Can you make pancakes in an air fryer?

In short, yes, but this writer isn’t prepared to ditch the frying pan just yet.

With Shrove Tuesday approaching on 13 February, thoughts in my household naturally shift to pancakes. Whether you indulge in them only on this special day each year or, like my family, are regular pancake enthusiasts, the great thing about pancakes is that they are relatively easy to make.

However, I always strive to simplify cooking processes, so this year I turned my attention to the current kitchen gadget trend – the air fryer.

Not only can they save you money, the best air fryers are also a great way to make your favourite comfort foods slightly healthier. Plus, they’re more versatile than you might first think – with some of the surprising things you can cook in an air fryer including cakes, pizza and even a full Christmas dinner.

What could go wrong?

Pancakes with lemon and sugar not made in an air fryerCredit: Shutterstock/Natalia Van Doninck

Making crepes in an air fryer

Flipping heck….

First up, I decided to try the traditional pancake, or crepe. I am known around this way (well within my house) for being a ninja when it comes to making this style of pancake. I even have a special pan and a carefully guarded secret recipe.

To make these air fryer pancakes, I whipped up a batch of my mixture. If you need a good recipe, this one is pretty failsafe. I always let my batter sit for around 30 minutes before frying.

Just before I was ready to cook, I pre-heated the air fryer for a couple of minutes. I then put a silicon mould in the basket and squirted in some sunflower oil to prevent any sticking.

I then carefully poured a thin layer of the pancake mixture into the mould, making sure I put the drawer in carefully. I set the time for one minute at 200°C (400°F). It actually took another two minutes before the pancake was cooked enough to easily remove from the mould.

The verdict

So, this specimen turned out to be unlike any other pancake I’ve eaten before, and that’s not a compliment. Part crispy, part soggy, it had risen a little in some places, and was just wrong.

Not only did it not look good or taste good, I also missed flipping it. I mean why have a secret talent if you can’t use it? Plus, each pancake took much longer to make in the air fryer than it did in a frying pan. And I had more washing up. It’s a definite no-no for me.

I should have consulted air fryer expert Sam Milner before this experiment. As co-author of the Sunday Times bestseller, The Complete Air Fryer: 140 Super-Easy, Everyday Recipes and Techniques, there’s nothing she doesn’t know about air fryers. And one of those things is that pancakes don’t work!

“I have tried pancakes a few times in the air fryer,” she tells me.

“Personally, I don’t think pancakes in the air fryer come out very nice and the frying pan does a much better job. The pancake ends up too heavy in the air fryer and feels like an air fryer trend I wouldn’t repeat.”

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Do you need lots of accessories?

As the air fryer market has grown so have the air fryer accessories you can buy, but do you really need any? I have silicone moulds, which are useful for making cookies or cakes, but Milner says the most important accessory is an oil sprayer.

“When cooking in the air fryer you will need from time to time to spray oil over the top of your food to help make it crispy,” she says. “There are lots of spray pumps available on Amazon and you will find it will become your go-to when you get into air frying.”

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Making American air fryer pancakes

Perfectly round and edible

After my huge pancake fail with the more traditional recipe, I decided to try American pancakes. As they are fluffier and more cake-like, I thought I might fare better with them – and I was kind of right.

Using this recipe, I whipped up the batter and then chose one of my smaller silicon moulds. These are ones I use for cooking eggs in the air fryer, but I figured, they’d also work for pancakes.

As with the crepes, I sprayed a little bit of oil in the mould first. I then put the pancake on at 200°C (400°F) to cook for five minutes. I checked on it at the halfway mark, but the mixture was still very liquid-like in the middle, so it definitely needed the full cooking time.

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Silicone Air Fryer Moulds

The verdict

Undoubtedly, the main bonus of cooking American pancakes in the air fryer is that they come out perfectly round. I can never get them perfectly circular when I do them in the frying pan.

While it looked good, I tested them against some I made in the frying pan, and they didn’t taste quite as nice. I would say the air fryer pancake was slightly heavier. However, once smothered in maple syrup, it was delicious enough.

What I like with this style of pancake is you can put more than one mould in the air fryer at a time and so batch cook, which you can’t do with the standard pancake.

It’s still quite a faff though so not sure I’ll be recreating these any time soon.

Cooking times

If you’re trying something new like cooking pancakes, it can be difficult to know how long to cook them for, but there is a way to find out.

“Not all air fryers are equal,” notes Milner. “They operate at different temperatures, so when you first get an air fryer cook something simple like a cheese toastie or some frozen chips so that you can see how your air fryer performs compared to others. Then you can easily tweak recipes accordingly.”

The perfect pancake heater

Don’t dismiss your air fryer just yet

Before you push your air fryer to one side on Shrove Tuesday, Milner says they can actually serve a great purpose – for reheating multiple pancakes.

“For those who love eating pancakes but don’t like making them, shop-bought cooked pancakes are delicious for reheating in the air fryer,” she says.

“Equally, if you have lots of pancakes left over, you can also reheat frozen pancakes in the air fryer.”

My son loves a pancake in the morning but they’re too time consuming to sort on a work day, so I followed Milner’s tip and froze some leftover pancakes. The air fryer heats them up a treat and they went down a storm – so much so, I think I’m going to have keep a batch of them in my freezer forever now.

Trying new things in the air fryer

Don’t just use it for frozen chips

This experiment has shown me that the air fryer is for more than just ‘frying’ unhealthy food. Milner says that many people only use their air fryer for chips, but it has so many more options.

“I absolutely love haggis in the air fryer and picked some up while on holiday in Edinburgh,” she tells me. “Our wedding anniversary is Burns Night, so it has turned into a yearly tradition to cook haggis in the air fryer.”

If you want to try something different, Milner suggest trying different recipes with minimal ingredients to begin with.

“My favourite for newbies is either to cook some bacon or some sausages, or you could do a mix of both and then use the air fryer to warm up some half-baked bread,” she says. “You then have delicious sausage and bacon butties.”

Want to get even more adventurous with your air fryer?

If you’re ready to go up a gear, Milner suggests using your air fryer to cook whole garlic bulbs.

  • Slice the top off a garlic bulb, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Add a little seasoning (salt, pepper, and oregano work well) then wrap in foil.
  • Place it in the air fryer and cook for about 30 minutes.

“Depending on the garlic size, open up the foil and you can squeeze out perfectly cooked air fryer roasted garlic,” she says. “You will never need to peel a garlic clove again!”

Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her

Published:

Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 24 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars. A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

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