There Is A Scientific Reason Pancakes Are Round

Pancakes have been beloved since the ancient Greeks chowed down on the breakfast food. They even wrote poetry about them in 600 B.C.E., according to Betty Crocker. Kate's Kitchen KC details the ancient recipe, explaining that those early pancakes were made with wheat flour, olive oil, honey, and curdled milk. 

The pancakes hit the mark — not only did people keep making them, but they also became iconic. Thomas Jefferson, for example, was such a fan that, as the third president of the United States, he sent the White House pancake recipe to his boyhood town. And Shakespeare included pancakes in not one but two of his plays: "All's Well That Ends Well" and "As You Like It," per the Swindon Advertiser

Pancakes are just that good. Add a little butter, some syrup, or a fruit topping of your choice, be it savory or sweet, and you have a heavenly meal. But have you ever wondered why pancakes are round? (Okay, depending on your skill level, they may not be perfectly round, but they'll always be generally circular.) Clearly, there are plenty of other geometric shapes our favorite breakfast food could be. Is the batter simply taking the shape of our frying pan? It turns out, science can explain the pancake's round shape.

Gravity and surface tension create the roundness

Nature gravitates toward uniformity and efficiency. So the second you start to pour your batter, it begins to extend outward at the same speed, creating a round puddle, explains Straight Dope

According to Mental Floss, gravity and surface tension create the roundness of our pancakes. Gravity pulls and tugs at everything with equal force, including your pancake batter, which causes it to spread evenly and symmetrically in a circular shape. But why does it retain this shape? Surface tension. The surface tension of your poured batter causes your pancake to hold its shape. Science Sparks compares surface tension to a force on your liquid that creates "an elastic sheet" or "layer of skin." This sheet or layer holds the molecules tightly together, which helps your pancake keep that roundness.

So, the next time you go to IHOP and wonder why your pancakes are round, you can chalk it up to gravity and surface tension. As Straight Dope adds, if you're not a fan of the round pancake and prefer a square shape, you'd be better off with a waffle. You can always pour the batter at an angle if you're looking for pancakes with a less typical shape, as Mental Floss suggests.

Getting the perfect size and shape

What size should you shoot for to make a perfectly round pancake? There are a lot of tips and tricks out there to help you achieve pancake perfection, but according to the New York Times, when it comes to size, these golden griddle cakes should be approximately 4-inches in diameter. 

That's a pretty specific measurement — to get this optimal width, the outlet recommends using either a quarter measuring cup or a third measuring cup. The Times also notes that the key to ensure you don't have crowding in your frying pan and end up with conjoined pancakes is to leave about an inch of space between each cake as they fry in the pan.

However, if you want your pancakes a little smaller, the Pioneer Woman recommends using a cookie scooper to pour the batter into the pan. Ree Drummond explains that this scooper works especially well with thicker pancake batters. Drummond shares that the cookie scooper will also increases your chances of creating uniform pancakes that are more perfectly rounded in shape.

Pancake shapes have gotten fancy

Of course, pancakes can come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, they're even shaped liked our favorite celebrities. There are plenty of videos on social media showcasing artists having a little fun with their food, including the likes of Instagrammer Pan_the_Art, who has thousands of followers keeping up with his creations. 

A quick glance through the artist's griddle art gallery on Instagram will have you wondering if these look too good to eat. Drake, SpongeBob Squarepants, Ryan Reynolds, and Cardi B are just some of the notable faces Pan_the_Art has fashioned into pancakes. 

Still, you shouldn't feel discouraged if pancake art isn't your forte. Back in 2020, the internet couldn't stop talking about Jimmy Fallon's pancake fail. Fallon  created "Frozen"-inspired pancakes with chocolate chips and blue gel — not quite the same as this Drake pancake, but definitely more in line with most of our capabilities.