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I am trying to make crepes in a non-stick skillet. I've got the batter ready, well refrigerated. However, I am having trouble getting the batter to spread enough to cover the whole skillet before it cooks too much to do so. So I'm ending up with small crepes shaped like a splatter, instead of pan-sized ones shaped like nice circles. Also, the edges are crisping way too much and folding up and down in unattractive ways.

I'm mostly cooking on low-medium heat, closer to low than medium because I don't want the batter to cook. But no matter what I do, it seems to cook almost as soon as it hits the pan and no longer flows. So when I try the 'dip and swirl' method to spread the batter, it's already too thick to flow.

Any help? Should I try higher heat?

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It sounds like maybe there's a couple of possibilities.

  1. The pan is too hot. This can happen even over lower heat settings if you leave the pan to preheat for too long, or it may be that the burner's "medium-low" setting is just too hot, and you should use an even lower setting.
  2. The batter consistency is wrong. Crepe batter should be very thin, if it is cooking before you can spread it out that indicates that perhaps the batter is too thick.
  3. You aren't using enough batter. If you're satisfied with the thickness of the crepes you're getting, then you need to use more batter in order to cover the rest of the pan. You don't mention the thickness in your question, but since you're still calling them crepes and not pancakes, I'm guessing they're thin enough?

I think you're having either some combination of the first two issues or the third issue (most likely on its own, but possibly combined with #1).

You mention crispy edges, which sounds like the first issue, but you also mention it rapidly becoming "too thick to flow" so I think you may have a little of both of the first two going on. Given you're getting crispy edges and consider that a problem (every good crepe I've ever had has had lightly crispy edges, so I wouldn't necessarily call that a problem), it is possible that your batter is too thin, but I think that's unlikely-- crepe batter is better too thin than too thick, in my experience.

  • Thanks for the feedback! I will give these tweaks a try. As far as crispy edge goes, some of my crepes end up with a nice crisp edge, but most of them curl up as im cooking, so then when i flip, some parts curl up the other way, so it ends up with this lacey sort of edge that curls up, down, up, down. It's hard to describe. I wonder if that comes from manipulating the edges too soon? I've read that you need to cook them until the crepe separates itself from the pan. – user3128869 Jan 30 at 21:58
  • What should be the ideal surface temperature? – zetaprime Jan 30 at 22:16
  • @zetaprime I think that depends on the person making the crepes. Certainly a very hot pan is no good, but I think the ideal temperature is going to depend on how fast the person cooking can spread the batter and wants their crepes to cook. A cooler pan gives you more time to spread the batter out and more of a margin for error re:doneness. But a more experienced crepe-maker may want a hotter pan so they can cook things faster and be done and eating sooner. – senschen Jan 31 at 13:34
  • @user3128869 I don't think your edges are a product of touching the crepe as it cooks, although its hard to say without a picture. I think its more likely that that is simply a product of the batter you're using, as it sounds to me like that may be a function of how the batter cooks. Think about how bacon shrinks and wrinkles up as it cooks-- I wonder if there's a similar thing happening with your batter. – senschen Jan 31 at 13:38
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Your batter is too thick. You say it's refrigerated, but if that's the case it's likely thicker than if it was at room temperature. Also, as it sits it gets thicker, and if you're making a solid batch, for a few people, you need to keep thinning it as you go. Take the liquid you were using to begin with (milk), and add very small quantities at a time, on the order of tablespoons, stirring and evaluating the texture after each one. If you go too far, you'd have to add flour again and get into an overly involved cycle of correction.

Crepe batter thickening is a common problem in crepe establishments in the US. The crepes early in the day are fine but they get thicker and thicker as the day progresses because nobody thinks to thin the batter.

  • Is this thinning necessary even if I'm only making 6-8 crepes? And how to thin? Just add milk a Tbsp at a time? – user3128869 Jan 30 at 22:00
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    If you're taking batter right out of the fridge where it has been sitting a while, yes, thinning would be necessary even if you were making a single crepe. Otherwise you should be able to make a dozen or two without thinning, if you were fast enough at it. It's a matter of time rather than of quantity – George M Jan 30 at 22:03
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    @GeorgeM, you still didn't mention how to thin the batter which seems very important. – JPhi1618 Jan 31 at 15:26
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    "thin", in cooking, means adding more of whatever liquid you were using to begin with. For crepes that'd be milk (hopefully :-)). And naturally you want to add very small quantities at a time, on the order of tablespoons, stirring and evaluating the texture after each one (if you go too far, you'd have to add flour again and get into an overly involved cycle of correction) – George M Jan 31 at 17:56
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First, this can indeed be a thick batter, as the other answers mentioned. I would recommend using Ruhlman's ratio of 1:2:2 flour to milk to egg as a starting point of what a good crepe batter should be like. You can experiment with other recipes if you want something nonstandard, but first do some batches to get a feel for the proper consistency. And don't eyeball, use a scale.

