How to Make the Fluffiest Pancakes
Ever wonder how restaurants get their pancakes so fluffy and thick, yet light and airy? Turns out, when it comes to getting those picture perfect stacks, it’s not actually the recipe that matters. Fluffy pancakes are actually all in the technique, and with a few cooks’ secrets and tips, anyone can master the art of flipping fantastic pancakes, no matter which recipe you follow.
According to Cook’s Illustrated this is the single most important tip for making fluffy pancakes, and the only thing standing between you and a sky high stack. I may not agree that it’s the only thing, but leaving a lumpy batter is definitely a tenet of good pancake-making practices. When mixing most batters, always whisk the dry ingredients thoroughly first, then create a well in the middle of them for the wet ingredients. Pre-whisking the wet ingredients is also helpful here so that you can do minimal mixing once they’re combined. I like to use the Mini Whisk for smaller jobs like this (and because you’ll be reaching for the Big Whisk in a minute!)
When you combine the wet and dry ingredients, you hydrate the flour. Hydrated flour starts to build gluten, and creating gluten in pancake batter makes it dense and tough. While most batters call for you to mix the two until they are *just* incorporated, you actually want to stop just shy of that step for pancake batter. Batter with lumps and bumps yields fluffier pancakes because, according to America’s Test Kitchen, “The lumps help keep water from flowing and causing the mixture to spread out too much when cooking.” They add, “Lumpy batter also holds on to air pockets as the pancakes cook. This air helps make the pancakes fluffy and also contributes to height.” I like to use The Spatula rather than a spoon here, since it’s sturdy enough to combine the ingredients but flexible and gentle. With my spatula, I gently hug the curves of the mixing bowl, rotating the bowl and I go so as to slowly incorporate the flour into the liquids in the center.
Whip It Good
This step is not completely necessary to make fluffy pancakes, but it is a foolproof way to add height and lightness to your pancakes, albeit with a little added effort. Rather than adding whole eggs to your batter, separate the eggs and egg whites into two bowls using your hands or a slotted spoon like the perforated Spoon. Add the yolks to the batter as planned, then add the white to a large bowl to whip them up until aerated. This adds air to the batter, meaning you get higher, lighter pancakes with more air pockets in the vein of those oh-so-Instagrammable Japanese souflée pancakes.
You can whip the egg whites in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, with a hand mixer, or by hand. If you’re going to whip your egg whites by hand, I highly recommend using The Whisk, because it was specifically designed for this kind of task. With strong wire tension and optimal prong spacing, The Whisk creates maximum aeration with minimal effort required. Pro tip: room temperature egg whites will whip up faster. You’re not necessarily going for meringue-level strength, but ideally want the egg whites to become opaque and soft peaks to form.
Once you have the egg whites whipped to soft peaks, gently– and I mean gently– fold them into your pancake batter. If this terminology gives you Schitt’s Creek flashbacks, this simply means using your spatula edge to cut down the center of the batter to the bottom of the bowl, scrape along the edge of the bowl, and gently fold part of the batter over the added egg whites. Repeat this process, rotating the bowl a little each time, trying to scrape along all edges of the bowl. It helps to add the egg whites in batches, so you don’t overwhelm the batter or your bowl. The goal is to incorporate the egg whites without overmixing and building the gluten we tried so hard to avoid in the first step. Once the whites are mostly incorporated (some streaks of whites are okay), set your batter aside.
Time to Cook
To me, the hardest part of making pancakes is keeping my griddle at a consistent and even level of heat. First make sure your pan is well greased with butter, oil, or cooking spray. You can use a non-stick pan, cast-iron skillet, or flat-top griddle. Heat on medium heat until the pan and grease are warm. If you’re unsure of the heat level, you can always use the age old trick of cooking a tiny tester pancake. It’s also a great way to soak up any burnt or extra grease that might be sitting in the pan.
Another tip: I love to use The Ladle for pancakes. It may not be the first tool you think of when you think of pancakes, but the GIR ladle’s deep bowl and precision pouring edge make the portioning process that much easier. Plus, it has measurement lines embossed on the inner edge, meaning you can scoop the same amount of batter each time, creating perfectly uniform pancakes every time.
Now welcome to the part most people mess up. Everyone and their mother claims to have the secret of knowing when to flip, but really it’s quite simple; use a good spatula and use your eyes! When making pancakes, I reach for the Ultimate Flip because its thin, flexible edge easily slides under pancakes, yet is durable and grippy enough to support stacks of all sizes. Once the top forms air bubbles and they begin to pop, use the Flip to take a peek under the hood. If the edge is golden, you’re good to go; if it’s not, leave them alone until they are. The goal is to flip once and only once and when you actually flip, you’re not going for height– gently lay the pancake raw side down. The more you flip and the higher you go, the more you force precious air out of your pancakes. And please, for the love of all shortstacks– don’t press them down with your spatula. If you’re worried they’re still raw in the middle after one flip but the edges are brown, your heat is too high. A quick way to cook the centers is to add a couple drops of water to the hot pan and immediately place a lid over the whole pan to trap steam inside. This will finish cooking them without burning the edges.
Plate them up and enjoy your perfect pancakes! With these tips, your pancakes will stack up to the greatist.