What You Don't Know About McDonald's Hotcakes

When it comes to inexpensive fast food breakfasts that pack a caloric wallop, you have to stand in awe of the pancakes at McDonald's. Whoops, make that "hotcakes." Whether you order them as a part of the fat-and-sugar apocalypse that makes up the Mickey D's "Big Breakfast," which includes an order of hotcakes and scrambled eggs and hash browns and sausage and a buttermilk biscuit and probably no further plans for the rest of the day, or you show your central nervous system some respect by ordering them a la carte, few items on the breakfast menu have the potential to make your morning like an order of hotcakes.

We all know how impossibly fluffy and evenly golden brown they are, and how they soak up any amount of syrup you can throw at them until they become sopping wet sponges of life-giving corn syrup and laboratory-invented maple flavoring. But that, friends, is only the beginning of the story. Here's everything else that you might not know about McDonald's hotcakes.

They come with a side of real butter (and not real syrup)

Picture, in your minds' eye, the perfect pile of fluffy buttermilk pancakes stacked three or four high, melted butter and syrup comingling and cascading off the edges in rivulets of sweet, decadent goodness. What got you to this moment of anticipatory pancake greatness? We're betting it wasn't a wad of bargain-basement margarine, or a sad scrape from the top of a cold tub of Country Crock.

No, to achieve pancake perfection, you can't settle for chemical mishmashes of hydrogenated goo. You need the real thing. Sweet, creamy butter, squeezed fresh from the teat. (Side note: We don't know where butter comes from.)

McDonald's seems to place a lot of pride in its inclusion of "real butter" with each order of pancakes, and even make sure to call it out on their menu. The "maple" syrup is kind of another story: It's the customary blend of flavored corn syrup you'll find in crummy diners nationwide. The restaurant's website lists "natural flavors" in its table syrup blend, but we get the distinct feeling that no maple trees were harmed in the creation of this syrup.

They're not exactly diet-friendly

We don't think that anyone who's trying to lean out, cut calories, and improve muscle tone is seriously considering sitting down to a massive platter of McDonald's hotcakes every morning, or perhaps ever in their well-toned, aerobic lives. But the nutrition information on McDonald's hotcakes seems particularly reckless, even by ordinary pancake standards.

A standalone order of hotcakes (including butter and syrup) clocks in at 600 calories, with 16 grams of fat, 45 grams of sugar, and a whopping 102 grams of total carbohydrates. For perspective, people on low-carb diets such as Atkins are urged to limit their total net carb intake for the day to just 20 grams. And those nutritional counts are before you add any tempting sides, like sausage, hash browns, or a big cup of orange juice. In fact, order your hotcakes as a part of McDonald's "Big Breakfast with Hotcakes" along with a medium OJ, and you're starting your day with 1550 calories, 88 grams of sugar, and 201 grams of carbohydrates. Good morning? Good night.

They weren't added to the menu until 1977

McDonald's hotcakes are so reliably and consistently delicious that it almost seems like they've been a part of our lives since the beginning of time, doesn't it? Not so. 

Anxious to expand its dining options to include breakfast in the early 1970s, the chain began testing breakfast items like the Egg McMuffin (originally conceived as a sort of portable Eggs Benedict), but didn't roll out the full morning menu until later that decade. Hotcakes were added to the McDonald's menu in 1977, as part of the corporation's introduction of a full breakfast lineup that included the traditional "Big Breakfast," along with scrambled eggs, hash browns, and Danish. 

The menu additions were such a hit that by 1986, McDonald's was serving one out of every four breakfasts eaten outside of the home, and you've got to think that the popularity of the hotcakes played into the development of the now-legendary McGriddle in 2003, a sweet-and-savory stack of smaller-scale portable pancakes, eggs, and bacon or sausage.

They're definitely not fresh

When you place an order for a plate piled high with McDonald's hotcakes, do you imagine a team of skilled professional teenagers springing into action, whisking together bowls of flour, egg, and milk, scooping batter lovingly by the spoonful onto a scorching hot griddle, where the perfectly round pours of fresh batter bubble into golden brown perfection before being expertly flipped with a spatula? If so, you're way off base.

