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While I understand that adding melted butter or oil to thick, American-style pancakes improves the texture/crumb of the pancake, I have been wondering what the impact is on thin pancakes. Here are some example recipes of the style of pancake I mean: one, two, three (interestingly this third link is a vegan recipe and calls for the most oil by far).

I've read in some places that the main reason is to reduce the chances of the pancake sticking to the pan - but this seems easily avoided with the right equipment and technique anyway.

So what function is butter/oil serving in these recipes? Is it still a textural thing, as with thick pancakes (and if so, how would the texture be different with or without the oil)? Is it about the non-stick issue? Or is it just a flavour thing? Given the massive variance in amounts of oil I've seen added to otherwise similar recipes for this style of pancake, it would be useful to understand what function the butter/oil is truly serving.

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    Fascinating! As a Yorkshireman, I've always considered pancake mix to be identical to Yorkshire Pudding mix [which really only varies in the ratio of 3 [or 4 milk/water] ingredients] & would never dream of adding oil to it. Interested to see what some answers may be here. – Tetsujin Jul 2 at 12:20
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it's used mainly for 2 purposes the first being flavour (if u're making sweet crepes,as we call them in europe, better to use butter: if u're making savoury u can replace the butter with olive oil to give an aromatic note) and the second being elasticity and "bounciness".

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In my experience (having tried oil-free pancakes for health purposes) the pancakes made without fat are much drier compared to the moist pancakes made with oil or butter. So the case here as with most baked goods is that the fat helps produce a lighter and more flavourful result. I suspect the vegan recipe uses the most oil to replace some of the action of the eggs.

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    I think you might be referring to thick, American-style pancakes though? I understand the function oil plays there (as you say, to keep them light & moist). However, the type of pancakes i linked to aren't really meant to be 'fluffy'. – mfox Jul 2 at 13:09
  • @mfox oops, I only clicked the second link and didn't see a picture! That said I think the moistness and flavour are still the key factors. I have made these thin pancakes before and the fat keeps it from tasting too dry and "fibrous" – the real deal Jul 2 at 13:39
  • No worries. I've actually also tried a few recipes with and without the oil but didn't actually notice a lot of difference (mind you, I still used oil in the pan so maybe they picked up flavour there). But maybe I just used the wrong type of oil (I used a neutral flavoured oil, but maybe a more flavourful oil or butter is a better choice here). – mfox Jul 2 at 13:44
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    @mfox oil in the pan was perhaps enough. When I made my oil-free ones, I used a non stick skillet so there was no oil at all. The taste and texture were unsatisfactory with this method. – the real deal Jul 2 at 13:46

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