From having a lot of experience in restaraunts and making breakfast foods for them as well, this is why diner pancakes taste so good: It is because of the salt in the pancakes that are added to their mixture.
I did this same experiment at home by testing out each and every ingredient in pancakes. I left the butter for making pancakes for example out, and decided to just make them without it. The recipe I was using was a basic pancake recipe from a random YouTube video just to make it interesting.
The recipe included basic ingredients for making pancakes like milk, flour, eggs, oil (in exchange for the lack of butter), a little sugar, and some baking powder. All of these ingredients were used in a regular portion for making regular old fashioned pancakes. Nothing special.
The recipe required a teaspoon of salt, but I purposely left it out, since I was running low on salt anyway. After mixing together the batter and heating up the non-stick pan, the pancake batter was poured into the heated pan to make the pancakes.
After making the pancakes, they were good, but didn’t have any noticeable difference from anyone else’s homemade pancakes. They didn’t stand out or anything, and give that flavor that makes you just want to take one bite after the other. They were just plain pancakes with a slight sweetness.
After doing this, it was time to add a little salt to the batter (actually I added quite a bit of salt, but not too much that it would ruin the pancakes). After adding in the salt and mixing it together, the batter was poured into a heated pan again to make some more pancakes.
When I took the pancakes out of the pan, I casually took them on the plate to eat them, but when I took a bite of the pancakes, they tasted like buttery restaurant diner pancakes! These pancakes were so good, and really reminded me of those restaurants where individuals sit down to eat pancake after pancake.
This time through, eating and taking every bite was a definite “I can’t stop eating these things”. Now, is this what every restaurant adds to their pancakes to make them taste better? No, but since the test worked, it worked.
What I can tell you is that, a lot of butter is used in diner pancakes and waffle mix batters at restaurants to make them taste good. The butter used already has plenty of salt, which is what makes restaurant’s pancakes and waffles taste good too.
I know this because I have made my fair share of pancake and waffle mix batters from scratch for restaurants. They definitely use a lot of butter to make them taste good.
The recipe I used for making the pancake and waffle mix for the restaurant from scratch, was not something I brought from home to the restaurant. It was made from their own personal recipe for making the batter. They didn’t use salt in their batter recipe, it was just straight butter that was purchased from a supplier.
When the batter was made at the restaurants, it still included the same normal ingredients for making pancakes and waffles, just more butter. They also used buttermilk instead of the regular milk to make the batter. However, from the experiment that was done at home, buttermilk wasn’t the main ingredient that made the pancakes taste so good.
This was actually the point of the experiment with leaving the butter out when making the pancakes, by instead using no butter, then adding salt in the batter afterwards. By not adding just straight butter instead of salt, it proved that the salt was the main culprit that makes the pancakes or waffles taste good; not just the butter itself.
When the right amount of sugar is used in combination with the salt, they both create a unique flavor in the pancakes and waffles that just make them taste really good. The salty butter combined with the syrup just makes a great combination in flavor.
This is the reason why after restaurants make their pancakes and waffles, they will often have sides of butter sitting on the dine-in tables. The secret to why their pancakes taste so good is sitting right there in plain sight on the table with the pancakes.
The only difference is that the butter or salt is actually embedded into the pancakes or waffles, instead of sitting on top of the pancakes, like adding fresh butter to them would be after they are made. Adding it into the batter before they are cooked, and mixing the salt or butter in, makes a better impact on the flavor of the pancakes.
It will do better than trying to smother the pancakes or waffles with butter afterwards. Honestly, the method that I tried without the butter is good enough, as long as enough salt is added to the batter. There is no need to add both butter and salt.
It actually would make the pancakes more flavorful and healthier if salt was just added in in exchange for the butter. This is also a great substitute, if for some reason you can’t, or don’t want butter in your waffle or pancake batter.
The milk that is added to the batter will work with the salt that is added, to create the buttery flavor. Butter after all, is actually made from milk anyways. It is the salted butter that takes all the credit for the amazing tastes in many baked goods when it is mixed with sugar, not unsalted butter.
It is recommended to make sure that you are using salted butter when using it in exchange for salt, instead of using unsalted butter. The pancakes or waffles will need the salt in order to make them taste as good as the diner’s.
When the salt or extra butter is added into the pancake batter and mixed in, it gives the pancakes and waffles a noticeable different flavor that makes them irresistible, like the restaurant’s pancakes and waffles.
The experiment that I did was done without any additional syrup added to the pancakes during the taste test. This ensured that the extra syrup did not have an impact on why the pancakes tasted different when trying them with or without the salt.