SteelyKid and I have developed a weekend routine: I make pancakes (with her help in mixing and occasionally measuring ingredients) on Saturday morning before we head out (usually to SoccerTots, but the last couple of weeks to birthday parties). On Sunday, we make French toast, before going to the Schenectady Greenmarket.
Of course, while this routine may not seem like it involves Science!, it does, as demonstrated by these two pictures:
“What do you mean?” you ask, “Those are just two pictures of a pancake. Where’s the science in that?”
Yes, but why do they look that way?
To be a little more specific, these are two pictures of the same pancake, just flipped over. The top picture is of the “top” side of the pancake, the side that was cooked first, while the bottom picture is the side that cooked second.
You can clearly see that the pattern of browning is very different on the two sides. The top side is mostly uniform (it’s a little uneven because the pan tends to slide off the center of the burner, so one edge got a little underdone). The bottom side is much more blotchy, for lack of a better word– lots of little browned areas, with lighter zones in between.
This very consistently happens with pancakes, and I’m honestly not sure why. It’s not a difference in the pan– I grease it once, at the beginning of cooking, then cook several pancakes in the same pan, each of which shows this same pattern. In fact, this is the fourth and final pancake from this past weekend.
The only thing I can think of is that while the initial batter hitting the pan spreads out uniformly, and thus browns evenly, the partially cooked pancake has a little more cohesion, and keeps some of the uncooked side from coming in contact with the hot surface. The pattern you see does sort of resemble the bubbling you see in the batter before it’s flipped, though not exactly. I’m open to other suggestions, though.
(I’m also not sure how to test this hypothesis. It might be that making thicker pancakes would lead to more even browning on the “bottom” side, as there would be more chance for the batter to spread out. That would require reformulating the batter, though, and I’m not willing to do that. I suppose I could use a spoon to trace a pattern in the top before flipping, and see if it shows up as an underdone region once cooked. Hmmm…)
Anyway, there’s your thought-provoking breakfast science for the week.