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15 Mistakes You’re Making with Your Pancakes

The secret to diner-perfect pancakes may be more science than art. Here's how to tweak your batter, your frying pan, and your flipping technique to ensure fluffier, tastier pancakes.

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Woman pouring olive oil onto frying pan on stove

Mistake: You pour oil directly in the pan

Even with the most diligent of swirling, it’s nearly impossible to get the pan evenly covered in oil. To prevent pooling, which can make for unevenly cooked pancakes, Stephanie Le of iamafoodblog.com suggests brushing a thin layer of oil or melted butter on the pan with a pastry brush. This prevents uneven spreading, which will give you golden-brown pancakes with no gooey pockets. If you don’t have a brush, a folded paper towel will also do the trick (make sure the pan is not hot). Check out these 11 cooking mistakes that can make your food toxic to eat.

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Mixing Batter or dough for banana cake or muffin or pancake. Close up, soft focus.
Bozhena Melnyk/Shutterstock

Mistake: You over-stir the batter

Lumps aren’t the enemy! As long as the dry and wet ingredients are completely mixed together (that means no flour streaks) there’s no need to get out every single lump. Over-stirring the batter can make pancakes chewy and gummy instead of light and fluffy, according to Bon Appetit.

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Pancakes with blueberries and honey on white plate on dark wooden background, top view. Flat lay, overhead, from above.
Liudmyla Chuhunova/Shutterstock

Mistake: You load up on fillings

It’s fun to play around with pancake flavors, but too many berries or chocolate chips can weigh down the batter, which prevents the pancake from cooking properly or can cause the fillings to burn. Neil Kelinberg, Clinton Street Baking Company chef and owner, told the Village Voice that a few spoonfuls of blueberries per batch or a few banana slices per pancake is the perfect amount.  He also suggests lighter ingredients, like shredded coconut. “Shredded coconut goes inside the pancake to give it texture. It’s tropical and fun,” he says. Don’t miss these tips and tricks for how to make the perfect plate of scrambled eggs every time.

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Ruddy pancakes on a black frying pan
Ramil Gibadullin/Shutterstock

Mistake: You flip too soon (or too late)

If you flip the pancake soon, you’ll probably have to turn it again to finish cooking the other side, which causes it to deflate. If you flip too late, your pancake burns. The key to the perfect flip: “Look for bubbles that start to appear on the edge of the pancake. Once they start to pop and form holes, you know it’s time to flip,” says Le. Make them extra delicious with these pancake mix-ins.

Editor’s Tip: Imagine thick, fluffy, delicious pancakes that you don’t even have to flip. Here’s how this popular TikTok pancake hack worked out in real life.

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Mixing dough for pancake.

Mistake: You make the batter ahead of time

It might seem like a good idea to prep batter the night before for a more relaxing morning. But leavening agents like baking soda work as soon as they hit the wet ingredients, so the longer the batter sits, the less effective those agents will be and the flatter your pancakes will become, according to Bon Appetit. Keeping ingredients at the right temp is also critical to achieving a fluffy flapjack. “Cold liquids and eggs produce soggy pancakes,” says Thomas Joseph of Kitchen Conundrum in Martha Stewart Living. “Bring your wet ingredients to room temperature before adding them. He also suggests folding in a few whipped egg whites for an even fluffier pancake. Here are 12 other baking mistakes you’re probably making and don’t even know it.

Mistake: You pour directly from the bowl to the pan

Pouring pancake batter into frying pan with stove top in background
tab62/ShutterstockThis makes it challenging to create uniform pancakes, so it’s harder to cook them all evenly. “Use a small measuring cup, like 1/4, to ensure evenly sized pancakes,” says Le. “This lets you be more consistent, instead of just pouring out random amounts.” Try this one with an easy pour dent for perfect pancakes.

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Making pancakes on frying pan

Mistake: Your pan is too hot (or cold)

Pan temperature is really everything: too hot and you’ve got scorched cakes; too cool and they can turn out flat and tough. The surefire way to a perfect pancake is to use an electric griddle set to 375 degrees, according to The Great American Pancake Company. If you use a regular frying pan, keep the heat at medium to medium-low, says Le, and test a small amount of batter first to see how it cooks.

