it’s also not smooth. You’ll realize that it doesn’t take much mixing at all.
Excess Fat Makes Pancakes Too Dense And Moist
Although everyone loves to add fat in the form of butter to their pancakes, adding too much makes the pancakes worse.
You see, the butter almost weighs the batter down, making it too moist. It disperses itself all around the pancake batter and limits how large the internal bubbles can get in the pancakes.
Of course, fat is needed for flavour, texture, and moistness, but overdoing it will result in pancakes that are a little denser than they should be.
Old Leaveners Can’t Rise Like They Used To
Unfortunately, ingredients degrade over time, making them less and less efficient as they get older.
This is a problem for people that don’t bake all that often, since they’re left with old ingredients that just gather dust.
If you’ve got baking soda or baking powder that’s been sitting in your pantry for years, chances are that it won’t rise like a newer leavener would.
Although it takes a long time, these leaveners do lose their ability to leaven goods like pancakes, cakes, or cookies, which is often only realized before it’s too late and you’ve got a stack of flat, dense pancakes in your kitchen.
Fortunately, it’s easy enough to test if your leaveners are still active.
To know if baking soda is still active, mix it with some vinegar. If it’s active, it’ll be pretty obvious, since it’ll be fizzing. If it doesn’t do anything, you’ll need to replace it with some fresh stuff.
To know if baking powder is still active, pour some boiling water over it in a heatproof bowl. If it bubbles and foams, it’s still in good shape. If it doesn’t react, you’ll have to replace this stuff too.
Your Pan Wasn’t Hot Enough
A lack of heat often leads to a lack of rising in the pancakes.
Heat is needed to activate the majority of leaveners rapidly so that plenty of gas can be produced before the batter cooks and its structure sets.
This will generally happen if your pan either hasn’t been preheated for long enough, or the heat was too low, so the pan couldn’t get hot enough.
You’ll know that your pan is hot enough when you add a knob of butter and it starts to gently bubble.
Medium heat is often the best heat for pancakes, but it varies greatly depending on the pan and the stove, so it’s best if you play around with the heat first to figure out the best temperature.
What To Do Next Time
Like anything, mistakes are there to be made, and you need to learn from them. Hopefully, by making one of the mistakes above, you’ll now know how to avoid that mistake in the future.
Anyway, to help you even more here are some things you can do next time to make your experience go a little more smoothly.
Follow The Recipe Closely
Okay, so this one seems pretty obvious and easy to do, but it’s also very easy to glance over a recipe without concentrating and end up throwing the wrong ingredients into the bowl.
The worst thing about this is that you often won’t realize if you’ve added too much or too little of an ingredient until it’s too late.
Trust me, every time you’re following a recipe, you’ll want to double-check that you’re adding the right ingredient and the correct measurement of that ingredient. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve misread something and it’s ruined the entire bake. It’s such a simple mistake, but it took me a while to learn from it because of that fact.
Measure Ingredients More Accurately
If you’re primarily measuring ingredients using volume, you’re not being accurate at all. 10 people making the exact same recipe using volume can result in 10 different results. The issue with volume is that so many people are brought up just measuring things with cups, tablespoons, etc. so it’s all they know.
A lot of people don’t even have measuring scales in their kitchens, but it’s a must if you want to make good food consistently.
You’re automatically putting yourself at a disadvantage by using volume instead of weight to measure ingredients.
My advice is to buy some scales as soon as you can and implement them into your cooking routine. You’ll soon enough be using them to measure everything. I can’t imagine living without my scales now.
No Smooth Batter! Mix Until Barely Combined
As I’ve mentioned above, how you mix the pancake batter has a huge effect on whether your pancakes are good or not. Overmixing isn’t good, but undermixing is also terrible.
You want to find a balance where everything’s combined, but not too smooth. Mixing all your ingredients together really shouldn’t take any longer than a minute or two (assuming that it’s a normal volume of a batter), so you need to be mindful of how you’re mixing it.
If your batter is smooth after you’ve mixed it, it’s fair to say that you’ve overdone it. You should still try frying them up and seeing what they’re like though.
Generally speaking, you want to mix your pancake batter to the point where it’s thick and slightly lumpy, but there’s no dry flour in sight.
Once you don’t see any more dry flour anywhere in the batter, it’s been mixed enough and you can move on to making pancakes.
At the end of the day, any mistakes you make when making pancakes shouldn’t dishearten you too much. Although you probably dreamed of making perfect pancakes with minimal effort, mistakes always happen, and you can learn from them.
With that said, you may not be to blame for the sad pile of pancakes you’ve made. It’s not necessarily your fault, it might just be due to you following a bad recipe.
If you think that this might be the case, try a couple of other recipes and see how they work for you. You might find one that works perfectly every time, especially since you now know what not to do with your pancake batter.
By remembering the advice I’ve listed in the article, you’ll instantly be able to make better pancakes, whether you think it or not.
Ultimately, the problems you run into when making pancakes will purely be down to lack of experience. Whether that’s a lack of experience when making pancakes, food in general, or maybe you’re somewhere you’ve never cooked before. Whatever it is, you’re guaranteed to get better over time, and you can look back at your mistakes to see them as lessons.