I Ask: Why Can’t I Make Pancakes?

Seriously. Answer this. Help me.

When I was fifteen, I made pasta. I put a top on the pot of water (so it would BOIL FASTER) and put no top on the sauce. Then I saw a shiny object and forgot about dinner. Until WATER START SHOOTING OUT THE SIDES OF THE POT. But to get to the top I had to dodge volcanic explosions of tomato sauce the LITERALLY SHOT TO THE CEILING.

After that, I was banned from the stove. And now you see why I might need to ask this question.

My first attempt at pancakes this year I call Pancakes 2.0. Because I blame the EPIC PANCAKE FAILURE on tweeting and pancaking at the same time.

They're blurry because I'm shaking from hunger. And all that tweeting

But I make pancakes again. Because they are DELICIOUS!

I don’t even have a picture of the EPIC PANCAKE FAILURE SEQUEL. But trust me, I SKINNED THEM ALIVE. We only had tiny fluffy middles to eat. The rest I scraped off the pan two days later. (HEY I WAS BUSY THAT WEEK)

So teach me to make pancakes on a stainless steel pan with two kids, three cats, a dog and an addiction to twitter. And possibly talking on my iPhone.

Answer the actually answered the question. Mandy says: We switched from lovely-non-stick-Teflon to probably-won’t-cause-cancer stainless a couple years back. Took me forever (or at least several months) to get the pancake knack back. Knack back. Hmmm…like it.

Onward!

First…spray your pan with oil. (I have one of those groovy Pampered Chef things because I’m addicted to home parties, but you could just use Pam – the can of spray oil, not the person.)

Then…and this is important…turn your heat down between low and medium.

Don’t let the pan get too hot.

Seriously. That’s it. When the pan gets too hot the pancake tends to burn to the bottom of the pan before the top bubbles. Then, when you use your “heat resistant” plastic spatula to try and scrape the pancake off the pan, it’ll melt to the steel and tear apart your pancake resulting in tossing the pan to another burner, pulling out the Cheerios and a fight with your husband as to whom gets to clean up the melted, burned mess.

Oh. And use the “Just Add Water” mix. I tried the whole “from scratch” thing. Once. The family couldn’t figure out what they were eating.

Good luck!

Answer that changed my life! Tiffany says: Pancakes, “to go” 5 minutes. No bowls or stove! I got this vegan recipe because son has a few food allergies (milk and egg), but I wish I’d known how to do this sooner: 2c Bisquick + 1c Soy Milk + 1/2c Blueberries + 3tsp Egg Replacer. Mix into 2 Coffee Mugs (or bowls) + Microwave 5 min. Add Syrup + Butter.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

62 thoughts on “I Ask: Why Can’t I Make Pancakes?

  1. Pancakes, “to go” 5 minutes. No bowls or stove! I got this vegan recipe because son has a few food allergies (milk and egg), but I wish I’d known how to do this sooner: 2c Bisquick + 1c Soy Milk + 1/2c Blueberries + 3tsp Egg Replacer. Mix into 2 Coffee Mugs (or bowls) + Microwave 5 min. Add Syrup + Butter. Here’s video ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvPyBWoe2oI

      1. I don’t really like pancakes… Not sure what all the fuss is about with those things… So I can’t help you there — But after you’ve cooked your pancakes in the microwave if you want to cook an egg to go with them, all you have to do is spray some Pam in the bottom of a coffee cup, crack an egg into it, give it a couple of mixes with a fork and nuke for 60 seconds. You end up with a perfectly round English muffin sized egg!

        1. That cookbook may be called “Vegan College Cookbook”, but I call it “Busy Broke Mom Who Hates Dishes and Only Has 5 Minutes to Cook Food and Still Has To Eat All Her Food Cold” cookbook. Every recipe is easy, stove-less, cheap and funny. (Broke Ass Cinamon Rolls, Fiesta in Your Mouth Salsa, Sucky Day Strawberry Shake).

          I’m not vegan, but I got this because the recipes lack milk or eggs. Aren’t those are the things I was always running out of anyways? 1 box of egg replacer has lasted us 3 years. Even if my son “grows out of his allergies”, I’m keeping that stuff around just for the shelf life.

