Want to avoid the wonky first pancake? Here’s how

Top tips for perfect pancakes every time, with sweet and savoury toppings and fillings

Is this how you will be eating your pancakes today? Photograph: iStock

“The first pancake invariably comes out [shaped] like Australia.” This comment from Kate Dempsey, who makes Kinsale Mead with her husband Denis, addresses the thorny issue of why the first pool of batter to hit the pan never results in a nice round and evenly browned pancake.

Dempsey’s observation, a familiar experience for most of us who will be flipping the pans on Tuesday, came in response to a question posed on Twitter. The responses flowed in; we take Shrove Tuesday and its pancake ritual seriously here.

To get the best results, Robert Coyle suggests keeping one pan exclusively for making pancakes and omelettes. "Mine is an ancient aluminium pan that hasn't been washed with soap for 30 years. Nothing sticks to it. Carbon steel is good, too."

PR consultant Sonia Harris Pope also has a dedicated pancake pan. "My crepe pan is in my top 10 most prized kitchen possessions."


The consensus seems to be that we are too impatient to wait for the pan to heat up sufficiently before pouting in the first splash of batter. So give it time, and melt a little knob of butter in the pan just before you pour. But don’t let it burn.

A cast iron pan makes great crepes. Photograph: iStock

The type of pancakes being made and eaten across the country on Tuesday is really varied. Katia Valadeau makes beer batter crepes (scroll down for the recipe), and she is in the camp that firmly believes the batter is best made the night before.

Hannah Dare, who runs Organico health food shop, cafe and bakery in Bantry with her sister Rachel, makes her pancakes with sprouted flour she gets from Lisa Larkin of Durrow Mills in Bantry. Sprouted flour is thought to be easier to digest than normal flour (scroll down for the recipe).

Chef Zack Gallagher replaces a quarter of the flour in his pancakes with polenta "to give them an extra wee bite". School teacher Bríd suggests adding some sparkling water to the milk "to make a lighter pancake".

For ease of mixing, travel writer Melanie May makes the batter in her Nutribullet. Elaine Hartigan has this suggestion to give your pancakes a sweet edge. "When you flip your pancake, sift some icing sugar onto the cooked side and flip it back again to cook for a few seconds so the sugar slightly caramelises."

Some of us eat pancakes more than once on Shrove Tuesday. Patrick Hanlon and Russell Alford have eaten their version of crispy pancakes and some fluffy, sweet ricotta ones on the same day too. You'll find the recipe for their take on the Findus frozen favourite here.

Food writer Lisa Cope takes a savoury route, with her family's favourite stuffed crepes. "We tend to wing it, but basically fry onion and mushroom in butter, add flour to make a roux, then milk to make a sauce, maybe bay, saffron, then cheese, then fold in ham or bacon. Stuff the crepes with the sauce, roll up and gorge, with more sauce and grated cheese on top."

Niamh Ní Chonchubhair has a super idea for a savoury sharing stack. "One year, after making an entirely unrealistic amount of batter, I made eight similar sized pancakes, layered them with alternating roasted veg, feta, herbs and tomato ragu, topped with Cheddar and baked it in the oven. Served in wedges, it was unreal."

But for many of us, sweet trumps savoury when it comes to pancakes, and the traditional topping of sugar and lemon juice is still a favourite. Dee Masterson is sticking with tradition. "I'm a purist. A basic pancake recipe, with Jif lemon, exactly as I had after school every Shrove Tuesday. Some things don't need to be modernised." And food writer Diana Henry agrees. "You're so right! Jif and sugar!"

What is also a tradition in some homes, is that pancake cooking, like barbecuing, is dads' work. "Pancake Tuesday was only time my dad "cooked". Until I went to secondary school, I thought pancakes were supposed to be the size of the frying pan because he'd make us one big one each," says Mary.

If you can't decide between sweet or savoury pancakes, Trevis L Gleason combines both flavours in one recipe: "Fluffy buttermilk pancakes with crisped streaky bacon crumbled and folded into the batter, topped with a 'syrup' made of Irish whiskey-blood orange marmalade melted with butter." Scroll down for the recipe.


250g flour 3 medium eggs (the better the eggs the better the batter) 250ml milk 250ml lager 1 tbsp sunflower oil or melted butter 1 tsp sugar 1 pinch of salt

Method Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well until there are no lumps.


Hannah Dare’s pancakes made with sprouted buckwheat flour.

Serves at least four

Ingredients 200g Durrow Mills Organic Sprouted Buckwheat Flour 1 tsp baking powder Pinch of salt 1 tsp sugar (optional) 300ml milk or milk alternative, plus more as needed 1 egg Butter or coconut oil, for cooking

Method 1. In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients then make a well in the centre and pour in milk and egg. Whisk wet ingredients until egg is incorporated, then whisk everything together until there are no more dry streaks of flour and the batter is nearly smooth (some lumps are okay). This batter is thicker than the usual batter, but it should still spread easily around the pan, so you may need to add a little more milk.

2. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Once at temperature, melt a knob of butter or coconut oil, then pour in a small ladleful of batter and swirl the pan to spread.

3. Cook until the edges are set and small bubbles erupt over the surface of the pancake. Use a spatula to flip the pancake, then cook for another 30 seconds or so, until the underside is set.Stack pancakes on a plate and leave in a warm oven until ready to serve.


Serves four

Ingredients 6-8 slices of streaky bacon, cut into lardons. Cooked until crisp and drained 200g self-raising flour 60g granulated sugar Pinch table salt 2 eggs, beaten Buttermilk (or plain milk) to mix

Method 1. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Stir in the beaten egg. Fold in enough milk to create a batter to your liking. (The thicker the batter, the thicker your pancakes will be. You can thin this almost as much as crêpe batter, but not quite.)

2. Fold in the cooked bacon

3. Heat a griddle or non-stick pan with a bit of oil or butter over medium heat. Drop the batter in 2-3 tablespoon sizes and cook until small bubbles rise to the top and begin to burst. Turn pancakes and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

4. Serve warm with butter and jam (or my favourite, whiskey/blood orange marmalade syrup, made by melting two parts whiskey marmalade and one part butter together).