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I have never been a pro at making pancakes. I tried again yesterday making them, using this recipe:

Ingredients
1½ cups flour (375ml)
2 eggs
600ml milk
pinch of salt

Method
Mix all the ingredients until bubbles form on the top of the mixture. Then simply pour into a non-stick pan on medium heat. Flip the pancake once bubbles have formed on the surface.

The first 3 of 4 come out perfect: fluffy, slightly brownish and not breaking apart when flipping. From there it only gets worse, going to big black spots, not fluffy and the spots that aren't brown are undercooked. Why is this?

  • There is no leavener in your list.... Did you simply leave it off or did you forget it? – Catija Sep 2 '15 at 14:02
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    Any chemical leavening -- bicarb/soda or baking powder? Eggs will give you some leavening, but powder is common. It sounds like your pan is getting too hot (overcooked outside, undercooked inside). Do you pre-heat your pan? You may need to turn down the heat after the first few, if your pan heats up a little more... Traditionally however, the first pancake is not as good! – hoc_age Sep 2 '15 at 14:06
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    Nope no leavener. Its an traditional way of making pancakes in south Africa. Found the recipe on the web last night: capetownmagazine.com/pancake-recipe .I do pre heat the pan for about 10 min on a gas stove on medium heat. – Pork Chop Sep 2 '15 at 14:15
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    It sounds like the pan is getting too hot. A pan is also hotter in the center. If the surface gets too hot, a layer of steam forms a cushion between metal and pancake, preventing uniform cooking. The oil in the pan helps increase the contact between pan and food. – papin Sep 2 '15 at 14:35
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    While in the US most pancake recipes contain chemical leaveners, internationally speaking many don't. Different approach, slightly different results, both are valid. – Stephie Sep 2 '15 at 14:49
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Ah, the worsening pancake debacle. I know it well. We have all been there, even after training for countless hours to make the perfect soufflé at the Culinary Institute.

The pan is getting too hot.

You should cool the pan with a quick rinse. This will also have the effect of resetting the surface, to get rid of any built-up grime or grease.

Good luck and happy cooking!

  • Lol thank you. Reading the comments I started feeling I was the only one. Your answer makes sense. The built up grease and oil is what probably causes the increased heat, and the more the pan is used the more it builds up then. Thanks – Pork Chop Sep 3 '15 at 5:37
  • The only down fall of giving the pan a quick rinse is that you risk warping the pan. This will bring down the pan's life expectancy. But yes, the pan is getting too hot. – Chef Pharaoh Sep 3 '15 at 6:31
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    @ChefPharaoh : it depends on how much water you're using. IF it's a quick rinse, you're not putting any more water on than if you were deglazing ... and the water's not staying on, so you're not going to ruin a pan unless it's really, really thin. – Joe Sep 3 '15 at 13:14
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    I definitely wouldn't give the pan a quick rinse to cool it down - just turn down the heat! You've got the heat set a bit too high, so the pan is slowly getting hotter and hotter - each batch has a warmer pan than the one before. If you're cooking on gas or induction this is easy - if it's old-style electric, you may have to fiddle with the temperature more. And there shouldn't be grease and oil building up - on the contrary, each batch you cook takes some of the grease and oil with it when you remove it from the pan. I usually need to add a bit more oil for each batch to make up for the loss. – Josh Sep 4 '15 at 23:05
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Short answer: The pan is too hot. That explains why the outside is overcooked or burnt and the batter on the inside is undercooked. Lower your heat. Your batter comes into the equation too. If you have thick batter the inside will take longer to cook. So you need less heat so the outside doesn't burn but the inside batter gets completely cooked. Because you're using raw eggs, you need to make sure the pancakes are cooked through. Although remote, there is a chance of salmonella poisoning. Salmonella and eggs is a whole another topic by itself.

I put a little cooking oil in the batter but otherwise I don't grease the griddle. The browning is more even (attractive). Keep in mind I am using non-stick. Generally speaking, I don't like non-stick but I do keep a couple pans around for eggs, omelets and... pancakes.

Medium heat is correct. I have a non-stick griddle that covers two burners on the stove. I heat it until little droplets of water "dance" and the surface and quickly evaporate. Just stick your hand under the faucet and flick a few droplets onto the griddle. That's when my first pancakes hit the griddle. After the batter bubbles appear and the edges start looking dry, I will lift the edge to check for the proper brown-ness. For your subsequent batches, you may have to adjust the heat up or down or adjust how long you leave the cakes on the griddle.

If you want to be a little more scientific, you may want to invest in an infra-red thermometer. That will tell you what the temp of the griddle surface is. Most non-sticks should not be heated to more than 450-500 degrees. If it's a PTFE surface i.e. Teflon, overheating may give off toxic gases. Those gases will kill pet birds. If they can kill birds, they probably aren't good for you.

All things considered, lower your heat. When you have the right temp, your batches should come out perfect and repeatable. There is a certain amount of "knowing what's right" that comes with experience.

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    I'd add one important detail that others haven't mentioned, that I learned only after making lots of disappointing pancakes. When you make pancake batter, don't over-mix it! Maybe you (unlike me!) got that part just right... but each time you scoop out another batch you're stirring up the batter too much and mixing it more, until the gluten in the wheat over-develops and makes things gummy instead of fluffy. Check out the tips here: bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/common-mistakes/article/… – Josh Sep 4 '15 at 23:13
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I can't cook a whole lot but I make some mean pancakes and NEVER have this issue.

My griddle is on 200-250F depending on the type of pancakes I am making (blueberry and chocolate chip are options) and how fast I want the pancakes made. You should have your pan or griddle on and going and hot before pouring your first set. If anything your first set should cook faster because it is on a new surface.

If you are closer to the 250F range you will be flipping quickly (1 minute max on both sides depending on size) but you can still have golden brown pancakes. In the 200F range this will allow you to control the pancakes more but you might have a hard time getting the brown. Honestly for plain pancakes I like to hover around 230F. And like I mentioned before your first batch cooks quickest and the dropping of the batter cools down the surface for the rest.

The last thing I will mention. I don't use grease or any oils. I feel like this is impossible to even out and produce a consistent product. Also I don't want to be unhealthy (my pancakes are almost fat free) and I especially don't want the oils to taint the taste of my round deliciousness. Instead I opt for PAM. I use the butter flavored PAM and there is no oil taste or film on my griddle or pancakes.

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