Perfect popovers: seeking the secret

I don’t know the secret to never-fail popovers. Do you?

If so—if you’re happy with your popovers—read no further. Who am I to mess with your good thing? If you can reliably produce towering, golden, buttery popovers, leaking steam from their eggy (but mostly naked) interior, then you don’t need any help from King Arthur.

But if your popovers are more akin to a wet sponge—you know, squishy and sodden—or if they capriciously blow up like a balloon one day, and lie sullenly in their pan the next—then read on.

I used to have a “never-fail” popover recipe that made pretty good popovers. These weren’t the overblown, softball-sized beauties you get in fancy steakhouses, but they also didn’t require a special popover pan, and they popped reliably.

One problem: they started out in a cold oven. Which was fine when I had my old cast- iron Garland gas range. But many modern ovens preheat by getting the upper element white-hot, which effectively scorches anything sitting beneath them. I learned the hard way not to start anything in my cold electric oven here at King Arthur, courtesy of a delightful ebony-crusted loaf of oatmeal bread.

So, back to square one. I needed a new never-fail popover recipe. So, how hard could it be? Flour, milk, salt, eggs, and butter. Mix ’em up, bake… POP. Or not.

First, I tried the old reliable “whirl ingredients in a blender” method. Which resulted in the aforementioned sodden, heavy, doughy blobs. Then I thought, Ah-HA! I’ll combine cream puff methodology with popover ingredients: cook the flour and butter together, then add the eggs, then milk at the end to make a liquid batter. Well… better than the blender; still lumpish.

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Left to right: blender method; whisk by hand (middle front); cream puff method.

Next, I figured I’d go back to the good old days and beat the ingredients by hand, with a wire whisk. Wouldn’t you know, that method yielded gloriously tall popovers—so long as I whisked the batter to just the right consistency. Completely smooth? No. Big lumps? No. Small lumps? Popovers with POP.

Finally, thinking to simplify my lazy life just a tad, I beat the ingredients in my KitchenAid stand mixer. OK; better than the first two methods. But “OK” is a long way from “WOW!” Whisking by hand was the clear winner.

And that’s where you come in, dear reader. I think this recipe makes very good popovers. And I’d love your input. Once you make these, please post your comments here and/or review the recipe online. Let me know if your popovers popped. And how they tasted, too. I’ll examine your comments and see, by working together, just how close we can get these popovers to absolutely perfect, OK? Let’s get started.

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First task: Before you do anything else, preheat your oven to 450°F. The oven MUST be hot enough when you put the popovers in. Once you’ve turned that dial, whisk together the milk, eggs, and salt. This is a good start, but don’t stop here.

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Keep whisking till the mixture is evenly yellow all over.

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Add the flour all at once.

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Whisk till all the big lumps disappear; smaller lumps are OK.

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Whisk in the butter, and let the batter rest for 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes, the little lumps will have risen to the top.

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Give the batter a few more good licks with the whisk to recombine.

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Grease a standard muffin tin. By standard, I mean one whose cups are close to 2 1/2” wide and 1 1/2” deep. If you use a pan with smaller wells, you can fill them a bit fuller, but don’t fill them all the way to the rim. And be sure to grease not only the cups, but the surface around them as well. The popovers are going to balloon up and over the edges of the wells.

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Fill the cups about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

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Put the pan in the oven, on a lower rack. Your goal is popovers whose tops come about midway up the oven. If you put the pan on an upper or even middle rack, the tops will be too close to the upper element, and they’ll scorch. Shut the oven door, and bake the popovers for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350°F. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re a deep, golden brown. If you can leave them in for the full 20 minutes, they have a better chance of holding their structure and not deflating as they start to cool. I opened the oven door to take this picture towards the end of the baking time. But leave the door shut, tempting as it is to peek inside, until very close to the end.

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Remove the popovers from the oven. They’ll settle a bit; expect this to happen and you won’t be disappointed.

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Look at that beautifully moist, eggy (and empty!) interior.

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Here’s a trick you can use for more evenly shaped popovers. Bake just six in a 12-cup muffin pan, spacing them out so they’re able to expand without touching one another.

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Here’s the result: rounder, puffier popovers.

P.S. My fellow blogger, Susan, is on her honeymoon out West right now, but she read this post and sent me a response, as follows:

On the popovers, did you try mixing the milk and flour into a slurry, then adding the rest of the ingredients? That would eliminate the lumps and hydrate the flour a little more effectively; it might be good for an infinitesimal increase in popover height if you had a spectrometer to measure it with ;-).

“The reason none of your preferred mechanized whirliness is doing the job is that the gluten is getting torn up even as it’s formed by the action of the blade, methinks.”

Ah, bakers’ minds are always at work… even during a honeymoon! Thanks, Susan. Readers, see how it works with Susan’s advice about the flour and milk, if you like. Bet it helps.

Later — Tried the flour/milk slurry. As Susan said, maybe if I had a spectrometer… But to the naked eye, no difference than the other method. Ah well, worth a try.

Later still —  After Matt educated me in popover chemistry (scroll down to see his comment below), I changed my method: room-temperature ingredients, and no wait before baking. The result: high-rising, light popovers. So either method will work. The online recipe reflects this most recent version.

