Pancakes might be one of the easiest recipes there are, but it could still be tricky to get them right. One thing I seem to always struggle with is my pancakes sticking to the frying pan.
No matter what I do, the first pancake usually ends up in a messy scrunched up ball.
That kind of pancake still gets eaten, so there is never any waste, but it certainly doesn’t make it past the ‘quality control’.
It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve made you own pancake recipe or using a shop bought pancake flour mix, the pancake batter still has a way of sticking to the frying pan.
Generally speaking to prevent pancakes from sticking to the frying pan, make sure the pan is well-greased with oil or butter, and that it is heated properly before adding the batter. Use a non-stick pan or a well-seasoned cast iron or stainless steel pan. Wait until the edges of the pancake start to look dry before flipping, and use a spatula to gently loosen the pancake from the pan before flipping.
There are many ways to prevent your pancakes from sticking, so in this blog post, I want to have a look at how to prevent your pancakes from sticking to the pan and help you to create pancakes that taste and look delicious too!
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Why pancakes stick to the frying pan
To make sure our pancakes don’t stick to the pan, it’s a good idea to first understand why they stick in the first place. Pancakes can stick to the frying pan for several reasons, including:
- Insufficiently heated pan: If the frying pan is not hot enough when the pancake batter is added, the pancake may stick to the pan, because the batter will be more drying out than being fried/cooked.
- Lack of oil or butter: If the frying pan is not greased with enough oil or butter, the pancake may stick to the pan.
- Poor quality non-stick coating: If the non-stick coating on the frying pan is damaged or of poor quality, the pancake may stick to the pan. This can easily happen if your frying pan is too old or you are using sharp and unsuitable tools to cook on your frying pan, which scratch it over time.
- Thick or heavy batter: If the pancake batter is too thick or heavy (like when making pancakes with buckwheat flour), it may stick to the pan. The trick here is to lower the heat a little and cook the pancakes on medium heat.
- Flipping pancakes too early: If the pancake is flipped too early, before the edges start to look dry, it may stick to the pan. It’s also a good idea to use a sufficiently large flat spatula with bendy edges (silicone is great material here) that helps to flip over the pancakes without tearing it.
Use a non-stick frying pan
These days, most frying pans on the market are non-stick, but it’s worth checking if your pan is actually coated with non-stick material. Even if it is, it will still need a layer of oil or butter to stop pancakes from sticking to the frying pan, especially for the first batch of pancakes.
Use non-stick frying pan, but season it first with oil
If you don’t have a non-stick frying pan, you will need to season your frying pan with oil first.
This is the same process you need to go through if you want your galvanised bread tins not to stick to your bread. Your frying pan needs to have a layer of oil ‘baked’ in to prevent it from sticking. This is easy to do.
Simply heat up the frying pan (empty) on a very low heat and wipe the pan with a kitchen paper towel soaked in vegetable (or sunflower) oil. Keep it on medium heat and repeat.
Finally, add a little bit more vegetable oil and swirl it around the frying pan and leave it in. Now you can start frying your pancakes.
Ideally you don’t want to wash your non-stick frying pan, only wipe it with paper kitchen towel as this will keep the oil seasoning protected and ready for the next batch of your pancakes.
Wipe your frying pan with oil
A little note about frying pans. Unless you are cooking something very spicey or strong flavoured, only wipe clean your frying pan with a kitchen paper towel when you finish.
You don’t need to wash the frying pan every time you use it, just keep it clean.
If you do feel like you need to wash your frying pan, do that, but hand wash it and use a non-abrasive soft cloth and only a little bit of washing up liquid.
It’s best not to use a dishwasher to wash your frying pan as the chemicals in the dishwasher tablets are too strong for the enamel, Teflon or non-stick pan.
If your frying pan is getting a little old (and was originally a non-stick coated frying pan), please check that there are no black bits of the Teflon coming off the surface.
Not only that this is potentially dangerous to your health, it could also be a reason why your pancakes are sticking to the pan.
It’s also a good time to buy a new frying pan when you see that your frying pan is scratched too much.
Ideally, you might like to invest in a designated pancake frying pan, but I know that might not be something that everyone will want to do.
I bought one of these pancake frying pans because I like that they come off quite uniform and nice and thick (the frying pan holds the batter so that they don’t end up being flat around the edges).
I get a lot of use of my pancake pan, as I use it for savoury egg courgette omelettes as well, so I think it’s definitely worth it.