Second, the swirl method produces slightly thicker crepes, like Swabian Flädle. If you want a true thin French crepe, you should use a T shaped tool for spreading the batter. It does need some practice, but it's learnable in a reasonable time. If you instead stay with the swirl method, even with the proper consistency, the bottom layer of the batter will bake before you've swirled the top, so you need sufficient batter to allow for that, as senschen said.

The lacy edge is also common with swirling, although proper consistency reduced it too. It also depends on good swirling technique, if you can hit an angle where the batter doesn't climb the pan wall, you don't get the lace. What makes it worse are pans with sloping sides, instead of straight ones (less hot) or real crepe pans without walls. Also, gas makes it worse, because it warms the pan sides. Again, if you want your crepes to be that close to the original ( thickness, no lacy edge, proper Browning, etc) you should use proper tools and not a random pan without a spreader.

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    Wonderful insight! Thank you! My swirling technique is already improving. However, can a T-shaped tool work on a standard home skillet? I've seen them in use at crepe restaurants. I actually just acquired Ruhlman's ratio book and the first page I went to was the crepe page. But I do have a question: How do I measure the amount of egg? Is it in ounces, with each egg at 2 ounces? I don't know how egg is quantified in these ratios. I also don't have a kitchen scale ... yet! But I will. – user3128869 Jan 30 at 23:00
  • An egg is normed to 50 g (M size in Europe, L size in the US, I believe). If you calculate in ounces, you will still be in the tolerance limit with 2 ounces, although I find grams preferable not just because I'm European, but also because an ounce is unhandy in the kitchen, just a little bit of rounding is already a large error for many applications. I like my own crepe batter with slightly less flour, so what I use is 2 eggs, 45 g flour, and 100 ml milk. This is the original ratio minus 10 percent flour, but if you round it to ounces, it seems to be 4:1.5:3.5. – rumtscho Jan 31 at 10:46
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You can actually buy tools which help to spread batter. My sister got me a hot-plate crepe maker for Christmas the other year, which came with one of these:

Crepe Spreader

Which I find does the job perfectly! You should be able to find one online pretty easily or DIY one yourself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhKFAlk-gtU

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    +1, This is what would be used in France to make crepes. – C.F Jan 31 at 13:32
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    I've taken the liberty of adding a video that shows how it's used (since it's non-obvious) – Richard Jan 31 at 13:59
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    This what would be used in France to make crepes PROFESSIONALLY. I've never seen this in a household – George M Jan 31 at 17:59
  • What, man... that's a pancake. No wonder I didn't get any upvotes; 'professional' crapes must suck ;) – Mazura Feb 1 at 16:19
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Higher heat, thinner batter, and don't put it in the fridge. No tools necessary. I recommend thin non-stick pans, and a gas stove.

The batter should be thin enough it basically spreads itself, as soon as it hits a pan hot enough to totally 'melt' it. The only reason to swirl it is to circularize it. It should be a consistency that you could drink without needing a glass of water afterwards.

Paper thin browned edges is the perfect crape IMO. That's when you flip it. I don't have mom's recipe atm but it's probably a little heavy on the butter. Real butter, with which you coat each pan liberally (use more than one pan or you'll be there all day) in between each cake and allow it to come back up to temp. If the pan isn't hot enough it'll just make regular pancakes, even if you've got the batter right.

  • What's up with putting it in the fridge? – Mazura Jan 31 at 17:45
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    I've read that it relaxes the gluten and allows the flour to absorb more water. I haven't tested cooking with and without resting to see the difference, so I can't say if that's the real reason. – Fodder Jan 31 at 20:47
  • What is the difference between crepes and Swedish pancakes?. If crepes are supposed to be even thinner than Swedish pancakes, I don't understand why when I look at images, crepes are thicker than Swedish... When the batter spreads itself onto the pan, you should still see a little dark from the pan because it so thin. "Thinnerrrr...." – Mazura Feb 1 at 16:38
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    The best image I could find shows a stack of like 20, that's a quarter inch high ("you'll be there all day"). Which is a shame because they have a shelf life of about a minute and a half; probably why you can't serve my mom's in a restaurant. – Mazura Feb 1 at 16:41
  • A plus one? Finally, someone else who knows how to make flat pancakes ;) – Mazura Feb 2 at 3:30

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