DO NOT OVERMIX. It’s ok if there are lumps. Let the batter sit for a few minutes to allow the wet ingredients to absorb any flour clumps before cooking. Over mixing will lead to over-development of the gluten proteins in the flour, creating a tight webbing that’ll keep your pancakes from rising and getting tall and fluffy. If you prefer hockey puck pancakes though, by all means, stir away.
Use clarified butter. Also known as Ghee, clarified butter is simply butter that, once melted, has the fat solids that are most responsible for smoking skimmed off the top. You can make your own by melting butter over low heat, then skimming and discarding the white solids that float off the top with a metal spoon. This butter is now not only shelf stable, but allows you to cook batch after batch of pancakes without tripping the fire alarms (which, on Saturday mornings, is no friend of yours, no matter how many apology pancakes you send over to the neighbors).
Bake with Buttermilk. Buttermilk is cultured milk and its acidity not only acts to tenderize your breakfast beauties, but gives them a unique depth of flavor. Don’t have any buttermilk and need it ASAP? Add 1 tsp of white or apple cider vinegar or 2 tsps fresh lemon juice to the amount of milk your recipe calls for. If you have a couple of days and a nearly empty carton of buttermilk, simply mix the remaining buttermilk with whole milk, shake it, leave it on the counter for a few hours to allow the cultures to begin working their magic and return to the fridge (this homemade buttermilk, by the way, is far more luxurious than the low-fat store-bought variety).
Whip it good. Do you like your pancakes super light and sky-high? Beat two egg whites into a meringue with barely stiff peaks and fold this into your batter. You’ll want to use the pancake batter within a half an hour in order to keep the egg whites from deflating.
Check the date on your baking powder. A good rule of thumb is to replace your baking powder every six months. Baking powder is made up of baking soda and an acidic agent that, when exposed to moisture, activates to make your pancakes, cookies and cupcakes rise. Leave it out too long and the humidity in your kitchen will begin to wear down its power. Also, do everyone a favor and get an 89 cent box of baking soda for baking instead of pulling from the box that’s deodorizing your refrigerator. No one wants hints of shrimp scampi aroma in their pancakes.
Don’t pour hot butter over eggs. Nearly all pancake and waffle recipes ask you to pour the melted butter over the nearly-finished batter. Reason? Pouring hot butter over eggs will cook them.
Flip ‘em right. Pancakes should be nearly done before flipping- wait until you see bubbles forming and popping before flipping them to brown on the flipped side.
Play with your flours! Grab a couple of specialty flours next time you’re at the market and tool around with things like Spelt and a White Whole Wheat. Pancakes are an easy way to learn how different flours behave (without waiting for hours for cakes to bake and cool).