If you aren’t making pancakes that are AT LEAST as good as those you get from the typical diner or pancake house, it’s something you’re doing incorrectly.
Restaurants do not use the finest available ingredients. They use what gives them the best result for the money. Yet, they get good results. So you don’t have to use the best possible ingredients; just good ingredients. A box mix like Bisquick will give you good ingredients, despite what the snobs say.
Some of the strongest compliments I’ve ever received on my cooking were from people who were eating my pancakes. I couldn’t understand why — I was using a box mix and following the recipe — until I watched them make pancakes.
Some things they did that ruined their pancakes:
- They thought they were smarter than the people who made the mix. They didn’t follow the instructions printed on the box.
- They thought they could “eyeball” the amount of oil or milk or water or whatever, or they used small or extra-large eggs instead of large. They were wrong. While baking isn’t rocket science, it is a science. It’s chemistry.
- The pan wasn’t hot enough. Pancakes have to cook quickly enough that the gas bubbles from the leavening agents are trapped in the cooked batter.
- They thought a non-stick pan was a good substitute for oiling the pan. It’s not. There’s a “crust” you get on a pancake when you oil the pan.
- They tried flipping the things too soon, or too late. Pancakes need to be flipped when the edges are dry and the bubbles in the middle of the top start breaking.
- They over-beat the batter and didn’t rest it.
- There’s a saying: “cooking pancakes is like raising children; the first one never turns out quite right.” This can be remedied by doing two things:
- Stir the batter only as much as you need to. It’s OK to have a few small lumps.
- Wait a few minutes and let the batter rest. About as much time as it takes to cook a pancake is enough time, but a little more is good.
- Stirring just enough prevents over-developing the gluten, so your pancakes are not chewy and can rise properly. Letting it rest allows the flour to fully hydrate and the leavening to fully activate, and it allows any over-developed gluten to relax.
Another thing that matters is using a heavy pan. Even my non-stick pans are good and heavy. When you pour room-temperature batter onto a hot surface, the surface will cool a little and the batter will heat a little. A heavy pan will return to temperature almost immediately, but a lightweight one will take a tiny bit longer.
In short, it’s probably not your ingredients. It’s probably your technique. If I can get “amazing” pancakes from a box mix (and even better ones from scratch), anyone can. Get a good recipe and follow it.