Every man should be able to make great pancakes, whether for a quick dinner for himself, Saturday morning breakfast for the kids, or as part of a brunch for out-of-town guests staying over his house.
When it comes to the skill of great pancake-making, the crucial thing isn’t actually the ingredients used.
Made from scratch, pancakes can take longer than necessary to whip up. Instant cakes — “Just add water!” — may not be quite as good, but they aren’t that far off either. You may think that those mixes you buy from the store are full of nefarious, unpronounceable ingredients, but they’re actually pretty innocuous. Generally containing just flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar, it’s about the same as you’d make from scratch at home. The only yucky stuff in instant mix is a little bit of trans fat in the form of hydrogenated oil, but it’s not much. Given that there’s only a marginal difference in the actual ingredients used, the convenience of instant pancakes is certainly worth the slight tradeoff in taste.
So feel free to use a box of Bisquick. The real key to next-level, restaurant-quality pancake-making is 1) knowing how to get the most out of that humble mix, and 2) knowing how to cook ‘em to perfection. You’ll find tips for #2 here. We cover five ways to ace #1 below.
1. Let the Batter Rest for 15-20 Minutes (And Don’t Overmix It!)
If you do one incredibly easy thing to up your instant pancake game, simply let the mixed batter rest for 15-20 minutes before cooking it.
This has a couple benefits: First, it allows the flour to hydrate and dissolve any clumps. When it comes to batter — whether for pancakes, muffins, or other baked goods — your instinct is likely to whisk the heck out of it and get rid of any clumps. You don’t actually want to do that though. Without getting into the science here, know that overmixing stimulates too much gluten formation and results in a denser, chewier end product. Personally, that’s not what I’m going for in a pancake. Stop mixing the batter while there are still some clumps and then let it rest; the liquid will dissolve those clumps and make your batter perfectly even.
The second benefit to the resting period is that it allows the starchy flour molecules to absorb more liquid before being cooked. More absorption means more fluff. To get a sense of what this is like, just visualize uncooked rice vs. cooked rice — the cooked grains have absorbed the water and gotten bigger/fluffier.
You can rest the batter longer, but it might get too thick and make for more of a leathery texture. (If that happens, you can just add more liquid, as long as you don’t overmix it.)
2. Use the Waffle Directions!
Every package of pancake mix you buy will also include directions for