Here's the likelier scenario: The refrigerated McDonald's delivery truck arrives from corporate. Someone tracks down the low man on the totem pole — it's his job to unload the truck, including box after box of frozen, pre-formed, pre-cooked hotcakes, each marked with an individual serial control number. After halfheartedly reshuffling a few boxes of Canadian bacon to make room in the freezer, your box full of hundreds of hotcakes will get tossed into some forgotten corner, until you place your order. A quick zap in the microwave may restore the pre-cooked hotcakes to something of their former glory, but make no mistake: They're not cooked fresh to order.

In the Netherlands, your hotcakes come with Nutella

Much like our understanding of everything in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, the hotcakes you'll order there are way better than anything available at McDonald's restaurants stateside. What's responsible for sending the already-awesome McDonald's hotcake into the culinary stratosphere of fat-kid deliciousness? In the Netherlands, your hotcake order comes standard with a sidecar of Nutella.

That's right. If there's one thing left on earth that could somehow make eating piles of cake for breakfast even better, it's spreading those already delicious pancakes with chocolate hazelnut goodness, and chasing it with a piping hot cup of strong coffee. While traditional maple syrup is also an option, we're not sure why anyone would opt for ordinary tree water when "hot liquid chocolate" is an option. Hotcakes served with Nutella only proves what a small country can accomplish when it focuses its entire system of government on legal weed and universal healthcare.

For a change of pace, try making hobo crepes

After you've completed the amateur science experiment that we refer to as "How Many Packages of Syrup Can a Single Hotcake Absorb," you may be left wondering what new culinary frontiers can be crossed using only a platter of McDonald's hotcakes and your bare wits. And to you we say, "Hey, have you tried making 'hobo crepes' yet?"

Okay, to be fair, the name isn't entirely accurate (and we might have made it up — some refer to these as "McCrepes"), since crepes are usually much thinner than regular ol' pancakes, and unless you're reading this while riding a freight train with all of your worldly possessions bundled up into a handkerchief tied to the end of a stick, you're probably not a hobo.

Inaccurate nomenclature aside, these are pretty delicious, and the directions couldn't be simpler: Purchase an order of hotcakes. Purchase a McDonald's Fruit 'N Yogurt Parfait. Roll pancakes up around dollops of yogurt and fruit, then pour on maple syrup and sprinkle the whole shebang with the included granola packet from the parfait. Boom: You're a chef.

Hotcakes are pancakes and pancakes are hotcakes

Have you ever wondered why McDonald's, unlike literary everyone else in the developed western world born after the year 1952, calls pancakes "hotcakes?" And what the heck is a "hotcake," anyway? Is that different than the regular old pancakes you've eaten hundreds of times in your lifetime?

According to Reference.com, the answer is simple. "There is no difference between hotcakes and pancakes. Both words describe the popular round, flat cakes cooked on a griddle or inside a skillet. In addition to hotcakes, pancakes go by other names, such as flapjack and griddle cake."

But why did McDonald's decide to go with "hotcakes," to describe their particular brand of popular round, flat cakes cooked on a griddle? McDonald's has been coy, responding to a customer on Twitter that "hotcakes" is just the term they "prefer," but we'd guess it probably has something to do with the term being more popular when the item was first introduced.

You can (and should) hack a pancake-and-chicken sandwich

The more creative amateur fast food menu hackers among you may have brainstormed about the possibilities of creating a sort of budget version of chicken-and-waffles, by eating the chain's fried breaded chicken patties with a few forkfuls of delicious fluffy hotcake. And as it turns out, the corporate chefs at McDonald's HQ were on exactly the same page. The chain tested a Chicken McGriddle in 2016, combining the salty, savory crunch of chicken wrapped in sweet, comforting pancake that could be eaten one-handed while driving your car.

Though the item never made it to the national menu in wide release, don't despair, because you can cobble one together yourself, if you don't mind getting your hands a little greasy. Thanks to the new all-day availability of most breakfast items, you can just order a Sausage McGriddle and a plain McChicken. Throw the sausage and the extra bun out the window, and slide that hot chicken breast between those two sweet pancakes, where it belongs. Dunk each bite in maple syrup, for additional palate-confusing awesomeness.