What can you use to grease your pancake frying pan?
There are lot of different options to grease frying pans and you don’t need to just use oil. Here is what you can use instead
- Oil – vegetable, sunflower, canola, rice, sesame, ground nut etc.
- Coconut oil or butter
- Any plant based oil or butter
- Cooking fat
- Goose fat
- Butter – salted or unsalted
- Grease from frying meat or bacon (only if you are making savoury pancakes)
Clean your frying pan before use
Make sure that you wipe your frying pan with vegetable oil before frying each pancake. I sometimes don’t follow this advice rigidly, for example, the second or third time, the frying pan seems to be greased enough to prevent the pancakes from sticking.
It’s entirely up to up if you use butter or oil, but I find that it’s best to keep the butter in the pancake’s batter (as an ingredient) and use oil to grease the frying pan.
This is because butter can burn quicker than oil, and that can leave an unpleasant flavour on your pancakes.
Plus it’s more expensive, so I use vegetable oil. You can also use sunflower oil or coconut oil. They all work fine and can withstand a high frying temperature.
Cook your pancakes on low to medium heat
When I started to make pancakes more often, I was always too impatient and wanted to have my pancakes done really quickly.
I soon realised that I need to be patient and go very slow on a medium (or even low) heat so that I don’t get my pancakes stuck and eventually burned.
Low heat is much easier to control and your pancakes are going to be cooked more evenly too.
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Rest your pancake batter
This tip is pretty good advice even if your pancakes are not sticking to your pan. Similarly to kneading bread dough before you leave the bread to rise, leaving pancake batter to rest for a miniumu of 5 minutes (and up to 15-20 minutes) helps to get the gluten awake in the flour.
The flour grains also soak up some of the milk or liquid, and the batter will thicken as a result. This not only makes better pancakes all around, but it also helps to prevent your batter from sticking to the frying pan.
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Cook pancakes in the oven
O.K so here is a different take on the ‘sticking pancakes’ problem – if you don’t want them to stick to your frying pan, you can also bake them in the oven! Really? Yes!
It’s best to us a pancake griddle or a frying pan, which are suitable for the oven or a simple baking tray.
Make your pancake batter as usual, preheat your oven to about 150 C (about 280F), grease your griddle or a baking tray with oil and pour the pancakes as you would normally do. Bake for about 5-7 minutes.
You won’t need to turn your pancakes, but do keep an eye on them, and if they look like they are browning too much, take them out, check and turn if needed.
How to keep pancakes from sticking without oil
If you’ve run out of oil or you don’t want to use it, there are still ways you to keep pancakes from sticking without using oil:
- Use a non-stick pan: A non-stick pan will help prevent pancakes from sticking without the need for oil. Make sure the pan is in good condition and not scratched, as scratches can cause sticking.
- Use a well-seasoned cast iron or stainless steel pan: A well-seasoned cast iron or stainless steel pan can also work well without new oil. This is because the iron or stainless steel is already soaked with oil from previous uses. Make sure the pan is heated evenly before cooking the pancakes and keep the heat on a medium side to start off with.
- Use a silicone baking mat: This is pretty nifty way of making sugar your pancakes don’t stick to the frying pan or griddle without the use of oil. Placing a silicone baking mat on the pan before cooking the pancakes can help the pancakes prevent from sticking. Just make sure that you use baking mat that’s a suitable size to the frying pan (e.i. use a smaller one) and keep an eye on any parts that might be overhanging (to prevent them from accidentally burning or catching fire)
- Use cooking spray: If you prefer not to use oil, you can use cooking spray instead. These are quite handy as they spray just enough oil on the cooking surface to prevent the pancakes from sticking, but don’t make your pancakes greasy at the same time.
- Use an electric pancake griddle: If you cook pancakes regularly, you might like to consider buying a separate electric pancake griddle. The pancake griddle has a flat surface specifically designed for cooking pancakes. It has a non-stick surface and requires little or no oil to cook your pancakes. You can also pre-heat and set the griddle to the perfect temperature, which helps to cook the pancakes evenly and without burning.
Keep in mind that some sticking may still occur, especially with thicker or heavier pancake batters (or some with banana or dark sugars). To prevent sticking, wait until the edges of the pancake start to look dry before flipping, and use a silicone spatula to gently loosen the pancake from the pan before flipping.
This blog post was originally written on 11 April 2021 and last updated on 31 March 2023