Homemade Trials: Pancakes!

Even though I frequently rant about how I don’t love pancake mixes (or any baking mix really), I realized recently that that was mostly just speculation.

I had never really tested out any particular pancake mixes in a taste test or tried to calculate their nutrition or cost compared to homemade versions.

Sounds like a homemade trial to me, right?!

This was a really fun homemade trials for me because, while the result made me happy, I also learned a lot in the process.

Let’s dig in.

My Basic Buttermilk Pancakes

I’ve made a good amount of pancake variations over the years. While the cloud cakes are probably my favorite stand alone pancake variety, they are a bit of work.

Meanwhile, this basic buttermilk pancake mix is dumb simple.

Basic Buttermilk Pancakes

Just a moment please...

Yield
4-5 medium pancakes
Prep Time
Total Time

Is it worth it to make pancakes at home or should you buy a mix? Here’s the breakdown!

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
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Directions

1) Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add in egg, milk, buttermilk, and melted butter and whisk. Batter should be thick, but very pourable. Feel free to add a little more milk to adjust.

2) Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to pour batter onto a pre-heated griddle or skillet over medium heat. Lightly oil/butter the skillet before cooking.

3) Cook pancakes until they start to bubble a bit on the surface, about 3-4 minutes. Then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Serve pancakes while warm with extra butter and maple syrup.

You just stir together the dry stuff in a bowl and then mix in the wet stuff with a whisk. I don’t even mix in the wet stuff separately. I just toss it all in.

Basics.

Basics.

The batter is nice and thick, but it should be very pourable. If it’s too thick, feel free to add more liquid. It’s flexible.

Takes about the same amount of time!

Takes about the same amount of time!

Ok. So that’s the version I’m using for these trials. Let’s talk about…

The Competition

I made sure to get a wide range of pancake options here. For starters, I got some frozen pancakes that are already cooked. Then I got a popular brand of mix and also a brand that’s sold in specialty stores.

Oh dear...

Oh dear…

As with all the homemade trials, I’ll be judging all of these in the categories of TIME, COST, NUTRITION, and TASTE.

TIME

Cooking takes time...

Cooking takes time…

Here’s the thing, I found that having a mix saved me zero time when making pancakes. Maybe like 10 seconds, but not enough to count. You still have to add liquid to the mix, mix the mix, and cook the pancakes.

When it comes to time, it’s totally a tie between mixes and homemade.

That said, obviously the frozen pre-cooked pancakes win the time category. You just toss those little guys in the microwave for a few seconds and BOOM. Breakfast. Sort of?

COST

costbreakdown

If we can all just take a look at the above chart, you’ll see one reason why you should never buy pre-cooked pancakes. They are SUPER expensive!

I found this funny because I typically think that the frozen items like this are marketed (and purchased) by people who don’t have a lot of money.

That’s exactly the opposite of what it should be. Rich people in yachts who do not like the flavor of actual pancakes are the only people who should be buying pre-cooked pancakes.

The COST category goes to the homemade version. I even used organic eggs and milk so you could’ve gotten the costs down more. Remember that any time you buy a mix, you are essentially paying for someone else to measure for you.

NUTRITION

nutritionbreakdown

This was a really tough nutritional breakdown to calculate. It took me about an hour to do the math and I’m fairly positive that there are some mistakes.

That’s okay though. At the end of the day, it’s pancakes. They aren’t exactly known for being healthy.

A few notes though:

  • I used a very small size for the breakdowns (40 gram pancakes). This made the math easy, but nobody actually makes a 40 gram pancake. Your average pancake is probably 2-3 times that big.
  • The natural foods mix (Arrowhead) is actually pretty healthy. I found it a bit clunky to work with though. The batter was gritty and it didn’t cook up as evenly as the other versions.
  • Trans fats are bad. I was shocked to seem them in the Bisquick version. (Full disclosure, I also write for Tablespoon.com which is a General Mills site… GM makes Bisquick)

I think the NUTRITION category is a pretty close tie between homemade and Arrowhead. But all of these small differences get immediately wiped out when you add butter and syrup to the equation so it seemed almost silly to calculate these.

TASTE

First, just look at this. I should not be able to hold a pancake in my hand like a damn hockey puck.

I had never actually seen these frozen pancakes before. While they sort of look like pancakes, I assure you that’s where it stops.

They have the texture of a sponge and almost no flavor. They are counting on you to flood them with syrup so you won’t notice.

Stack of pucks.

Stack of pucks.

To do my taste test here, I made all the pancakes (at the same time on the same griddle) and then tasted them without any butter or syrup.

I’m not sure I’ve ever actually tried a pancake without those things. It was interesting.

The line up.

The line up.

The frozen ones were not even in the game.

Out of the two mixes, I thought the Arrowhead one tasted best. It had a nice, nutty flavor to it that all the other pancakes lacked (including homemade).

But it was very apparent what the homemade pancake was. It tasted like butter and milk and freshness. In comparison some of the others tasted a bit chemical-like.

