Until recently, I had never been very good at cooking pancakes, and was always left disappointed in my efforts (even if the kids didn't know the difference). So when I met Manual, a short-order cook at a great diner here in New Jersey, I had to ask him his secrets to fluffy pancakes. Here are his hints, plus a few others. Once I used them I was amazed how much better my pancakes came out! With these perfect, fluffy pancakes, now I'm not afraid to offer them when serving breakfast or brunch to an audience more demanding than some cartoon-watching kids!
• Don’t overmix the pancake batter—you don’t want the gluten in the flour to overdevelop and allow the carbon dioxide that makes the little air pockets to escape. It’s better to leave in a couple of lumps than to overstir.
• Refrigerate the batter for up to 30 minutes. This further slows the development of the gluten and the leavening action.
• Always quickly stir the pancake batter a few times before you pour it onto the griddle. The ingredients can settle; stirring recombines them and aerates the batter.
• Make sure you flip the pancakes as soon as air bubbles appear on the top, then flip them back over if necessary to finish cooking them. If you wait until the bubbles break, gas escapes, and your pancakes won’t be as light or fluffy.
• If you like brown-on-the-outside pancakes, add a little extra sugar. The sugar caramelizes, giving a browner color to the pancakes. Also, some people swear by adding a tablespoon of pure maple syrup (the real stuff—no imitations!) into your pancake batter.
• For perfectly formed pancakes, use a meat baster to squeeze the batter onto the griddle. It gives you so much control you’ll finally be able to make those animal-shaped pancakes your kids have been begging you for!