Flipping good fail-safe tips to guarantee perfect pancakes every time.
Do you like yours lemony or bacony? Photo: Natalé Towell.
Pancake Day, oh Pancake Day. No Shrove Tuesday (it falls on the 5 March this year) would be worth its weight in eggs, milk and flour without stacks of steaming pancakes scattered around the kitchen. Originally a pagan holiday, round, hot pancakes were made on Shrove Tuesday to represent the sun and the reemergence of light and heat after winter. Now a Christian celebration of the last day before the fasting of Lent begins, the word ‘shrove’ comes from ‘shrive’, meaning to free yourself from sin. Historically and today, families would feast on foods in the house that wouldn’t last over Lent and pancakes were an easy way to use up milk, eggs and fats — giving rise to the French name Mardi Gras aka ‘fat Tuesday’.
Whether you like to pile ’em high with berries and syrup or fold them swimming in lashings of lemon and sugar, here are our fail-safe tips for avoiding common mistakes that’ll leave you with (pan)cake on your face (or in bits, on the floor).
1. Don’t scrimp on ingredients
With so few ingredients in them in the first place, don’t be tempted to reach for years-old flour or raising agents. You’ll only enter into a doomed battle against sad saggy pancakes where the goal of light, fluffy discs will remain a Pinterest dream. Use the freshest eggs too because: a) this will really help any rise that’s dependent on separated, whisked egg whites and b) you owe it to your tastebuds to use the freshest, higher welfare eggs you can get.
2. Leave the batter to rest
After whisking your wet and dry ingredients together until just combined, leave that bowl of batter to rest for 5 to 30 minutes. This allows time for the gluten to relax (how many times gluten, just calm it down) and will help give you soft, tender pancakes. Also, take it easy when mixing your batter. Beating with a heavy hand overworks the gluten, leading to a tough and chewy pancake and it really doesn’t matter if there’s a few lumps. These tips also work a treat if you’re after a show-stopping high rise on Yorkshire puddings too.
3. Get your pan hot enough
But not too hot. You’ve come too far to fudge it all up now. Getting the temperature of your frying pan to the perfect side of hot, but not too hot, is an art that can make or break your precious pancakes. Thankfully, it’s nothing a few dollops of test batter can’t help you master.
Although it’s tempting to crank up the heat, start at a medium temperature and give your pan time to get nice and hot evenly. The fat in the pan should be hot, but not smoking. If it’s not hot enough, the pancake will take on the grease in the pan, rather than be cooked by it. If it’s too hot, they’ll go straight to burnt on the outside, raw and doughy on the inside. Stick to a medium heat and don’t be afraid to adjust accordingly to get them golden brown on the outside and cooked through on the inside.
4. Wait for bubbles
Although super-quick to fry, patience with pancakes extends to the cooking process too. After spooning in the batter, when bubbles appear at the edges on the surface and the centre looks firm and set, this is your green light for flip time. That’s it. No more poking around with a spatula trying to peek at the bottom and hindering its ability to rise and cook evenly. No more sloppy/broken pancakes due to misjudged timings (or a pan that’s too cold). Simply dollop the batter, wait for the bubbles and the pancake to let you know when it’s ready to be flipped.
5. Flip it, flip it real good, once
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the last point where any chances of major disaster are now looking slim. Just don’t get distracted by your phone, little ones or an urgent need to do anything else, because all that’s left to do now is to flip it and flip it once. This might sound a boring (okay, incredibly dull and too sensible a method to make what essentially will be a vehicle for glugs of maple syrup, chopped nuts and a potentially obscene amount of hundreds and thousands), but sticking to the one-flip rule will help prevent all that precious trapped air being knocked out and your pancakes doing a last minute disappointing deflate. Get your fun flips in with the first ones, as these are usually the testers that pave the way for your pancake mastery to come (and you’ll probably get too hungry to keep flipping).
Another top tip: After each pancake is done, place on a plate and top with a sheet greaseproof paper or baking parchment and keep them in the oven at 60°C to 90°C. Repeat with each new pancake and by the time you’ve cooked all of your batter, the first pancakes will still be warm and soft. If they don’t get eaten straight out of the pan that is.
Ready to go and need some inspo? Check out alternative flours to try out this pancake day, whip up fluffy American-style pancakes, classic crepes and savoury spinach pancakes. Have stories of pancake failure or epic success? Share in the comments below!
Before you get cracking, here’s the truth behind egg labels.
This post was originally published in February 2018 and has since been updated.