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Making american pancakes on frying pan in kitchen interior, preparation breakfast food, nobody

Mistake: Using the wrong pan

Ask anyone: an electric griddle with the temperature set to 375° is your best choice for your most predictable pancakes (predictable being a good thing here!). If you don’t have one, then the next best thing is a well-seasoned cast-iron griddle, or any large skillet that heats evenly and has a lot of flat surface space. A non-stick skillet will also work. Get yourself the right pan, and get started plowing through these amazing pancake recipes.

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Pan with delicious thin pancakes on wooden table
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Mistake: Using the wrong utensils

For reasons that will become apparent as you read further, it’s crucial to use a bowl that’s large enough for you to comfortably and lightly mix all of your ingredients with a fork or a whisk. As for your spatula, use one that’s large, wide, angled and heat-proof. Some people say pancakes are all in the flipping. You won’t know if it’s true unless you have the right spatula.

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Photograph of a salt shaker close up
Bernardo Ramonfaur/Shutterstock

Mistake: Not using salt or sugar

Baking powder and baking soda will build lift and lightness. They also contain a slightly salty taste, but that doesn’t mean you should skip the salt. If you skip it, you’ll miss it. Same goes for sugar. It’s not about the sweetness so much as it is the crystallization that creates crispiness at the edges of your pancakes (although it is a little bit about the sweetness). Here is a pretty darn perfect buttermilk pancakes recipe, which uses just the right amount of sugar for a sweet crispiness at the edge and the right amount of salt to bring out that sweet taste.

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Pouring milk in a bowl of flour

Mistake: Not taking “buttermilk” seriously

Admit it. You’ve skipped the buttermilk, substituting whole milk, right? Big mistake. If the recipe calls for buttermilk, use buttermilk, which brings a pleasant, acidic tang to this soothing comfort food, but more importantly, reacts with baking soda and helps to tenderize the flour. If your recipe calls for buttermilk, and you use something else, your pancakes will lack in soft texture. But if you don’t have buttermilk, here’s a trick: stir in a few tablespoons of mayonnaise with your eggs and oil. Seriously, it works.

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preparing blini or crepes batter pouring on hot pan, 4k photo

Mistake: Not fully preheating

Be sure to preheat the skillet fully before you add the batter, or you won’t get those crispy edges you know you want in your perfect pancake. It should sizzle when you pour your batter (you can test that with a drop of water, which also makes the sizzling sound).

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Melting fat - Cooking and baking - of cholesterol meals
Gabor Kenyeres/Shutterstock

Mistake: Using the wrong fat

Butter tastes great, but it browns too quickly on the high heat of your skillet to be useful for making pancakes. A good pancake requires a fat with a higher smoke point—such as canola oil, shortening, coconut oil, or even ghee or clarified butter. Coconut oil’s slightly sweet taste makes it an extra attractive option if you’ve got it.

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Making of home made pancakes. Close up view

Mistake: Crowding the pan

If you crowd the pan, your pancakes won’t crisp up at the edges because the relative coolness of the batter will cool down the cooking temperature of your pan. So be patient, and keep your pancakes at least one inch apart. (This’ll also give you more space to flip them.)

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Making american pancakes on frying pan in kitchen interior, preparation breakfast food, nobody

Mistake: Not paying attention to the heat as you go

If you don’t have an electric skillet, you’ll need to pay attention to the heat as you go. The general rule of thumb is to use medium heat. Too hot means you’ll burn the outside before cooking the inside. Too low means you won’t get crispy edges. If while you’re cooking, the skillet starts to smoke, the heat has become too high—turn off the burner and wait a few minutes before continuing. Make sure you avoid these other breakfast mistakes when you’re cooking.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren has covered knowledge, history, the British royal family, true crime and riddles for Reader's Digest since 2017. Having honed her research and writing skills as an attorney in the 1990s, she became one of HuffPost's first bloggers in the early 2000s, graduated to reporting hyperlocal news in the 2010s and has been researching and writing news and features for a wide variety of publications ever since. Aside from Reader's Digest, her work has appeared in Mashed, Tasting Table, Eat This, Not That!, Grown and Flown, MSN, Yahoo, AOL, Insider, Business Insider and many others.