Pancakes are a popular, delicious food, but it’s crucial that they are light and fluffy. If your pancakes are chewy and heavy, they will not be enjoyed by you or anybody else. So, what causes pancakes to turn out dense?
There are quite a few things that will result in dense pancakes, such as including too much flour in the mix or using the wrong kind of flour. Adding too much baking powder or putting the batter into a cold pan will also cause texture problems. You should always check your ingredients are in date before you start cooking.
In this article, we’ll explore the top mistakes that cause pancakes to turn out dense, and how you can avoid these. You will be enjoying fluffy pancakes in no time!
Although pancakes are relatively simple to cook once you’ve got the hang of them, you should be aware that there are quite a few traps you can fall into that will make your pancakes dense and chewy, rather than airy and delicious. Some of the commonest errors include:
- Using too much flour
- Overmixing the batter
- Using the wrong type of flour
- Using old or spoiled ingredients
- Using too much baking powder
- Your pan not being hot enough
It’s frustrating to have your pancakes constantly coming out with a dense, unappetizing texture, and it can be hard to pinpoint why sometimes. Fortunately, if you check these potential pitfalls, you should soon be able to fix your recipe and make sure you can thoroughly enjoy your pancakes every time you make them.
See Also: Why Your Dough Isn’t Rising
Using Too Much Flour
It’s easy to get a little carried away when you’re sifting flour and looking forward to your pancakes, and you might find that you have accidentally added too much flour to the bowl. It’s very easy to do this when you use an inaccurate measuring method like cups.
That’s a problem if you’ve added the wet ingredients before noticing, so what can you do about it?
There are a couple of things. Firstly, get some scales so that you can use actual weights to measure your pancake ingredients. This will give you a far more accurate recipe and ensure you get the right quantities of ingredients.
You may also find that it helps to pre-measure the flour in a separate bowl before you start mixing your pancakes. Make a habit of double-checking the measurement prior to combining everything. This can save you if you have accidentally mismeasured something – but it won’t help if you’ve got a batch underway and you’ve made this mistake.
The only way to counteract adding too much flour is to add some more liquid. You will probably want to use milk, although some people choose to add water. Add a few splashes more milk and stir until you are satisfied with the consistency.
You might also wish to add a little more leavening agent to make sure there is still enough to make your pancakes fluffy. A small pinch will usually do the trick.
Overmixing The Batter
With some recipes, mixing your batter really thoroughly is the perfect way to make them taste great – but pancakes are not in this category. With pancakes, the less you can get away with mixing, the better the pancakes will taste.
This is because mixing will encourage the gluten in the flour to develop, and as it develops, it will make the pancakes denser and chewier. This is a great property in bread, but it’s a major issue in pancakes, which should be light and fluffy.
You therefore need to make sure you are only mixing your pancake batter as much as is necessary. As soon as you have a fairly smooth batter, with only one or two lumps, set aside the spoon and stop stirring.
This is something that all good pancake-makers recognize. Your pancake batter doesn’t need to look pristine and smooth – it just needs to have the wet and dry ingredients combined.
Using The Wrong Type Of Flour
You may already be aware that flour type can matter a surprising amount when it comes to the texture of baked and homemade goods. Using the right kind of flour can be the make-or-break of a recipe, so what sort of flour do you need for pancakes?
All-purpose flour is generally considered the best option for pancakes. This is because it is light enough to make a pleasant texture, but it’s not so light that your pancakes will simply fall to bits.
If you don’t choose the right kind of flour for your pancakes, they won’t be pleasant to eat. Pancakes made using something like bread flour tend to be dense and chewy, and they should be avoided.
You might think that pastry flour would be a better option, but unfortunately, this is too light, and your pancakes will fall apart. It’s not a lot better than a dense pancake made with bread flour!
You don’t need to use self-rising flour for pancakes either. This is because most pancake recipes call for a leavening agent to be added separately, and if you add two, you’ll probably make your pancakes taste strange. You may also make them excessively crumbly.
If you only have self-rising flour, this may work for pancakes, but you should omit the leavening agent. Your pancakes should fluff up fine with self-rising flour, as long as it is not out of date.
Using Old Or Spoiled Ingredients
You may not be aware of it, but many ingredients lose their effectiveness as they age, and this is particularly true of leavening agents. If your baking powder or whatever other leavening agent you’re using is out of date, there is a high risk that it will not work.
Pancakes are made fluffy by the leavening agent reacting with other ingredients in the recipe. This reaction produces tiny air bubbles inside the batter, and as the pancake cooks, these encourage it to puff up and help to produce a fluffy, appealing texture.
However, old leavening agents will struggle with this, and will produce noticeably less puffiness. You must therefore make sure your leavening agents are well within date, and that they are stored correctly to maximize their longevity.
Other ingredients should also be fresh to ensure your pancakes taste as good as they can. Using old flour, old eggs, or old milk could affect how dense they are, and may make them less pleasant overall.
Using Too Much Baking Powder
Putting too much baking powder in your pancake recipe will unquestionably ruin the pancakes. It can be tempting to do this if you are struggling with dense pancakes, but you must resist the temptation.
If you put a lot of baking powder in the pancakes, there is no question that they will rise, but they will also be inedible. Baking powder has a strong flavor that will become noticeable if you increase the ratio in a recipe, and it will give your pancakes a sour, unpleasant taste.
It may also make the rising of the pancakes uncontrollable, which can lead to lopsided, unattractive pancakes. You may find that they slump and become dense after being cooked, because the batter will be fragile and unable to hold the air properly.
You should therefore stick with the amount of baking powder that the recipe calls for, and not add any more. This should give you the best results.
Your Pan Not Being Hot Enough
A hot pan is critical to good, fluffy pancakes. The heat activates the leavening agents and creates the air bubbles that will form a porous structure and make sure the pancakes rise properly. You should make sure your pan is thoroughly warm and your oil or butter is shimmering before you add the batter.
If it helps, consider adding a drip or two of test batter to the pan first. If the drip sizzles and hisses, the pan is hot enough. If it just sits in the oil and doesn’t make a sound, the pan is too cold and you should give it more time to warm before you add your first pancake.
Many people find that the very first pancake of a batch isn’t great, but subsequent pancakes will be delicious. This is because the pan is often insufficiently heated before the first pancake goes in, but has time to heat up before the second.
Q: Can you make pancake batter in advance?
A: No, you can’t. It might be tempting to toss pancake batter in your fridge the night before, but remember the leavening agent. This will start to fizz as soon as it comes into contact with the wet ingredients. The reaction is limited, and will stop after a fairly short period – so you need to be ready to cook your pancakes.
Q: When should you flip a pancake?
A: Flipping a pancake too early could cause the pancake to collapse, and drive the air out of it. You should wait until you see the bubbles on the surface pop and form tiny holes, and then flip it.
Pancakes should not be dense, but a lot of people encounter this issue. Fortunately, running through the list above should help you pinpoint what’s going wrong with your recipe, and offer you some guidance on how to fix it.