How to Make Perfectly Round Pancakes That Look Like They Were Ordered at a Diner

Go from breakfast buff to pancake professional with these expert tips.

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buttermilk pancakes
Photo: Armando Rafael

Are you a pancake lover who's never satisfied with their at-home efforts because you can't get your flapjacks to look like the perfectly-round, evenly-sized stacks you order at the diner? Don't get frustrated and don't give up: We have the expert tips and tricks you need to create neat, circular pancakes every time you break out the griddle.

Why Professional Pancakes Look Perfect

Restaurant pancakes look perfect in part because the cooks are working on a big flat-top griddle. The batter has room to spread out, and the cook has enough room between pancakes to get a spatula under each to flip neatly. Also, these cooks make the same recipe day in, day out'and know exactly how the batter should look, how thick or thin it should be, and the right way to measure it for picture-perfect pancakes every time.

Here's the true pro tip: Pancake batter can be thick and puffy or thin and pourable. To get perfectly round pancakes, you need to use a different technique depending on the batter's consistency.

Understanding Thick and Thin Batter

Tall and fluffy versus thin and stackable is entirely a matter of preference—this is an age-old pancake debate with no right or wrong answer. To become a pancake whisperer, it's important to learn how to handle each kind of batter, whether it's thick or thin.

Thick Pancake Batter: Use an Ice Cream Scoop

Thick pancake batter is not easy to pour. If you've tried, then you've probably experienced the frustration of scraggly, misshapen, oddly sized pancakes. For pretty, evenly shaped results, use an ice cream scoop. A 1/4-cup scoop should make medium-size pancakes (about 4 inches diameter). Scale up to a 1/3-cup or 1/2-cup ice cream scoop for jumbo, plate-size pancakes.

No ice cream scoops on hand? Instead, portion thick pancake batter onto the griddle using a measuring cup coated with nonstick cooking spray. Re-spray the cup between each scoop for the best results.

Thin Pancake Batter: Use a Measuring Cup or Ladle

Thin pancake batter, on the other hand, can be poured from a liquid measuring cup, pitcher, or ladle. On the griddle, aim for the middle of where you want the pancake to go, pouring straight down in one even stream and allowing the batter to spread out from the center point.

Take care to pour out the same amount of batter for each pancake. 1/4 cup will give you pancakes 5 to 6 inches in diameter; 1/3 cup creates approximately 8-inch pancakes; and 1/2 cup will make pancakes that are around 10 inches across.

Determining Batter Thickness

So, how can you tell, just by looking at a recipe, how thick or thin the batter will be? The experts in the King Arthur Baking test kitchen share this handy hint:

  • A recipe with equal volumes of flour and liquid (such as 2 cups all-purpose flour and 2 cups buttermilk) will result in a thicker batter that makes taller, extra-fluffy pancakes.
  • A recipe that calls for less flour than liquid by volume (such as 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 2 cups buttermilk) creates thinner, diner-style pancakes.

Pan Rules

The next trick to perfectly round pancakes? Don't overcrowd the pan. Each pancake should have room to spread out without running into its neighbors, and there should be enough space between every pancake, as well as the side of the pan, for you to slide a spatula underneath, flip it cleanly, and stick the landing—without flopping into any obstacles that will mar its perfect edges.

To flip your flawless pancakes, choose a spatula that's just slightly narrower than the pancake itself.

Get a Griddle

For serious pancake lovers, a griddle is a worthwhile investment. Choose an electric nonstick model or a cast-iron one that fits across two burners and can be expertly seasoned to produce its own nonstick surface.

A griddle allows you to cook more pancakes at once, gives you greater freedom to make jumbo flapjacks, and provides the perfect flat surface so you can flip from any angle.

Practice Makes Perfect Pancakes

Now that you know how to choose a pancake recipe, measure out the batter with beautiful precision, and cook these breakfast treats on the right surface with the right spatula, all that's left to do is practice. Don't expect all of your pancakes to look perfect on your first try. Instead, save room so you can eat your mistakes (with extra maple syrup).

Looking for a few pancake recipes to get started? Grab a cup of coffee and peruse our entire collection—then decide what's for breakfast.

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