How to make pancakes in a cast iron skillet

In my opinion, there is nothing better than pancakes made from a cast iron skillet. The crevices in the skillet allow the oil or butter in the pan to soak into the pancakes and creates a nice texture on the surface of the pancakes.

What are the keys to success? Use the tips below to get perfect pancakes every time!

Make sure the heat is evenly distributed.

Although iron cookware retain heat very well, they don’t distribute the heat as evenly. Hot spots can form resulting in a pancake with is overcooked at one part and undercooked at another. Hot spots can be minimized by making sure the heat of your pan is appropriate for pancakes.

Place the cast-iron skillet on the stove top at medium heat or medium-low heat.

Be patient and allow the pan to properly heat up.

Spash a bit of water on the pan, if the pan is the right temperature, it should sizzle away and evaporate.

Don’t use high heat for making pancakes! Save the high heat for getting that perfect sear on your steak.

Make sure your pan has been seasoned properly.

If your pan hasn’t been seasoned, the pancake batter is going to stick to the pan, even if you coat the pan with butter or oil. You can buy a pre-seasoned pan, but I would still recommend you season it yourself after you buy it.

Make sure you coat the pan with butter or oil

cast iron pan coated with oil

Even with a pan properly seasoned, this ain’t no non-stick pan. A little butter or oil on the pan can go a long way. I sometimes love using salted butter since the salt gives the pancakes a nice flavor.

If you are watching your salt content, unsalted butter works fine too. Make sure the butter is cold, since butter’s melting point is fairly low, you don’t want the butter immediately burning when it hits the pan.

Coconut oil works really well since it has a high melting point and adds a nice flavor to the pancakes. Another oil I love using for pancakes is walnut oil. It has a high melting point and adds a nice nutty flavor. Don’t use olive oil. Its melting point is too low and it will burn when you place it on the pan.

How much oil should you use? One half of a teaspoon is usually enough for several pancakes, then add another half of a teaspoon after you have made 3 or 4 pancakes.

Keep the pancakes away from the edges of the pan

Remember, unless you have a unusually large cast iron pan or a rectangular cast iron griddle, you don’t have a lot of real estate on this pan. Keep the pancakes small and pour batter near the center.

For a 10 inch cast iron pan, you are only going to be able to make 2 or 3 pancakes at one time. If you try to make any more than that at one time, when you flip them, they are going to hit the edge or running into a each other.

Tiny pancakes are easier to flip. Use a measuring cup to get the right amount of batter. A 1/4 cup seems to work best in my experience.

Make sure you have a thick batter

Thick pancake batter

If your batter is to runny, the pancakes won’t rise as much and will be much harder to flip. Of course, you don’t want the batter so thick that the pancakes end up to dry

How do I get extra fluffy pancakes?

For the best ways to get nice fluffy pancakes, you need to use the techniques I discussed in my post entitled “The best techniques to get fluffy and delicious pancakes every time”.

First make sure you have the right milk mixture to flour mixture. Next use a sifter to sift the dry ingredients. Use the right amount of leaving agents (baking powder and/or baking soda). Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Whip up the egg whites and stir them in at the very end. Don’t over mix the batter! Let the batter rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. In order to avoid wasting a bunch of time, you can make the batter first before turning on the stove top.

Once you have mixed the batter, turn on the stove top and place your cast iron pan over the burner. 10 to 15 minutes on the burner is usually enough time to get rid of the hot spots on the pan. You kill two birds with one stone, your batter gets to rest it needs and your pan gets heated appropriately. Once you drop the pancake batter on the pan, place a cover over the pan for about 30 seconds or so. Use all of these techniques, and you will have yourself some of the fluffiest pancakes your heart can desire.

How do I know when to flip the pancake?

Wait until bubbles form over the top of the pancake and the edges of the pancake start to curl up. These two signs let you know the bottom of the pancake is sufficiently cooked. Flip the pancake, the side you just flipped should be golden brown.

pancake batter in cast iron pan

What kind of pancakes are best to make in a cast iron pan?

