In search of the perfect crêpe, researchers in New Zealand and France teamed up to unmask the secrets to these ultrathin pancakes. The answer, they found, lies in fluid dynamics.
Crêpe batter is not unique among liquids, but the process of cooking crêpes is a rather complicated display of thermodynamics. Immediately after the batter is poured onto the hot pan, it begins to cook, and thus begins to solidify and become more viscous. The end result? One part of the crêpe is overcooked, the other undercooked.
See, as the batter cooks, it gets thicker and thicker, making it harder and harder for the batter to flow on top of the pan. By developing a computer model that takes the pan’s orientation, temperature, and thickness into account, the researchers were able to come up with a method that maximizes a uniform thickness on the pan.
Based on their calculations, the best way to evenly spread the batter on the pan is to immediately tilt the pan to the side after the batter hits the hot pan. Then, while the pan is still inclined, rotate it in a circle so the batter is distributed across the entire area of the pan. After all the holes are filled, you can put down the pan and let it continue cooking before flipping to the other side.
In the video above, we attempted to replicate their technique (using this recipe from BuzzFeed). While we aren’t master crêpe chefs just yet, their tips certainly helped us step up our crêpe game!