Don’t make this pancake mistake: a simple tip for fluffy, light pancakes

Some things are just better when they’re fluffy: pillows, clouds… and pancakes. Definitely pancakes. There’s nothing better than diving into a light, fluffy stack of pancakes. And the key to making pancakes lighter than air is easier than you think. Just don’t make the most common pancake mistake — over-mixing your pancake batter!

Avoid the most common pancake mistake and bake your fluffiest pancakes ever. Click To Tweet

Don't make this pancake mistake via @kingarthurflour

Perfectly fluffy pancakes take just a few turns of the wrist.

Over-mixing is an ambitious baker’s enemy. Too much stirring can turn what would otherwise be lofty, tender pancakes into tough, flat disappointments.

Why is mixing your batter too much a fateful pancake mistake? The answer is twofold.

Don't make this pancake mistake via @kingarthurflour

#1: Deflating your batter

Vigorously stirring your batter might help break up some of the residual lumps, but it can also deflate air bubbles. Most pancake recipes have some sort of leavener in them (baking powder or baking soda), which starts to work as soon as it meets liquid.

The batter will begin to lighten and rise slightly once the liquid ingredients are added. Stir gently to maintain as much air in the batter as possible, mixing just until the ingredients are combined.

Don't make this pancake mistake via @kingarthurflour

Resist the urge to break up all the small lumps. They won’t show up in the finished pancakes. Breathe through it and put down your whisk or spoon. Your pancakes are going to be so much lighter because of this simple step — a satisfying reward!

#2: Developing gluten

Aside from deflating the batter, over-mixing is something to avoid for a second reason: it develops gluten.

Now gluten isn’t always something to run and hide from (unless you have an allergy of course, in which case you should head on over to our selection of gluten-free pancake recipes). Gluten is actually desirable in many cases. It gives bagels, pizza crust, and pretzels their signature chew. It helps loaves of bread maintain their structure as they bake.

But you don’t want chewy pancakes. (Do you?)

Gluten is formed when liquid is added to flour and it’s agitated (think mixing, kneading, etc.). As soon as liquid ingredients are added to the dry ingredients, each turn of the bowl will develop gluten.

Remember that gluten is not your friend if cushion-soft pancakes are your goal. You should relax, just like the batter. Tender pancakes will be the result.

How to measure mixing time

There’s a fine line between mixing just enough and too much — some small lumps are OK, but the ingredients should still be thoroughly combined. You shouldn’t see any dry or floury spots on the bottom or sides of the bowl.

Don't make this pancake mistake via @kingarthurflour

My grandmother used to tell me to “count my strokes” when stirring batter. Each time I made a full revolution in the bowl with my spoon or whisk, we’d count aloud to keep track of our progress. For brownies, I mixed the batter for a count of 50. For cakes, she’d tell me to stop at 25.

We didn’t make pancakes much, but I recently used my grandmother’s mixing method when making our Simply Perfect Pancakes. It didn’t take but a mere count of 10 strokes until the batter was just as it should be — barely mixed with just a few small lumps.

Does it really make a difference?

You might be wondering, is it really important to be this vigilant about stirring pancake batter?

I wondered, too. To see if over-stirring truly makes a difference, I mix up two batches of our Simply Perfect Pancakes.

Don't make this pancake mistake via @kingarthurflour

That’s a jumbo cookie scoop — a surprisingly helpful tool to use when portioning pancake batter.

I stir the first batch just until combined, counting about 10 strokes until it’s barely mixed. I pour the batter onto a hot griddle and watch the magic happen. (Truth be told, I have to resist the urge to eat the first pancake as soon as it’s ready, reminding myself this is part of a purposeful investigation.)

The second batch of pancakes doesn’t receive such gentle treatment. I add the milk and mix vigorously until the batter is silky smooth, about 2 minutes of stirring. The batter looks great, but the resulting pancakes? Not so much.

Don't make this pancake mistake via @kingarthurflour

The batter for the pancakes on the left was gently stirred, while the batter on the right was vigorously mixed for 2 minutes.

The pancakes from batter mixed for 2 minutes turn out notably flatter. It isn’t quite as enjoyable to cut into a stack of them with the side of my fork. They also have a bit of chew to them, while in comparison the first batch on the left is soft as a sponge. (A sponge for maple syrup, that is.)

Don't make this pancake mistake via @kingarthurflour

The batter that was minimally mixed maintained its air bubbles (left), helping to make the pancakes fluffy and light.

It’s worth noting that the second batch still tastes delicious — they just aren’t quite the stack of fluffy pancake heaven I’ve come to expect from this recipe.

So circling back, is it essential to be mindful when mixing your pancake batter? If you want your pancakes to be tall and fluffy, then the answer is yes.

Don't make this pancake mistake via @kingarthurflour

Making perfect pancakes

It’s clear that mixing time is a key factor in determining the texture of your pancakes. Go forward into the weekend and whip up your best batch of pancakes ever, armed with this knowledge:

  • For light and fluffy flapjacks, don’t mix too much.
  • For flatter, slightly more dense pancakes, mix away. (Hey, you never know — some people may prefer them a bit less tender.)

