I can't count how many times I've made pancakes for my wife and kids on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I also can't count how many times those pancakes came out thin, dry, and better suited for sitting a drink on. But after repeated trial and error (and the right recipe), I've finally figured out the key step in make a great, fluffy pancake is giving it some time.

First of all, you have to have the right recipe. My personal favorite is the Buttermilk Pancake recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens: New Cook Book that my wife and I received as a wedding gift nearly 10 years ago.

Here's what you'll need:

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk*
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil

*I never have buttermilk in the fridge so I go with sour milk which isn't as gross as it sounds. All you do is add one tablespoon of lemon juice to one cup of milk, stir, and let rest for five minutes. Trust me, you won't even taste the lemon in finished product.

Now that you have the ingredients, here's what you do with them:

  1. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. In a separate small or medium mixing bowl, stir together the beaten egg, sour milk, and cooking oil.
  3. Add the "wet" ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together until all of the dry has absorbed most of the wet.

Your batter will be lumpy and that's OK! This was the biggest hurdle for me to get past as well. No matter how many cooking shows I've watched or cookbooks I've read, I've always wanted to whip that batter into a frenzy until it was smooth as silk. I'm telling you, don't do it. Lumps are good.

Once you've mixed the batter and have accepted the fact that it can be lumpy, the next step is to...walk away for a few minutes. This is the patience part it took so long for me to learn. You need to give the baking soda, baking powder, lemon juice, and everything else in the mix time to work its mojo. So start working on the eggs and bacon, or go check Facebook or Twitter...do something other than messing with your pancake batter in some fashion.

After a few minutes, get your skillet, griddle, pan, or whatever heated to medium-high heat and throw a pat of butter on there to grease it up real good. Once it's up to temperature is up to speed, it's time to start cooking.

A good test to see if you've mixed the batter right and given it the time it needed to do it's "thang" is to listen for the sound of tiny bubbles popping when scooping out the batter. I like to use a 1/4 measuring cup to pour my 'cakes onto the griddle. It seems to make them just the right size for the kids to eat while still leaving them thick and fluffy.

The great thing about pancakes is that once they're on the griddle, they won't take long to cook. But that also means you need to keep a close eye on them. When you start to see a few bubbles popping, it's time to flip. Give them another 30-45 seconds on the other side, then transfer them to a plate and serve with butter and syrup.

It may seem like a lot of work, but it's not really. The toughest part to avoiding tough pancakes is getting over the fact that lumpy batter is a good thing. Get past that, and you'll be a pancake master in no time.

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