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How to Make Perfect Pancakes Every Time

Get our test kitchen's secrets to a flippin' flawless stack, plus three sweet twists.

strawberry pancakes martha cover image may 2017
Photography by: Armando Rafael

Nothing says, “It’s Saturday morning!” like the scent of homemade flapjacks drifting through the house. Here, we reveal the secrets to a best-in-show breakfast, from giving the batter a splash of lemon juice to knowing just when to flip.

 

Curious about the picture-perfect hotcakes above? They're topped with whipped cream, strawberries, and maple syrup -- like strawberry shortcake in breakfast form! It's just one of the many ways you can tweak our test kitchen's favorite buttermilk pancake recipe. Once you master the classic, be sure to try all our next-level variations.

 

Grocery List

Unbleached all-purpose flour

Sugar

Baking powder

Baking soda

Buttermilk

Fresh lemon juice

Large eggs

Unsalted butter

Safflower oil

 

Get the Test Kitchen's Favorite Buttermilk Pancakes Recipe
cut lemon
Photography by: Armando Rafael

Citrus Star

Lemon juice gives pancakes that tang lost from modern packaged buttermilk.

pancake batter with whisk
Photography by: Armando Rafael

1. Mix the batter . . .

. . . just not too much. The key to airy pancakes is keeping the batter lumpy. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon each baking soda and kosher salt until very well combined, about 30 seconds. In a large measuring cup, beat together 2 cups buttermilk, 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, 2 large eggs, and 2 tablespoons melted, cooled butter. Make a well in dry ingredients; stir in wet mixture. We repeat: don't overstir. Some lumps in the batter are your friend. If it gets too smooth from overmixing, breakfast will (literally) fall flat. Let rest 10 minutes so gluten can relax for a more tender end result.

cast-iron-skillet-006-mld109140.jpg
Photography by: Seth Smoot

2. Oil the skillet

Too much fat in the pan leads to uneven browning, which is why we use it sparingly. Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium; add 1 teaspoon safflower oil, then wipe with a paper towel, leaving behind a thin film.

 

pancake batter measuring cup
Photography by: Armando Rafael

3. Pour and flip

Working in batches, add heaping quarter-cups of batter to skillet, spreading lightly with the bottom of the cup. Cook until bubbles form on surface, edges have set, and undersides are golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook 2 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet; keep warm in a 200°F oven.

tovolo silicone slotted turner
Photography by: Armando Rafael

Top Tool

For easy flipping, we recommend a wide, flexible spatula. We love the Tovolo silicone slotted turner ($12, crateandbarrel.com).

 

Test Run

Make a single pancake first to work out the kinks. If it gets too dark on the outside, or gummy in the middle, adjust the heat to medium-low. If it sets at the edges before developing color on the bottom, turn up the heat.

cup4cup gluten-free flour
Photography by: Armando Rafael

Sans-Gluten Swap

Substitute Cup4Cup, a gluten-free variety, for all-purpose flour. The batter won’t need to rest, but the pancakes will take an additional 2 to 3 minutes per side to cook.

 

3 More Ways to Work Pancakes

 

apple-buckwheat pancakes
Photography by: Armando Rafael

Apple-Buckwheat

A little buckwheat goes a long way to creating an earthier, deeper flavor. Replace just 1/4 cup of the flour with buckwheat flour. While cooking, add 4 or 5 very thin apple slices to each pancake as bubbles form. Sprinkle with sugar, then flip. Serve with Greek yogurt and maple syrup. Sliced nectarines, pears, or peaches are delicious, too.

 

Get the Apple-Buckwheat Pancakes Recipe
peanut butter and berries pancakes
Photography by: Armando Rafael

Peanut Butter & Berries

Everyone will love this riff on PB&J! Mix 2/3 cup chunky peanut butter with 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar. Drop 2 teaspoons at a time on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread into disks with a spoon; freeze 1 hour. Drop 2 tablespoons batter in skillet; top with 1 disk and cover with2 more tablespoons batter. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve with sliced strawberries and maple syrup.

 

Get the Peanut Butter-Stuffed Pancakes Recipe
ricotta-cornmeal pancakes with oranges
Photography by: Armando Rafael

Ricotta-Cornmeal

Cornmeal adds a subtle crunch, while ricotta makes pancakes even fluffier. Replace 1/3 cup of the flour with fine yellow cornmeal, and 1/4 cup of the buttermilk with 1/2 cup fresh ricotta. Stir in 1 teaspoon orange zest, and replace the lemon juice with orange juice. Cook and serve pancakes, topped with supremed oranges, warm honey, and a dollop of ricotta.

 

Get the Ricotta-Cornmeal Pancakes Recipe