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Popovers.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Jordan Pond House, Seal Harbor, Maine, single popover, $2.75

Bake at home: Single popover, 14¢

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. jb

    Hello

    I have made popovers with an egg mix that was mixed witha whisk a long long time until it became a chiffon??? nasically all egg foam
    these shot up and then flopped over….

    possibly you are mixing the eggs too much ??

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Over-whipped definitely sounds like the culprit there. I usually whisk them until I get a thin pancake batter consistency. Annabelle@KAF

  2. Candice

    I wish you’d incorporate this into the popover recipe on the site. I made them today using my stand mixer because it said it was ok in the recipe. They’re like bricks. Too heavy and doughy. When I’ve hand mixed in the past they came out great.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Candice. While a stand mixer can be used, here in this article we tested three mixing techniques and found that mixing by hand with a whisk produced results we liked best. We can certainly pass your feedback along though! Kindly, Morgan@KAF

  3. Nate Rollins

    I’ve always been able to make popovers that were more than acceptable but certainly never perfect! The reason I am looking at your blog post today is because we recently got a new oven that has a convection feature. So I’m hoping to learn about the difference between conventional ovens and convection ovens and what that might have to do with the success of baking popovers. Any comments?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Nate! We actually have a blog article all about baking with convection, but for popovers specifically, lower the oven temperature by 25°F and start checking on them through the window about 5 minutes or so early. Annabelle@KAF

  4. Sarah Jones

    My popovers are lovely little crisp caverns on the bottom but the heads are dense on the inside – no emptiness at all. What can I do differently??

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Sarah! We’d suggest making sure your oven is hot enough and that you’ve got the proper amount of flour in the mixture. We find either measuring your flour by weight using a scale, or fluffing and sprinkling the flour into your measuring cup are the best ways to ensure the too much flour hasn’t snuck its way into your mixing bowl. We hope this helps and happy baking! Morgan@KAF

  5. alnc

    I’m with you on this. You’re probably already doing so but I’d mention that the eggs and milk should not be cold. I either take the amount of milk needed and eggs out of the fridge the night before, otherwise, warm the milk in the microwave and put the eggs in a bowl of warm water for 15 minutes. Also, after the oven is ready, put the tin in it for two minutes, then take out and spray oil it.

    Reply
  6. Ray Faiola

    I use cast-iron popover pans and spray them with PAM before pouring in the mix. Never have a problem lifting out the final product. I’ve even been able to make gluten-free popovers for my wife.

    Reply
  7. Daria

    My popovers blew their tops! Basically, they popped so much they exploded. Still hollow and tasty, but the tops were mostly separated from the bottoms.

    I doubled the recipe, and made them in the blender, and let them sit a while, reblending just before baking. I used popover pans (dark metal) and my oven was completely preheated to 450. I don’t know if it runs hotter.

    Any ideas?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Daria! We’ve not had that happen before, so we’re not quite sure what might have gone awry. Our only thought is that when the recipe was doubled it was just a bit too much mechanical leavening action from the eggs. We’d suggest that if you try a double recipe again, only using seven eggs and if the batter seems a too thick you can adjust with a little extra milk. We hope this helps! Happy Baking! Morgan@KAF

  8. Dennis Wilson

    I’ve read a number of post on other sites. One thing stands out about popovers that you didn’t mention, so maybe you’ve found the secret to popovers that don’t stick to the pan. The trouble appears to be that regardless of the recipe most of these post have trouble getting the popover out of the pan. A new pan will last three or four batches, but after that they stick regardless of greasing, or flouring. I’ve tried a number suggestions and still no luck. It does appear that cast iron popover pans have less of a problem.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Try using Everbake Pan Spray to prepare your popover pan, Dennis. It’s a professional-quality non-stick spray that works like a charm. We think it’ll change the popover game for you! Kye@KAF

  9. Stacy Cooper

    After baking many perfect popovers in my commercial gas oven, I recently had a batch that rose straight up into tall cylinders. No pop, no puff, just a column of batter. Some of them flopped over, but most stayed perfectly…well…erect! ;~) After we recovered from our fits of laughter and tried to figure out what went wrong, we joked that we likely couldn’t repeat that if we tried. So we whipped up another batch expecting our usual perfectly puffed popovers and guess what – it happened again. It was exactly the same recipe, pan & method we always use. Was the oven or pan too hot or cold? Mixed too much or too little? Funky ingredients? We’d love to solve this mystery!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It’s certainly an interesting conundrum, Stacy! We actually just shared a blog article about The Art and Science of Popovers, that goes through the whole process. Usually, a popover will pop straight up in pans with straight sides, like a popover pan. Muffin tins create more of a “mushroom” style popover with a more rounded top. No matter which pan you used, it sounds like until now, your popovers have had the mushroom-like appearance.
      The most likely cause for this strange “pop” is that the oven temperature was possibly a bit too hot. This would cause them to rise SO fast that they rise straight up! If you don’t have an oven thermometer, grabbing one to just double check the temperature in there might be the key. Most ovens are a little wonky so it could be running hotter than it says. Let us know how the next batch turns out! Annabelle@KAF

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