Good old fashioned traditional pancakes are a great option. Blueberry pancakes are also great. Just make sure your pan is seasoned and you add enough oil, since blueberry pancakes will stick to the pan more easily. How do you get that great buttermilk taste? Well, you could just use buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, or you want to make non-dairy pancakes, use some vinegar or lemon juice and place it into the your milk of choice. Adding some sour cream the batter can also get you that butter milk taste.

If you are making gluten-free pancakes, low-carb pancakes, or vegan pancakes, make sure your pan is seasoned well and apply a bit extra oil to the pan, since these types of pancakes won’t hold together quite as well as a traditional gluten pancake with eggs.

Another fun option is making one big pancake in the cast-iron pan. Just filled the whole pan with pancake batter. Cover up pain with a lid to help the pancake cook and rise. Once it bubbles up, flip the huge pancake. You can cut the pancakes in equally sized slices and serve at as “pancake pizza”.

One more idea is to use a smaller cast iron pan to make dutch baby pancakes. One thing I love about making pancakes this way is you are using the edges of the pan to help cook the pancake. This results in nice tasty crispy edges to each pancake.

Best techniques to get fluffy and delicious pancakes every time

There is no better way to start the weekend off right by than making homemade pancakes that are light and fluffy. I used to struggle with getting pancakes to rise when making them from scratch. I would bail out and get a pancake mix just to get the pancakes to the right consistency. Often my pancakes would end up flat and rubbery and I couldn’t figure out why. Over time and with research, I realized I was over-mixing the batter. However, when I under-mixed the batter, there would be clumps of flour or, even worse, clumps of baking soda in the pancakes.

With more trial and error, I figured out some important techniques that seems to work best for me to get the outcome I desired. Now, armed with these techniques, I am able to create tasty, fluffy pancakes every time. Once you figure this stuff out, you will never need to get a pancake mix to get fluffy pancakes and your homemade pancakes will taste much better than from a pre made mix.

1. Make sure you have the right ratio of flour to liquid

If you have too much flour, the pancakes will be dry and flavorless. If you have too much liquid, the batter will be too runny and the pancakes won’t puff up and rise. The best ratio I have found is around 1 to 1 for a more traditional pancake recipe and slightly less liquid to flour for some other types of recipes (7 parts liquid to 8 parts flour, i.e. for 2 cups of flour you will have 1 and 3/4 cups of liquid). If you are using an acid such as vinegar or citrus juice, incorporate this amount into your total, otherwise the extra liquid from the acid will mess up the ratios and make the batter too runny.

2. Use a sifter to sift the dry ingredients together.

Using a sifter incorporates air into the dry ingredients, which will help them rise. Sifting also ensures that the baking soda and powder are evenly mixed into flour without lumps forming.

3. Don’t over mix the batter

After you have mixed the dry ingredients together, mix the milk with the acid together. Then add the melted butter to the milk to warm it. Mix the egg yolk with the sugar, then add the milk, acid, butter mixture to the wet ingredients. Then gently pour the wet mixture into the center of the dry ingredients.

Use a spatula to gently fold the dry and wet ingredients together. Use the spatula to scrape the edges of the bowl to make sure you don’t leave any dry ingredient unmixed and “fold” it into the center of the bowl. Do NOT over mix! The batter should look “lumpy” like in the picture above.

4. Separate the egg yolk from the white

If you are short on time or don’t have a hand mixer, just separate the whites from the rest of the wet ingredients. Gently mix the wet ingredients including the egg yolks and then fold in the egg whites

However, to really get those pancakes extra fluffy, we need to take it the next level. Whip the egg whites with a hand or power mixer. You want to whip the egg whites until they start to foam and then form soft peaks, then gently fold them into the rest of the batter.

5. Use convection heat to your advantage

If you follow all the steps up to this point, this step is probably unnecessary. I learned this technique from watching YouTube videos of Japanese souffle pancakes to get that extra tall, fluffy pancake. If you use a cast iron pan or non stick pan with a lid, place the lid on the pan right after you drop the pancake batter on the pan. This will trap some heat in the pan, making the pan act like an oven. If you have a glass lid, you will actually see the pancake puff up and rise a bit right after you place the lid on.