  2. First of all, I really, really want to encourage you to invest in a non-stick pan. Just don’t put it in the dishwasher—nonstick pans hate the dishwasher. But they love pancakes.

    I’m thinking your problem could stem from a couple of things—make sure you don’t have the heat too high on the stove. If you do, the pancakes will cook too fast on the outside and still be doughy/raw on the inside. Also, make sure the batter isn’t too thick—that causes the pancakes to be too spongy and sometimes stick.

    Or you could just be lazy and buy frozen pancakes
    .-= TheKitchenWitch´s last blog ..Seven Hours Alone–*Update* =-.

    1. I have a nonstick pan. I just find it slightly freaky to use and eventually want to move to stainless steel for everything. So I started with pancakes. Mistake #57 in the EPIC PANCAKE FAILURE clearly.

  3. Instead of a nonstick, find yourself a reasonably inexpensive cast iron skillet, which can be seasoned with vegetable oil into being nonstick. This means you don’t have to worry about yucky Teflon, and they last forever, so when you die, your kids will be fighting over the pancake pan.

    I played around with a few recipes, and my favorite is out of Joy of Cooking. But it doesn’t really matter which one you use. Heat your pan. THEN grease the hot pan. When you pour the batter (which you should scoop out of a dry measuring cup), make sure you pour with enough distance from other pancakes. Do not touch the pancakes until they are ready to flip. Seriously. Resist the urge to play with the pancakes. They aren’t ready to flip until the little bubbles are all over, and not just on the periphery. Make sure your spatula is big enough to handle your cakes (but not too big).

  4. OK — I have to tell you American pancakes are easy to make relative to English ones which don’t have all that baking powder in them so are like crepes and fall apart.

    You ABSOLUTELY need a non-stick pan, totally agree with Kitchen Witch. A good quality, thick based one but one that also fits to the size of your burner/ring on the stove (so the pan and pancake heat evenly and do not overheat). I use butter because I think then the pancakes taste better — make sure pan is heated over medium heat before putting the butter in, then once it melts you are set to go, do not let the butter (or oil if you use that) start to smoke and burn as then you are in trouble. Make small pancakes, just a 1/4 cup batter poured in, then as others have said, once it spreads out do NOT touch it, just let it settle and start to cook, however I do give the pan one or two tiny little shakes to make sure the pancake is not sticking. When it has bubbled all over and there is no more liquidy surface remaining, flip and just lightly brown the other side. If you make your own batter let it stand for at least ten minutes before you use it and if you add blueberries or any other kind of fruit make sure it is dry, firm and fresh too.
    .-= Aging Mommy´s last blog ..Milestones, Memories and Moving On =-.

    1. I did try and make a GIANT pancake once. I thought it would be quicker. I suffer from this sort of stupidity. I blame being born a Yankee.

      Years from now when I’ve mastered pancakes, will you teach me how to make crepes?

  5. My husband and I were both convinced we were TOTAL PANCAKE-MAKING FAILURES. After years of shame, I finally gave myself a non-stick 2-burner stovetop griddle for my birthday. Ok, actually, I just really wanted to buy it and happened to be on the store the day before my birthday, and justified it that way. Whatever. Point is, for the first time in my entire married life, I made pancakes that rocked our little world. It’s all in the pan. I will never use stainless steel that way ever, ever again.

    To maximize your pancakey fabulosity, find a great recipe. We find the RecipeZaar IHOP copycat recipe to be perfection. And use actual buttermilk – lemon juice or vinegar in milk is soooo not the same thing.
    .-= Jess´s last blog ..word of the day 149/365: mama =-.

    1. Can you get my a griddle for my birthday? It’s in September but we can pretend it’s in May. Or pretend today is September. Either way, IT’S MY BIRTHDAY.

      (And the IHOP copycat recipe is a whole new level of awesome)

      1. I’ll pretend today is your birthday and imaginarily buy you a griddle. Here. Notice I didn’t include a gift receipt and I’m going to cagily refuse to tell you where I bought it, so you can’t return it. What would a pretend birthday gift be without a little faux passive-aggression?

