Introduction: Pancakes for the Cooking Impaired

About: In which I turn the thoughts from my head into objects in my hands

Even though I moved out of college dorms around two months ago, my cooking skills remain a depressing sub-par. Having organic chemistry classes, combined with over 10 hours of work immediately after lecture five to six days a week (yes, I'm surprised that I'm surviving too), I've had barely any time to properly cook, let alone relax. My cooking has relegated to tossing veggies and meat into boiling water, balancing a pair of chopsticks on the pot lid, and jumping to turn off the stove once the chopsticks make a racket and/or fall off (perks of having a light lid?).

HOWEVER: I finally sat myself down one Saturday morning and surrendered to my pancake craving. Since my wallet is too dismally thin for me to dine out, I resolved to dedicate a good two hours researching pancake recipes for total beginners and getting around to cooking them by the second hour. A few more Saturday mornings later, I gained enough knowledge from trial and error to combine elements and tips from different recipes to tailor a pancake recipe to my preferences, and thus create this simple tutorial. Hopefully a few other clueless cookers can learn from my mistakes?

Step 1: Materials

  • 3/2 cup flour (whole wheat, etc. -- up to you, though I used whole wheat)
  • 2 tablespoons of baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons of baking soda (see next steps for more info on this)
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 egg
  • 4/3 cups of milk
  • sugar (see step 3 for more info)
  • frying pan
  • mixing bowl
  • measuring cups

Step 2: Dry Ingedients

You'll want to mix dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients. Why, you ask? From what I could find online, it'll make your

Start by adding the 3/2 cups of flour to your mixing bowl. I suggest using the 1/2 cup for the ultimate lazy people; I'll explain as I go along. Once finished, rinse it briefly and set it aside for later. Then add the baking powder and salt.
If you want, you can choose to add 2 tablespoons of baking soda: with it, your pancakes will be much fluffier. Even without it, these pancakes will be fluffy. The baking soda will just enhance that to the point of being slightly cake-like. Personally, I don't like to add the baking soda since super fluffy pancakes aren't my thing, but up to you. ;)

Step 3: Sugar

If you like, you can make your pancakes pre-sweetened rather than relying on honey and fruits. I added about 1/4 cup of sugar to get a mild level of sweetness, so add to your heart's content.

Step 4: Milk

Use a spoon to mix the dry ingredients around a bit to ensure that your batter will be a homogeneous work of art. Carefully make a little well in the middle of the mountain of powder so that your milk won't splatter everywhere as you pour; then you can just gently mix the powder ingredients with milk by swirling your spoon in the middle, working outward.

Then grab your milk and rinsed 1/2 measuring cup (used for flour before). Slowly pour the milk into the mini well, stopping every so often to mix with your spoon until the milk is gone from sight.

Again, rinse your measuring cup with done and set it aside.

Step 5: Egg

Gently crack your egg for your batter. Use your spoon to break the egg yolk and mix it with the egg white FIRST before mixing the egg with batter; this will ensure a more homogeneous mixture.

Step 6: Heating Pan

Put your pan on your stove and set it on high. After about a minute or two, turn it down to medium heat and quickly draw a circle on it with your butter. It should gently sizzle.

Step 7: Butter

Cut off 2 tablespoons of butter and put it in your rinsed 1/2 cup measuring cup. Pop it into the microwave for 20 seconds to melt it before IMMEDIATELY (before any of it can solidify) pouring and mixing it into your batter. When completely mixed, your batter should not be dripping like water; it should be a bit chunky, dripping in chunks rather than liquidy drops. If it is too chunky, add a bit (arbitrary amounts...) of milk and mix until it's the right consistency. If it's too liquidy, add flour and mix until it's the right consistency.

Once done, rinse with water before squirting some dish soap in and let it sit at the sink for a while, letting the soap take care of most of the greasiness. Washing it will be easier later.

Step 8: Frying (the Gist of It)

Time for the fun part! Grab your 1/4 cup measuring cup and scoop some batter onto your frying pan. Wait for about a minute or until quite a few holes/bubbles have appeared at the top (second picture above) until you carefully flip it. If the pancake doesn't appear to be golden brown (third picture above), let it cook thirty seconds or so longer before flipping. After another minute or so, flip to check color; if not golden brown, leave it alone for a bit longer. If golden brown, slide it onto a plate before scooping some more batter onto the pan.

Rinse and repeat; for me, this recipe made ten pancakes, though this may differ depending on your scooping size.

See the next step for a more in depth look at things..,

Step 9: Tips and Tricks

(first + second pictures) To get flatter, bigger pancakes, you can lift your pan and slowly swirl it in a circle to get your batter to spread out. You'll have to do this quickly before the batter solidifies. Don't spread such a thin layer that you get something like the second picture, though!

(third picture) Immediately after flipping, use your spatula to press the middle down slowly (so you don't pop the bubble of batter and make it spurt all over you) to flatten the pancake. If you don't the middle will be slightly more raised than the edges.

(fourth picture) Use your spatula to gently press the edges of the pancake down so they can get some love too.

(fifth picture) Work on your flipping skills and gently flip the pancakes. Make sure your spatula + balanced pancake stays low and close to the pan so you don't drop it and cause batter to spray everywhere, ending up like the fifth picture (batter spurted outward at edges).

(sixth, seventh, + eighth) Try a pancake to test what degree of golden brown you like. If you leave the batter on the pan longer, the brown will intensify, leading to a more crunchy texture. My tip would just be to judge from the bubbles; I like a darker brown than my roommates, so if I see the sixth picture above, I wait until I see the seventh picture for flipping to get the eighth picture.

Step 10: Waste Not, Want Not

My mom has schooled me well in using every last bit of anything so prepare to do so with your batter..

Once you see about two pancakes' worth of batter left, get ready to scoop every drop onto your pan. When you're down to the last scoop of pancake, use your spoon to gather everything into a corner of the bowl before scooping with the measuring cup. Then use the spoon to continue scooping everything out of the bowl even as the batter is cooking on the pan, and even use the spoon on your measuring cup (third picture above) to minimize waste.

When done, fill your mixing bowl to the brim with water and immerse your cups/spoons. This will prevent any hard scabs of batter from forming, if you don't wash them right away.

Step 11: Eat!

Serve your amazing pancakes however you like! Fruits, honey, nuts -- go crazing with experimentation.

For those of you who are like my roommates, your eyebrows are probably halfway toward touching the ceiling after looking at the third picture of me dunking a bit of pancake in milk. Allow me to assure you that I am perfectly sane (sort of) and that milk+pancake is actually a great combination. Back home, my mom would make pancakes as a bread substitute, and since I liked dunking bread in milk, I dunked pancakes into milk (and yes, I eat pancakes with my hands, and that's a habit from eating Asian pancakes..). Try for yourself; it'll grow on you...

Cooking Basics Challenge

Runner Up in the
Cooking Basics Challenge