Where I find this especially useful is in recipes that are heavier, such as pumpkin pancakes, pancakes with sour cream or cheese, or pancakes with heavy fruits or vegetables blended in. Not only will this technique help these types of pancakes rise, it also cooks the inside a bit, which is needed in these types of pancakes. Otherwise, you either get the outside over done, the inside undercooked, or you have to turn the heat down too low which makes the pancakes cook too slowly and results in a rubbery pancake.

The 8 Core Ingredients of the Pancake (Pancake Anatomy)

As a surgeon, I have a deep appreciation for human anatomy and the important roles that different organ systems provide to overall function of the body as a whole. When I started medical school, we spent eight long but exciting weeks in the anatomy cadaver lab learning every little detail of the human anatomy. Then for the rest of the first two years of medical school, we learned every painstaking detail of biochemistry, histology, pathology, pharmacology, and other torture inducing subjects that mainly served to force us to forget everything we learned about anatomy. Of course this is from a surgeon’s perspective – others may have found these subjects more interesting.

Later, during the third year of medical school during our surgery rotation, we had to re-learn all the anatomy in order get the most out of the rotation. During my time in my orthopedic surgical residency training program after medical school, we had to learn every detailed step of many common orthopedic procedures. I quickly learned that if I focused on mastering the anatomy surrounding each procedure, the steps became more intuitive and easier to remember. As a practicing surgeon, I appreciate the importance of mastering the anatomy to a ever greater level. If you become a master of the anatomy, you are not restricted to memorizing the steps to the procedure, instead it becomes apparent what the next step is.

As I started my journey to become a “pancake master” I realized i needed to understand the purpose of each ingredient. Once, I finally understood the “anatomy” of the pancake, I was able to develop a better understanding on what each core ingredient is providing to the pancake as a whole. There are eight core ingredients to a pancake. The eight core ingredients to the pancake are as follows:

  • Flour
  • Leavening Agents
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Milk
  • Acid
  • Eggs
  • Fat


King Arthur All-Purpose Flour Bag with flour in measuring cup and flour spilled on background, cutting board at top right of image

Flour is the skeleton of the pancake anatomy. It gives the pancake support and structure. Flour is made of starch and gluten. The gluten is a protein molecule that forms a web like lattice when it is activated by water. Air pockets form between the gluten particles which help give the batter its shape. For best results, use all purpose flour.

Can you use gluten-free flour or low carb options such as almond flour? Absolutely! Just keep in mind, you won’t have the benefit of the gluten to provide that important structure to the pancake. Therefore, you are going to have to provide the structure with another ingredient in addition to the flour.

Leavening agents

Baking soda scooped into 1 tablespoon measuring cup

Keeping our pancake anatomy analogy alive, leavening agents are the “lungs” of the pancake. The leavening agents allow air bubbles to enter the batter and help make the pancake light and fluffy. The two most common leavening agents are baking soda and baking powder. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. It needs an acid to activate it. When activated, it forms carbon dioxide air bubbles. These bubbles get trapped with the gluten “web” which allows the pancake batter to rise and become light and fluffy.

Baking powder is baking soda mixed with an acid such as cream of tartar. The cream of tartar is in its salt form and thus doesn’t activate with the baking soda until water is added. Most baking powders are double acting, which means they react when mixed with water and then again when heat is added.

How much baking powder should you add in the recipe? I have found that 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) per 1 cup of flour seems to be the sweet spot. For baking soda, use about 1/3 to 1/6 of what you used for baking powder. So for one 1 tablespoon of baking powder, use one teaspoon of baking soda as a maximum amount and 1/2 teaspoon as a minimum. This is based on a recipe that calls for 1 cup of flour. If your making a double batch, double the amount.


Sugar’s most obvious function is to provide sweetness to the pancakes. However, it does more than this. The granulated sugar particles become crystalized when they come into contact with the hot pan. This creates a nice crispy edge to the pancakes.

White sugar is a classic option, but other sugars can be used. Brown sugar is one of my personal favorites. It creates a nice robust flavor and helps you get those nice golden brown pancakes when it crystalizes on the hot skillet.

For healthy pancakes other granulated sweeteners with a lower glycemic index can be used such as coconut sugar. If liquid sweeteners are used in place of granulated sugar, the pancakes will not be quite as crispy but still may taste great.

