Tips for Making Better Pancakes

Joy the Baker shares her recipes and secrets for success

Joy the Baker

The smell of pancakes and sweet maple syrup wafting through the air on a Sunday morning is a highlight of the weekend for many. Waiting for bubbles to appear on the pancakes (a good sign that they are ready to be flipped) is an exciting childhood cooking moment, not to mention stirring in chocolate chips or bananas to the batter…

Yet so many pancake meals go awry. Sloppy flipping, overcrowding of the pan, and impatient cooks often lead to misshapen and broken pancakes. Accidents like this can lead to unhappy memories —I know this from personal experience.

When I was 12, I woke up early one school-day morning to make my younger sister pancakes for her birthday without telling either of my parents. Sweet idea, yes, but unsupervised, my good-hearted attempt resulted in rock-hard pancakes (I think I severely overmixed the batter). Needless to say, even our dog wouldn’t eat them…

But I have overcome my pancake fear by following the advice of the pros, namely, Joy Wilson, aka Joy the Baker. A fabulous supporter of all things sugary, buttery, and delicious, Joy channels this love in her blog and throughout her new cookbook, aptly named, Joy the Baker.

Here, she guides us through the basic steps of pancake making and supplies two tasty twists on traditional buttermilk pancakes.

Click here to see her Blueberry Orange and Almond Pancakes with Orange Maple Glaze recipe.


For Fluffy Pancakes

Some like them thin and flat, but if you want yours thick and fluffy, there are key ingredients that cannot be forgotten. As Joy says, "A combination of baking soda and buttermilk are what makes a pancake fluffy and thick." Recipes with higher quantities of ingredients like baking soda, powder, or whipped egg whites will result in fluffier pancakes because of the increased amounts of these leaveners. For thinner, flatter pancakes, look for recipes with lower amounts of these ingredients.

Click here to see the Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberries recipe pictured at left.


Whatever You Do, Do Not Overmix

When incorporating the dry and wet ingredients, it’s important not to overmix the batter. Joy says that if it’s a little lumpy that's OK; it’s better to have a few lumps than overmixed batter.


Cooking Surface

While most people use griddles, including Joy, she also uses a nonstick frying pan because "it ensures that I can get under the pancake and flip without having to fight the griddle." She usually coats this surface with butter, but recommends trying a mixture of vegetable oil and butter because the butter adds flavor while the vegetable oil keeps it from burning.  Remember, though, not to overcrowd the pan or it will be extra hard to flip them.


Heat Level

Medium heat is ideal, explains Joy, because if the heat is too low, the pancakes will absorb too much of the fat they’re being fried in, and if it’s too hot, then they will brown too quickly. She also heats the oven to 200 degrees and places an ovenproof plate inside so that she can keep the pancakes warm while cooking up the remaining batter.


When to Flip

Don't let hunger or anticipation tempt an early flip —Joy waits for the bubbles on top to start to burst before flipping, but if that doesn’t happen, she’ll "sneak a peek" after about a minute and a half to make sure they are brown on the bottom. Then, flip once and only once. She emphasizes that it’s important to leave the pancakes alone and let them do their thing. For flipping, she prefers using a thin, flat spatula because the thinner it is, the easier it is to flip the pancake.

Click here to see the Multi-Grain Pancake recipe pictured at left.

Fun Variations

One of the great things about pancakes is that there are so many different ways to make them. For super healthy pancakes, she recommends using whole-wheat flour, raw millet, poppy seeds, or maybe even a sprinkling of uncooked oats. For the sweet route, she says to try orange zest and chocolate chips or her Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes. For a more savory version, make pancakes with cornmeal and chives, and place an over-easy egg and sour cream on top. Or, try making these Bacon and Chocolate Chip Pancakes and serving them for dinner!

The recipes in her cookbook all start from a classic buttermilk pancake recipe and then she makes variations from there — an easy way to play around with recipe at home. Enjoy and happy cooking!


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