        1. Great! I’ll pretend that I sent you a thank you note my son wrote. So you can feel like your children are not as accomplished as mine. (true story. except my kid DID NOT write the note.)

  6. I can’t cook worth a shit and even *I* can make pancakes. Those things are scary looking. I say take up that offer you got for Ihop coupons.

  7. Not being able to do make pancakes can be really damaging to your self esteem. I mean, it’s tough — there is mocking, tears and occasional laughter, pointing and jeering at your inability to make pancakes. Today, I will try to stop doing that for the remainder of this comment.

    (Quick note: I think I know where this has always gone awry, but we should go through the whole thing just to be certain.)

    First, mix all of your dry ingredients. I think it’s flour, salt, baking something in a powder form, and whatever else dry thing is on the recipe. Take that whisky wand looking thing and then get another container (Tip: Evidently, the dog food dish is NOT acceptable.) to combine the wet ingredients. I think it’s milk and probably eggs, but you could be really bad ass and try adding vodka. Or maybe a hint of cinnamon schnapps. (Taunt: Kiss my ass Martha Stewart!) Okay, where were we? Oh yeah, so then add the dry to the wet. Not the other way around. Cause one way is really lumpy and gloppy and messy and the other way is better. I’m not sure which is which, really, but I picked a way and so that’s how you MUST do it from hence forth. (Also? I totally wanted to say hence.) Now it’s all mixed up and this is what the professionals call BATTER. Not the kind like what they have in the MBA, or for a CAKE or — crap. The hell? Why can’t it have a UNIQUE name. I can see where “batter” could be confusing.
    ANYWAY, now you have to preheat your pan. The trick is to use a NONSTICK pan or a griddle. (See? I probably didn’t have to go through all of the other to get you here, now did I? But I bet you didn’t know that trick about the cinnamon schnapps either. So, now you’ve learned TWO things. And only one of them I made up.) You should probably oil the pan lightly before pouring in the batter. It’s important to have the pan at the right temp too — otherwise they’ll be the wrong color or texture and I promise that no matter how fun you make them sound, your family will not take to pancakes that are crunchy on one side and gooey on the other. Unadventurous jerks. Oh? The temp. It’s between that line here and the long line there. That translates roughly to medium high.

    So, once all that is done, you can pour some of your batter into the pan in circles. When they start to bubble, you flip them. Don’t bother them before the bubbles. Or they break up into undercooked dog food. (P.S. Even the dogs won’t eat that mush.) Then, when they are finished, you can plate and serve.

    Assuming I still have your attention, then you can totally try this. If I lost you somewhere after you started drinking the schnapps, then you’re best bet is to head to the store, grab some frozen pancakes and heat and serve.

    You’re welcome and pass the schnapps.

    1. P.S. — I TOTALLY meant MBL instead of MBA. Sigh. I probably should have proofread it first. Feel free to edit it for me — and to take out that extra word “do” in the first sentence.

        1. So what I’ve gathered from your explanation is that I use a baseball bat to knock out my neighbor and steal her pancakes but leave her some schnapps? Or did you lose me at getting your MBA?

          (you know I love you right?)

  8. Get a waffle maker and use the pancake recipe into waffles. I have a good recipe-email if you want it.

  9. OMG, you have the most talented readers! My husband makes the pancakes around here, and the tradition is that he says the “F” word and always throws the first one away, and then magically, the rest turn out fine. But we now have to have yucky WHOLE WHEAT pancakes, because that is all Weight Watchers will allow me to have, with SUGAR FREE syrup. Want to come over next Sunday for brunch? With coffee and SKIM MILK?

    1. Sugar free syrup is an abomination.

      But I will forgive you because you did realize that I HAVE THE BEST READERS EVER. You can see why I couldn’t dole out the advice. They are WAY smarter than me.