How much sugar should you add to the batter? Add at least one tablespoon sugar for best results. For sweeter, more classic pancakes, you can add up to 1/4 of a cup (4 tablespoons) of sugar. If you are making whole wheat pancakes, consider adding a bit more sugar to help bring out some sweetness.


Salt crystals also help provide a crispy edge to the pancakes and help neutralize the sweetness of the sugar. A little salt goes a long way.

How much salt should you add? Even of “pinch” of salt can add a great deal of flavor to the pancakes. Most recipes call for anywhere from a pinch of salt to 1/4 teaspoon per 1 cup of flour. I have seen some recipes with 1/2 teaspoon. Any more than this and the pancakes will probably taste too salty.


Milk adds water to the pancake but also adds in fat and protein. Other liquids can be used, but milk is the most common and most predictable. Buttermilk is the classic liquid for pancakes. The acidity in buttermilk reacts with the baking soda which helps the pancakes rise. Any left over acidity give you that nice tangy flavor. Whole milk also works great. If you use whole milk without adding an acid such as citrus juice or vinegar, you may want to skip the baking soda in leau of baking powder since the baking soda won’t have an acid to react with.

Are you lactose intolerant or vegan? Not a problem at all! Plant based milks can work great for pancakes as well. My favorite is cashew milk since is slightly thicker and creamier than other nut milks such as almond milk. Oat milk also works great.

The ratio of milk to flour is very important. If other liquids are added into the batter (such as citrus juices), this must be calculated into the ratio. The highest ratio of milk (plus any other liquids) to flour is 1 cup milk for 1 cup flour. Any more than this, and your pancakes will be too thin and runny and won’t fluff up when you place them on the pan.

The lowest ratio should be 3/4 cup of milk to one cup of flour. If you use less then this, your pancakes will be to dry. You may have to experiment to find what works for you. For a thick batter, keep the ratio of milk to flour lower. For a slightly thinner pancake that is more moist and flavorful, add a little extra milk.


If buttermilk is not used, you will want to add an acid to react with the baking soda. Vanilla extract is a classic acid that adds flavor to the pancake and serves as an acid to react to the baking soda.

Citrus juices such as freshly squeezed lemons, limes, or oranges work great. Vinegar also works great. You want to add the acid to the milk and let it sit for a few minutes to “curdle” before mixing the rest of the wet ingredients in.


Eggs provide structure to the pancake and help hold it together. When the whites are separated from the yolks and “folded in” at the very last step in mixing, they provide an extra level of fluffiness to the pancakes.

How many eggs should you use? One or two eggs per 1 cup of flour works well. When traditional all-purpose white flour is used, one large egg is enough. For gluten free recipes, 2 eggs can help the batter can help make up for the lack of gluten in providing structure to the pancakes.

What if you are on a vegan or other plant based diet? Can I still make great pancakes? Absolutely! However, the pancakes will turn out best if something is substituted for the eggs to help provide structure to the pancake. Common substitutes are mashed banana, a small amount of pumpkin or sweet potato puree, or flax seed.


Fat provides a richness in flavor to the pancakes. The classic fat is melted butter but other fats can be used. I recommend unsalted butter so it doesn’t affect your amount of salt you put in the recipe.

Coconut oil also works great and is a great option for those on vegan diets that still want to get that rich “buttery” pancake flavor.

Nut oils with high melting points such as walnut oil and almond oil also work well but will change the flavor and consistency of the pancake a bit. My favorite nut oil is walnut oil. It can be used in the recipe as a reliable substitute for butter and it also works well as a butter substitute for greasing the pan.

How much fat should you use? Typical amounts range from 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, melted butter, or coconut oil to 4 tablespoons. More fat will result in a richer flavor to the pancakes.

The next time you make homemade pancakes, pay attention to the “pancake anatomy” and make sure you incorporate all 8 core ingredients. Keep an ingredient checklist to make sure you have all eight ingredients covered. As described in this articles, substitutions can be made for each area as needed in order to keep true to your chosen diet. I wish you the best in your journey to making those perfect pancakes that your whole family will enjoy!

For techniques on making the tastiest, fluffiest pancakes, go to my post entitled “Best techniques to get fluffy delicious pancakes every time”.