Why Does the First Pancake Always Turn Out the Worst?

Unevenly colored first-batch pancakes are caused by cooking on an improperly heated and oiled griddle, says Jon Liss, the corporate chef for the Original Pancake House Franchising Inc.

To prepare a griddle for making pancakes, Liss says, it should be heated up and coated with some grease. Let the grease heat for a few minutes, then wipe down the griddle with more fat. But wipe the griddle dry before pouring the batter. Because the surface of a griddle or pan is pocked, this process fills in the holes with grease, making the surface heat more evenly and be more nonstick, Liss says.

Steve Siegelman, coauthor of The Pancake Handbook, agrees that the surface should be only lightly greased: “First-pancake makers might well be making the mistake of overgreasing on the theory that more grease will mean less sticking. This may be true, but it will also mean less even browning, as the surface of the pancake will fry and absorb the grease, rather than ‘baking’ to a golden brown, greaseless finish.”

Siegelman also offers the following tips for getting a good first pancake:

• Let the batter sit 5 to 10 minutes before cooking it so the leavening process starts and the wet and dry ingredients meld.
• The griddle should be 375 degrees Fahrenheit for proper browning. Use an electric griddle with a thermostat, or sprinkle a few drops of water on a stovetop to test the temperature. “If they dance in a sprightly way for a few seconds, you’re good to go.”
• Make sure your batter is at room temperature. Cold batter will affect the temperature of the cooking surface.
• Do not peek at the underside of the pancake while it’s cooking. “Let it sit for two to three minutes, until the surface of the pancake is covered with bubbles and the edges look dry,” before you flip it.

“Made with care—and a little optimism,” says Siegelman, “the first should be as perfect as the last.”

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