I’ve eaten a lot of mix pancakes in my life and I’ve never noticed it before tasting it side-by-side with a homemade version, but the difference is noticeable.

TASTE goes to homemade. Not even close.

Conclusion!

I was actually pretty shocked that my homemade version stayed close in the cost and nutrition categories. Typically when I use real butter and eggs in dishes, it’s noticeable in those breakdowns, but it wasn’t really in this case.

This might be the most lop-sided homemade trials ever.

The only reason I can see buying a mix is if you are traveling or something and don’t want to lug extra ingredients around. Otherwise, it’s almost no extra work to do it right and the taste is just plain better.

27 comments on “Homemade Trials: Pancakes!

  1. The best part of this recipe is that a large batch can be made and stored in the pantry. Just add wet ingredients when pancakes are requested. Ta da!

  2. Hey Nick!

    I am actually hooked on Arrowhead Mills MULTIGRAIN mix, because I don’t feed my kids much white bread anything. It is delicious — we add an egg to the batter for more protein, though it’s not called for, and it’s full of whole grains. You can make it with less liquid for really fat, filling pancakes or thin for little silver dollar ones. Has a nice sweetness from the cornmeal that’s in it. You should test some whole-grain/better mixes sometime!

    1. Oh yea… The Arrowhead version I used was whole grain and I really liked the flavor.

      Thanks for the comment Carol!

  3. Homemade is the best made, simpler, less costly, easy to dress up the cakes nutritionally, good, whole ingredients, made at special times people who are worth treating!

  4. To my taste buds, nothing beats homemade pancakes and waffles. For some reason for I got lazy for a few years and used Bisquick for waffles. When I finally got with the program again and made a homemade waffle, I was knocked out, as was my family, by how much better the homemade waffles tasted. So let’s here is for HOMEMADE!

  5. Great post. I’m truly impressed that you did the math for the nutritional information? Sodium is a dirty word in our family, so everything I do is “fresh.” Thanks, Nick. I’ve been reading you since the beginning and so enjoy your sense of humor and love of good food.

  6. I love your trials! I agree with Helene… you can just keep the homemade dry mix in an airtight container. I love a good pancake & the most recent one I’ve made was a protein pancake: no sugar, no flour, no dairy… & they’re delicious!!!

  7. You are one cool dude, to go to all that work, and then to share your results. Thank you so much.

  8. Love this trial! My boyfriend and I disagree on the time aspect of mix vs. homemade so I loved that you found, as I do, that mixes don’t save time. Might leave this post up the next time I expect him to use the computer. ;)

  9. For the homemade recipe do you think I could sub 1 cup whole wheat flour without a problem, I know it will be a little denser. Love how simple your recipe is. Thanks

    1. Yep… shouldn’t be a problem Brie. You might need to add an extra dash of liquid, but that’s a substitution I’ve made before. :)

  10. Can you please do a Homemade Trial on cake mix? It should be similar, but I’m trying to get a certain someone to move to the homemade side.
    Betty Crocker Yellow and Chocolate has to be on your list :)

    1. I’ll add it to the list Matt. I think it would be similar but it would be interesting to see, especially if you combine a cake/frosting situation…. Thanks for the idea!

  11. Do you think 2 egg whites ilo 1 egg in the wheat mix would make a lighter pancake? Also, I am tempted to use 1/2 wheat and half unbleached flour in this recipe.

    1. Hey Helene, two egg whites will generally sub fine for one egg. If you beat the egg whites until they hold peaks and then fold them in, you’ll have super light panckes (search for my cloud cakes post).

  12. No matter what I do, or what recipe I follow, I always end up with flat, tough pancakes. I know that stirring too much can cause this, but no matter how much I mix the ingredients, the results are the same. I wish I could get nice, thick pancakes like yours.

    1. Hey Michelle, that sucks! The two things that cause me to have flat pancakes are A) too much liquid. If the batter is too thin it’ll run out and just create a thin disk. OR B) too much leavening agent. This may sound counter-intuitive but if you have TOO much baking powder or whatever, it will puff up the pancake too fast and then it will deflate into a hockey puck. Especially if you happen to be at high altitude you have to be careful with adding too much leavening agent.
      Not sure if either of those will help or not… good luck!

  13. Love this recipe, doubled it up and got 20 pancakes. I used King Arthur organic wheat flour, 1 cup, and 1 cup KA unbleached flour, doubled the remaining ingredients and voila, my 6 yr old grandson gave the seal of approval with “These are really good, can I have one more?” Nothing like being verified by a 6 yr old! Good job, Nick.

  14. Do I have to use buttermilk? I know how to make a buttermilk substitution, but would rather just use regular milk. If so, would it be the same amount?

  15. I just stumbled on your website (via another blog that mentioned your book, which is now on my Christmas list), and this taste test made me SO HAPPY! My family is famous (well, just amongst ourselves, I guess) for doing taste tests (can you taste the difference between colored peppers like you claim you can in a blind taste test? Which shape of Walker’s shortbread cookies tastes the best? Cool stuff like that) and I loved this breakdown. Homemade pancakes for life!!

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