  10. I find that cooking pancakes in a pan on the stove is a quick way to end up wasting an entire batch of batter…and more than likely a pan.
    Use a large electric griddle, then you save massive amounts of time. Time that could be better used tweeting about your stupid grunting neighbors, cleaning up cat vomit, or plucking coins from under the couch cushions. You know, stuff you’d rather do.
    Anyway, mix up your recipe until it’s almost free of lumps…any longer and you’d have to consider a new President.
    Preheat the griddle to about 300 degrees…or until you touch it and need skin grafts for the localized burn.
    I prefer to measure out my batter with a small measuring cup, because then you have consistent sized cakes, and the kids can’t whine about how they have to eat 1/8 of a larger pancake than their sibling has to.
    Plop the batter onto the griddle, and pray to the pancake gods that none of it spreads out enough to connet the plops. You’ll notice in between tweets that bubbles are rising to the surface and popping. This is good, it means it’s cooking, and any remaining holes are just going to accomodate additional butter. Very good indeed. Periodically peek under the edge of the first pancake to establish it’s degree of darkness, and flip over when desired color is acheived.
    Refrain from smashing the newly flipped pancake with a spatula, unless you have something against fluffy cakes. Then feel free to smash them, and call a psychiatrist.
    Remove from griddle after desired color is acheived. Top with whatever sounds good…because more than likely you just figured out you’re out of syrup.
    Good luck.

    1. How did you know I like to touch hot things and get burned? Did we take chemistry together?

      And it’s nice to be understood. Twitter comes first, kids… I mean, pancakes.

  11. Doesn’t iPhone have an app for this yet?

    Did someone else make this joke already? I didn’t read all the comments.

    So, in case someone made this joke already I’ll try again. The trick is to get the children to ride the dogs for entertainment. While they are momentarily distracted, take photos of your material with iphone. Tweet them. Get instructions from a real cook. If there is an Epic Pancake Failure the Third, use iPhone to order pancakes while children defend themselves from angry dogs. Serve food and use it to broker a peace agreement between children and dogs with sore backs.

    1. Isn’t it amazing how our iPhones save the day? I am gazing at it with love and awe as I type.

      I going to make iPhone-shaped pancakes. If any of this advice works.

  12. Girlfriend. By the looks of it, I’m guessing the pancake consistency is fine, just the shape. Make WAFFLES! Just pour the batter in the waffle maker and it controls the shape. Super messy to clean but at the looks of your pancake making, you are having just the same amount of mess. If pancake consistency is the issue, buy the little Bisquick mix in the small yellow shaker. Add water and shake. That’s it. Viola! And invite me over cuz I love breakfast food.

    1. I’m impressed that you would take a chance on my breakfast food. I’m not sure that I wouldn’t be nervous disappointing a pregnant woman with EPIC PANCAKE FAILURE #3

  13. Dude this column is awesome! I have no idea how to make pancakes but now I can make an egg in a mug!
    BTW-the site looks awesome!

    1. AWESOME. seriously. people just started yelling all around me when I said that. and my chair talks.

      PS. I’m referencing pee wee’s playhouse. it’s funny. my reference. it’s in fact AWESOME

  14. I love this new feature! Great idea! B/c what woman doesn’t LOVE to put in her 2 cents worth?

    P.S.: I think you need more eggs in your pancake batter…just sayin’…

  15. Simple—kids make pancakes while you talk on iphone.
    Anyone old enough to reach the stove (with a stool, if necessary) can flip a pancake. And then they can feed themselves in college.

  16. Make sure the pan is hot enough before you start. When they start to bubble, give them a flip..then they just need a couple seconds on the other side.

    Oh, and you know, but the kind in the box so you just have to add water.

    Or, better yet, buy the frozen ones and call it a wash!

    1. It’s the bubbles!! I’m too impatient for the bubble so I just keep PEEKING. Which probably explains the shape… And also why I torture-text my friends until they call me back. And why I have so few friends…

  17. FIrst there is this thing called, the perfect pancake maker. pretty cool. also I buy the little yellow bottle of stuff that you just add water to. Presto and you got awesome pancakes.

    PS sometimes i add some vanilla to mine. yummy.
    now i want some pancakes.

  18. A cast-iron skillet is great for making pancakes. The only problem is if you get divorced. Because when your ex comes to stay with the kids while you go away with your new boyfriend, they’ll want their dad to make the pancakes. Technically this is okay. But while he’s heating the oil, a plastic bag will find its way onto the stove where it will fuse to the pan. Your ex takes the kids to the diner. You have to sandblast the pan (not likely). Or throw it out (more likely). Just letting you know your options.

