Today is Pancake Tuesday, and here’s one of life’s little mysteries for my PI character Moss Reid: why is the first pancake always rubbish?

What is the scientific reason behind the first pancake being a dud? Is it do to with the temperature of the pan being too low? I doubt it.

Is it that the first batch of batter sends some signal to the frying pan: ”Howrya, I’m the first pancake, please disregard me”? No, that’s too simple, hardly scientific at all.

Do molecules from the first bit of batter somehow mix with the fat molecules, creating a new batter-and-fat amalgam, and only this amalgamation will do to get the pan in the correct physical state?

Or do these first batter molecules act as a sort of advance scouting party? They arrive in the pan, get slaughtered but somehow still manage to send a dying message back to the rest of the batter, which then prepares them for the battles to come? We should be told.

Pancake recipes and tips

There are a few essential tricks to making great pancakes (or crêpes if you prefer)…

Essential pancake tricks

  1. As noted above, the first crêpe is always crap. Plan for this. Use only half as much batter as usual for the first pancake, and this pancake is either abandoned or becomes the ”Cook’s Treat
  2. Give a nice “undertone” to the batter’s flavour by using beer (more bubbles too), or cider or orange juice instead of the milk
  3. Add a pinch of baking powder, again for more bubble
  4. Lightly oil your frying pan, rather than sloshing piles of oil into it. Put a very tiny knob of butter or oil on the pan, then wipe it around the base using a bit of the foil wrapper that the butter comes in, or smear it around with a sheet of kitchen roll
  5. Tossing pancakes looks great in a “Jeremy Beadle Oops Crikey Accidents At Home” video, but completely unnecessary unless you want to impress small children. Instead, turn the pancakes with a fish-slice or large knife

Take it away, Raymond…

My basic pancake mix

I don’t know why I’m giving exact quantities – I rarely weigh or measure them. But you’ll only complain if I don’t give them. These are also quite small quantities – double or treble them if you have a large family.

  • 110 g (4 oz) plain white flour
  • 1 egg, beaten with a fork for half a minute
  • 1/2 tablespoon oil (never olive oil – use plain sunflower vegetable oil)
  • 175 ml (6 fl oz) milk

In a mixing bowl, stir the oil and the eggs into the flour. Add the mlik. Optional extra: now add the grated zest of one orange and a couple of drops of vanilla extract (NEVER essence).

Whisk everything together for a minute till it’s a smooth batter. Let it rest for half an hour in the fridge, then make your pancakes.