I have to tip my hat to Aunt Jemima, because how on earth she convinced the world it was easier to make pancakes from a box than from scratch is one of the greatest marketing coups of the 20th century. Take $.45 worth of ingredients, get people to pay $4 for them—more if you use “ancient grains.” You may balk at the idea of having to haul out measurements first thing in the morning, but here’s a little secret: You don’t need to measure precisely when you're making pancakes. They’re a very forgiving recipe, so if you’re comfortable, eyeball stuff. Mess around a little, take some risks. And if you still seek the warm embrace of a packaged pancake mix, make your own and keep it in the cabinet. It’s one minute of work, and you can’t possibly be that lazy.
Get your batter ready
The standard pancake mix recipe is flour with a bit of baking powder, salt, and sugar. Told you it was easy. Put it all into a big bowl and stir it around a bit with a whisk to break up lumps and get everything nice and distributed, otherwise your pancakes could end up all wonky and lopsided.
Put your melted butter or canola oil in a mug with and egg, and beat very well with a fork until it’s completely yellow and not streaky in the slightest. Keep beating while you pour in the milk. Add a bit of vanilla, why don’t ya.
Stir the mix constantly while drizzling in the wet mix. The second it’s all incorporated, stop immediately. If you keep going, you’ll have hockey pucks instead of pancakes.
Let it sit
Letting this sit in for a few minutes will give the flour time to hydrate, or in non-cheffy terms, “suck up the milk.” This will give you a taller, fluffier pancake than a flaccid, floppy pancake. Want to go higher? Refrigerate for 15 minutes or so. You can even do this the night before.
Get your pan ready
Ideally you want a nonstick or well seasoned cast-iron pan for this, which you want to set over medium heat. Hit it with cooking spray, ghee/clarified butter, or a light brushing of canola oil. Regular butter will burn, so don’t bother. Remember you’re putting butter on top of these things anyway, so it’s not like you’re going to be missing out.
This is the moment you’ve been training for
But you’re having a panic attack because you don’t know how to get the batter into the pan without making a mess. First, be confident in knowing that you didn’t make a huge mistake passing up the opportunity to buy a $20 batter squeeze bottle at a kitchen supply store. Between those guys and Aunt Jemima, you’ve been getting played in the pancake game for years.
Ladle some batter into a measuring cup with a pourable spout, then pour pancakes of any size you desire into the pan. They don’t have to all be the same size, either. So much stress is just melting away right now. You are free from the clutches of those corporate monsters in Big Pancake.
Fancy stuff happens now
This is the moment you add blueberries, chocolate chips, crumbled bacon or whatever else to your pancakes by placing them evenly across the raw tops. A personal favorite is sprinkling over a generous amount of vanilla sugar—when they’re flipped the sugar caramelizes for creme brulee-ish pancakes.
Know when to flip
Don’t poke, don’t touch. You do that and they’ll break apart and stick to the pan. Resist your fiddlin’ urges and stand back so they have time to set up. When you see bubbles popping up through the time, gently slide a spatula underneath and flip. The second side will cook very quickly, so let it do its thing for about a minute before you lift it up and give it a peek, then move to a plate when you’re happy with what you see.
Hold your horses
Before you put your next batch in, give the pan 30 seconds to come back to temp. Brush a little oil back on. Continue to make pancakes while you eat the previous pancakes standing over the stove with your bare hands.