I do not generally cook. But I do cook breakfast. Or, as it is known in our house, pancakes and omelets (and cookies, but that's another story). I've been flipping pancakes for many years now and have made a tentative determination on the best way to produce winning flapjacks every time.
Do as I say, not as I do
The most important thing you need to make great pancakes is an electric griddle. Making them on the stovetop is far too time consuming (not enough surface area in a skillet) when you're feeding hungry teenagers and the flat surface of the griddle is perfect for pancakes.
I'm currently using this Black & Decker family sized griddle and...I hate it. It does not heat accurately (pancakes burn at recommended temps), does not heat evenly (there's a "dead spot" in one corner) and basically, it sucks. Get a different one. My old regular sized griddle did just fine for years and years until I got greedy and wanted more surface area. Next time I'll stick with enough space for six pancakes and a decent griddle.
My Dream Griddles
I really like the solid plastic, heat tolerant spatula for flipping the 'cakes. It's easy on the non-stick coating of the griddle and doesn't allow anything to ooze out through slots or holes. It's a simple tool, but absolutely essential for a Perfect Pancake. Find one you're comfortable with and stick with it - the single greatest pitfall in pancake preparation is the failed flip.
Get a lip on that cup
Even though I make giant batches of pancakes, I like to use a large, lipped measuring cup to pour the batter onto the griddle. It's far less messy than using a spoon or ladle and far easier to make uniformly sized 'cakes. I'll often mix up the batter in a bowl and transfer it in parts to the lipped cup for pouring.
Tips, Technique and Timing
See that box of pancake mix up there? You don't need it. I used boxed pancake mix for years before wising up and realizing that I can do the same thing from scratch in about 30 seconds for less money and with no unpronounceable ingredients. Any basic cookbook or online recipe site will have a recipe for pancakes that suits your fancy. I use one from allrecipes.com for Buttermilk Pancakes and modify it.
How the heck do you modify a pancake recipe? My practice is to replace some of the white flour with whole wheat (up to half) and toss in two generous tablespoons of flax seed meal (I like this Bob's Red Mill brand) per batch of pancakes. I usually make a triple batch so there are plenty of leftovers for freezing. I use a buttermilk pancake recipe and don't always have buttermilk on hand so I make cheater's buttermilk (1 teaspoon of white vinegar per cup of milk, mix and let it stand for five minutes) and honestly, no one can tell the difference.
If you're going to use add-ins, I suggest keeping them small, like these mini chocolate chips. They're the perfect size to add flavor and texture without burning to the bottom of the griddle. Blueberry pancakes are awesome, but blueberries are too big to add in, they smoosh and make the cakes runny and the griddle a complete disaster. Use blueberry syrup instead.
Timing is everything when it comes to the Perfect Pancake. You can have the best tools in the world, but you still have to get a feel for when to flip those cakes. My best advice - wait until you see them getting just a little dry looking at the edge, as if the batter has gone from shiny to matte (you don't need a timer). Don't wait for bubbles on the surface of the pancakes - different recipes and add-ins can make the bubble method unreliable. Flip and wait until you see steam. Then your cakes are done. It's vital to have a griddle you trust - no timing method will work if your griddle is unreliable. Trust me, I've burned more pancakes on my current horrible griddle than I did in the previous 20 years.
So find a great griddle and hold onto it until it dies! The rest will then fall into place and you'll be on your way to your very own Perfect Pancake.
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