40. Your Flapjacks Flame Out
Result: Blotchy, burned pancakes
Too often, pancake cooks put up with a few poor specimens at the beginning—splotchy and greasy—and a few more duds at the end; the latter can be scorched from a too-dry pan yet perversely underdone within. This is not a heat problem or a batter problem: It's a pan-prepping problem.
The solution: Don't pour oil directly into the pan. Hot oil will spread, pooling in some areas, leaving other parts dry. Just a scant amount of cooking oil creates a smooth, even cooking surface throughout, so pancakes cook evenly from start to finish.
If you're using a pristine nonstick pan, you may not need oil at all. Otherwise, here's how to apply it: Heat a skillet (any variety) over medium heat, then grasp a wadded paper towel with tongs and douse it with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Brush the pan with the soaked towel. You could also use cooking spray, except for nonstick pans: It leaves sticky residue on Teflon surfaces.
Add batter, flipping only when bubbles form on the surface of each pancake, about two to three minutes. Resist the urge to peek, which breaks the seal between the pan and the batter; that seal is what ensures even cooking. Swab the pan with the oiled paper towel between batches to keep it properly greased.