Most of us probably have pretty similar ideas of what the perfect pancake should be – light, golden brown, a little bit sweet and a little bit salty but simple enough that it can carry a topping of butter and maple syrup well… and always, always as fluffy as can be. The good news is that perfect pancake isn’t all that hard to achieve, provided you follow a few simple tips and tricks that will help you get maximum fluffiness every single time.
Any great recipe starts with great ingredients, and pancakes are no different. Truly great pancakes use buttermilk, and they use real buttermilk. There are plenty of cooking situations where you can stir some lemon juice or vinegar into some milk, wait a bit for it to sit, and call it good… but this isn’t one of them. Here, the acid in the buttermilk helps the baking soda really get things nice and fluffy, so it’s important to use the real deal. Likewise, always make sure your baking powder and baking soda haven’t been lingering in your cupboard for too long. If they’re expired, they might not give you the lift you need.
If you take only one thing away from this article, let it be this: don’t overmix your batter. It’s the death of a good pancake. See, overmixing develops the gluten in the flour and you’ll end up with pancakes that are chewy instead of fluffy, which is never the goal. Making a well in your dry ingredients helps you mix things together quickly; just pour your wet ingredients into the center and draw the flour in gradually as you work your way to the outside of the bowl. That way, you incorporate everything quickly without having to spend a ton of time stirring. The batter should be lumpy, but let it rest while you heat up your pan so the flour can absorb some of the liquid.
A nonstick pan is a great friend to pancakes, though a little fat in the pan gets you the perfect sizzle and texture. I like butter best and find that running a stick around the pan gives you the ideal thin coating, but it does have a tendency to burn, so wipe out the pan between batches if too much starts to collect. Before you start to cook, give your pan time to get evenly hot – medium-low is usually the best choice.
As far as cooking goes, a pancake should only be flipped once. You’ll know it’s time to flip when you see bubbles appear in the center of the pancake but you can always lift up an edge to make sure that the bottom is golden brown. Give it two to three minutes per side to make sure the batter cooks all the way through.
A low oven (say 200°F) is another great tool in the world of pancake making. If you want to be able to eat with the rest of the family rather than standing at the stove flipping pancakes while they chow down, or even if you just have a pancake whose center is a bit underdone, you can stash the pancakes in the warm oven until you’ve cooked through all the batter and they’ll keep perfectly until you’re ready to dig in.
Perfect Buttermilk Pancakes
Serves 4-6; 30 minutes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Butter or oil to grease pan
- Preheat oven to 200°F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using the whisk, form a well in the center.
- Pour buttermilk into the well, followed by the eggs, vanilla, and the buttermilk. Using the whisk, start mixing the liquid in the center of the well, moving outwards gradually to the outside of the bowl, drawing dry ingredients into the mixture as you go until everything is combined. Don't over mix - the batter will be a little lumpy. Let batter sit while you preheat your cookware.
- Heat a large nonstick/cast-iron griddle or skillet over low heat for at least five minutes. Add one tablespoon of butter or oil to the skillet and increase heat to medium-low. Swirl pan to make sure the fat is evenly coating the bottom.
- Ladle out pancakes in 1/3 cup portions, taking care not to crowd the cooking surface. When bubbles rise to the surface of the pancake and bottom is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, flip pancake over. Cook until other side is golden brown, 2-3 minutes more.
- Place on baking sheet and keep warm in oven until all batter is cooked. Serve and enjoy!