    1. When I moved out of my boyfriend’s house, I kept finding the good spatulas in the kitchen and the bad ones in my boxes. Like four times we wordlessly moved them back and forth. I won. And now know to never let him stay at my house. Because he’d totally break them. or steal them back. And it’d be awkward to leave kids that aren’t his with him.

  19. We switched from lovely-non-stick-Teflon to probably-won’t-cause-cancer stainless a couple years back. Took me forever (or at least several months) to get the pancake knack back. Knack back. Hmmm…like it.

    Onward!

    First…spray your pan with oil. (I have one of those groovy Pampered Chef things because I’m addicted to home parties, but you could just use Pam — the can of spray oil, not the person.)

    Then…and this is important…turn your heat down between low and medium.

    Don’t let the pan get too hot.

    Seriously. That’s it. When the pan gets too hot the pancake tends to burn to the bottom of the pan before the top bubbles. Then, when you use your “heat resistant” plastic spatula to try and scrape the pancake off the pan, it’ll melt to the steel and tear apart your pancake resulting in tossing the pan to another burner, pulling out the Cheerios and a fight with your husband as to whom gets to clean up the melted, burned mess.

    Oh. And use the “Just Add Water” mix. I tried the whole “from scratch” thing. Once. The family couldn’t figure out what they were eating.

    Good luck!

    1. The switch is HARD. But that’s why we are making the change too. And I have burned GARLIC. Twice. In the same dish. (But not while making pancakes. Because that would be gross)

      1. Don’t feel bad. Garlic is tricky — even in Teflon. The dang stuff just keeps cooking in oil. I tried to convince my family that crunch garlic was a new way to prepare it. Remember my motto: “It’s not burned. It’s just well done.”

  20. So, I couldn’t make pancakes either. For a long time. A really long time. And then we got an electric griddle, WHICH is covered with a fine DuPont created coating of Teflon. The only thing I use it for is pancakes. It tells you the temp. on the side of the just add water box.

    I tried to move to non-teflon when CMH came along but after about the 4th burnt meal, I switched back and just replace the teflon pan often as to prevent any leeching or flaking or chipping.

    Don’t worry about making aesthetically pleasing pancakes. Just make yummy pancakes!

  21. Wow, you have stumbled upon a great idea — I agree with Alexandra — which woman DOESN’T want to add her 2 cents…unfortunately, I am as clueless as you are about the pancakes…my husband makes fantastic pancakes by beating in very ripe banana. They always come out great. Maybe you can incorporate that into your other advice.

  22. It just sounds like you need to add more butter to the pan and lower the temp. If the burner is too high the pancakes will cook unevenly and will stick to the pan. Try lowering the temp to medium-low. I usually use #4 or 5. They take a little longer but that just gives you more time to txt, talk, and chase the kids.

  23. My oldest (with the texture eating issues) gets 90% of his daily calories from waffles or pancakes. I have become a “semi” expert. First of all, I usually make waffles (he likes them better – don’t ask me why cuz he doesn’t like the crunchy parts – and so I can get more than 50 calories in a day!). We have gone from moderate – to cheap – to more expensive waffle makers. the one I have now is a cuisinart brand square belgium waffle maker. IT ROCKS!!! I usually make a quadruple batch every 2 weeks and freeze them for daily use! (I’ll email you the recipe but I mix the dry ingredients (in zip lock bags) up every few months and put them in the freezer and just take them out, add 12 eggs, 8 cups of milk and 3 cups of oil (cuz I’m trying to keep them healthy and the recipe calls for 4!)

    If I’m in the mood to make pancakes, I use the same mix but then use an electric skillet. Definitely works better and faster (because we work on the commercial cafeteria numbers at our house!). I do use my calphalon pan occasionally …I think the key to non-sticking is…lots of oil in the batter – sorry, no way to make them healthier!

    (Don’t hate me but 1/2 of the flour is whole wheat…that makes them a bit more healthy doesn’t it?!)

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