Baking with Ancient Grains via @kingarthurflour

Choosing your recipe

The world of perfect pancakes doesn’t stop with the one recipe we’ve used here. We have a full selection of other pancake recipes, including Blueberry Pancakes, Lemon Zephyr Pancakes, Multigrain Pancakes, and even Sourdough Pancakes.

Your perfect pancakes can even include ancient grains. The Complete Guide to Baking with Ancient Grains includes tips about how to use unique flours like amaranth, buckwheat, spelt (and more!) in your morning pancakes.

Don't make this pancake mistake via @kingarthurflour

No time to measure lots of ingredients? We’ve all been there on weekend mornings. Reach for our Cloud 9 Pancakes, my favorite mix in our Essential Goodness line.

Please share with us your best pancake-making tips in the comments, below.

Thanks to fellow employee-owner Seann Cram for taking the photographs for this blog.

Kye Ameden
About

Kye Ameden grew up in Fairlee, Vermont and has always had a love of food, farms, and family. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, she became an employee-owner at King Arthur Flour and is a proud member of the Digital Marketing Team.

comments

  1. Mike

    You say that the temp. Should be 325-350…I think that is way too low, my mom always tested the griddle before cooking pancakes by flicking a little water onto the griddle, if the water didn’t sizzle and dance it wasn’t hot enough yet. Those electric griddles (you know who you are) that you set the temps on are not accurate. Much simpler to just flick some water on it and be more accurate.

    Reply
  2. odile Feria

    I love pancakes, is one of my favorites breakfast on sunday morning, but my pancakes always have bubbles with flour and i have to over batter the dough to make them dissolve . How can i prevent that_

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s a common problem, Odile. The easiest thing to do is sift all of your dry ingredients together first, maybe even twice, just to ensure any lumps are removed and the mixture is cohesive. Annabelle@KAF

  3. Janet Maion

    I have always followed three simple rules for fluffy pancakes: First don’t over mix the batter, second to let the batter proof / rest and third is to have the pan or griddle hot enough. Always get good results this way; but if you want really rich tasting pancakes, add a few tablespoons of sour cream to the batter when mixing.

    Reply
  4. Melanie Crain

    I found, by accident, that letting the lightly-mixed batter you describe rest ten minutes before cooking the pancakes added even more fluffiness to any pancake recipe I have. All my pancakes are made from scratch so this may not apply to pancake mixes.

    Reply
  5. Mary McCormick

    Based on this information, I suppose I over-mix. However I do let my batter rest for about 5 mins so the flour can fully hydrate and so the leavening can do its thing. I’ve never been totally comfortable with leaving in the lumps but I’m willing to give it a try.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Please do give it a try, Mary, and see what you think. If you’re looking for lighter pancakes, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Fluffy pancakes on the horizon! Kye@KAF

  6. Sharon Christenson

    These are the worst pancake mixes I purchased from you. Previously I have had yeast that didn’t work well as long as it should have in other products so I started replacing it with my own with much better results. As far as I am concerned I wasted 2 eggs, 2-1/4 cups of milk and 1/4 C of oil. Then tried another box and wasted 1 egg 1C milk & 2T oil ( I only made 1/2 a recipe) Never again. I would rather make my own and know they will be good, than spend money and ingredients for something inferior, Plus time and clean up for something that went in the garbage This is not typical of KAF.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Sharon, we’re genuinely sorry to hear your disappointment with our Essential Goodness Pancake Mix. It’s our goal to have all of our products and ingredients deliver a superior baking experience, so we’d like to look into this further and make things right for you. We’re curious to hear more about what didn’t turn out so well with your pancakes (flavor? texture? appearance?) to see if we can provide some tips to make future batches of pancakes turn out better, and set you up with a replacement or refund for the mixes that didn’t turn out as you hoped. Please consider giving our friendly bakers on the hotline a call when you’re ready: 855-371-BAKE(2253). Kye@KAF

  7. CamiSu

    Kye! Thanks for this. My husband’s pancakes did tend to be a bit dense (my dad referred to them as collision mats!) and now I know the reason. I also wanted to say Hi, as I thought that might be you -Ben Buster’s mum here.

    Cami

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Hi Cami! So nice of you to write. It’s always a pleasure seeing friendly names pop up within the comment section here on Flourish. I hope that this tip of stirring just barely enough helps lighten up your next batch of would-be collision mats. 🙂 Happy reading and happy baking to you and your family! Kye@KAF

  8. Elohor

    WOW! i got the answer at last! i’ve always added more water thinking i don’t get the flour well measured out as i use volume ratio, the result has always been a mess. i gave up making pancakes. Now i know over mixing has been my mistake. Thanks so much.

    Reply
  9. Nichole Mayer

    Oh my goodness! This makes so much sense. I make awful pancakes which makes everyone laugh and taunt me because I am generally regarded as the better of our family cooks. I whisk that batter as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Thanks for this blog, I needed it. You folks a e the best.

    Reply
  10. Hector Buenafama

    My recipe for fluffy pancakes don’t need to count the strokes, but call for adding the baking powder at the end of the stirring process, and the white of the eggs previously whipped, both added and mixed very softly. Regards. Hector.

    Reply

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