How do I do it, you ask? I reach into my stash of box pancake mix, and then—wham-bam!—a stack of pancakes is ready to devour. It’s one of my favorite cooking shortcuts. The hardest part is selecting the right mix. With so many brands on the market, it’s difficult to know which one will produce fluffy, golden brown delights and which will fall flat.
#6: Market Pantry Buttermilk Complete Pancake Mix
Average score: 2/10
“It tastes like a plain gummy bear.”
“Was this a frozen pancake?”
At the bottom of the pack—or should I say stack—was Market Pantry, Target’s generic brand. Our taste testing panel was unenthused by its artificial flavoring and chewy-sticky texture. Compared to other brands, this pancake was devoid of that sweet, salty, buttery taste we all know and love. The directions on the box were simple enough (“just add water”), but I’d set my alarm a few minutes earlier if it meant making cakes with more flavor.
#5: Aunt Jemima Buttermilk Complete Pancake & Waffle Mix
Average score: 3.25/10
“This one is pretty uneventful.”
“It tastes much better with syrup.”
Similarly, this pancake didn’t have much flavor; as with Market Pantry, Aunt Jemima only needed water to prepare. Our team of taste testers agreed: These pancakes were much better doused in maple syrup. Now, before you start thinking this could be a marketing scheme designed to sell Aunt Jemima’s superstar syrup—know that all of the brands’ pancakes tasted better with a drizzle of the sweet golden stuff. (For the sake of kitchen science, naturally we had to try them with maple, too.)
Love maple syrup? Check out this sweet wintry recipe.
#4: Hungry Jack Complete Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix
Average score: 4.75/10
“This one is my favorite, flavor-wise.”
“Sweet but super sticky.”
“The flavor is good.”
Jumping up in our rankings was Hungry Jack. Our tasters were divided on these just-add-water pancakes. Many remarked that the flavor was there. It was one of the sweeter pancakes of the bunch! (Dessert for breakfast, anyone?)
However, the overall ratings suffered due to the consistency of the cakes. The golden brown rounds were chewy and rubbery. (Psst! Though our Test Kitchen experts prepped each pancake batter with the utmost care, overmixing is the No. 1 cause of chewy pancakes.) If you pick up a box of Hungry Jack, be sure to stir the wet and dry ingredients together just until moistened.
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#3: Bob’s Red Mill Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Whole Grain Mix
Average score: 5.5/10
“It’s more like a flapjack than a pancake.”
“It’s more dense and wheaty.”
“It tastes healthier—in a good way.”
Though you’re likely to find Bob’s Red Mill products in the specialty food aisle of your store instead of alongside the blockbuster box mixes, we were curious to see how their high-fiber, whole-grain pancakes stacked up against the competition. After a single bite, it was clear this was a healthier product, as the whole wheat flavor was very apparent. While some tasters enjoyed the heartier spin, others gave it low marks. It’s also worth noting that the mix had a very dense consistency. A stack of these would definitely fill you up until suppertime.
#2: Betty Crocker Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix
Average score: 6/10
“There’s more salt in this one.”
“It’s got the texture of cake!”
“There isn’t a ton of flavor, but it’s still enjoyable.”
In second place came a pancake that was pillowy-soft on the inside and a heartwarming golden brown on the outside: Betty Crocker. The brand delivered a stack that had a consistency much like tender, fluffy cake. There was a hint of salt that really boosted the flavor in these cakes. Surprisingly, this was another “just add water” mix.
Here are some more ideas for a quick and easy breakfast.
#1: Bisquick Original Pancake & Baking Mix
Average score: 7.75/10
“I like the appearance of these the most.”
“Big and fluffy. Yum!”
“I love the big buttery flavor.”
Surging to No. 1 on the scoreboard was Bisquick (a Betty Crocker brand). Testers said these tasted almost like the from-scratch cakes they make at home. One judge exclaimed, “As a kid, I’d definitely want my mom to make this kind!” The pancake had the perfect texture and crisp golden appearance you look for in your Sunday stack. The creamy, buttery flavor gained high marks as well. It’s safe to say, our hungry taste testers flipped over these pancakes! They're so good, you might even opt for a second breakfast.
The contenders, listed from least-favorite to most-loved, were Market Pantry, Aunt Jemima, Hungry Jack, Bob’s Red Mill, Betty Crocker, and our winner, Bisquick.
A Few Final Takeaways
Take a Gander at the Ingredients
If you’re looking for a true quick-fix pancake, opt for a box mix that calls for only water. We’d recommend Betty Crocker’s Buttermilk Pancake Mix. (If you like it as much as we did, you can get a value pack on Amazon.) But if you’ve got a few minutes to spare, brands like Bob’s Red Mill and Bisquick offer a lot more flavor with the addition of simple ingredients like milk, oil and eggs.
Make Sure Your Heat Is Nice and Even
Before you go forth with your newfound pancake knowledge, make sure you're avoiding these 7 common pancake mistakes. For instance, during our made-to-test set up, we had some minor snafus with the griddle’s temperature. For the perfect pancake, ensure that the surface you’re cooking on—be it griddle or skillet—is producing even heat. Here’s a trick I learned from my mom: To tell if the cooking surface is ready for pancakes, splash a few drops of cold water on it. If the water bubbles and evaporates immediately, it’s time to get cookin’!
As icing is to cake, syrup and butter are to pancakes. There’s just something missing if you don’t have a pat of butter melting on top of your stack. Butter, syrup and other tasty toppings can enhance the flavor of any pancake. So whether you use Market Pantry, Bob’s Red Mill or Bisquick—they’ll taste similar if you’re prone to sprinkling fresh fruit or chocolate chips on top (or stirring them into the batter).
Want to do more with pancakes? Here are some delicious ways to spruce them up.
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