Pancakes versus waffles

Photo by Blake Israel

Pancakes or waffles? This endlessly debated, fiercely contested topic is packed full of nuance, with good arguments to be made on both sides; however, when considering all factors, one of these delicious foods easily comes out on top. 

There will never be an answer that can please everyone, but I contend that sometimes, people simply can’t handle the truth: that waffles are, in general, more versatile, more reliable and more customizable than pancakes will ever be, and thus, the superior breakfast option.

Before we dive into the specific arguments, there are a few preliminary clarifications that must be made. Taste cannot be a main factor in this debate. I personally believe waffles taste better than pancakes, but taste is so incredibly subjective, that it cannot be considered for either side. I will also not be using a strawman for either food group. To properly compare pancakes and waffles, we must compare pancakes and waffles of the same caliber.

With this out of the way, we will dive into the first advantage of waffles over pancakes: versatility. No one denies that pancakes are a delicious and iconic breakfast food, but they are certainly a bit limited in their scope. I’ve eaten waffle cones, speciality dessert waffles, chicken and waffles and waffle tacos in addition to waffles in their traditional breakfast form, but I’ve never seen equivalents to these when it comes to pancakes. 

Now I’m sure one could argue that there probably are “pancake cones” or “chicken and pancake” recipes out there somewhere, but they’re not mainstream for a simple reason: texture. 

Waffles are crispy and firm, allowing them to act in a complementary way to other foods, enhancing both flavor and delivery method. Pancakes on the other hand are light and fluffy, but also soft and brittle, and so their applications as a vessel or enhancement for other foods are very limited. Yes, pancakes are delicious as a breakfast food, but when it comes to versatility, they’re simply outclassed.

Perhaps more of an important factor than versatility, however, is reliability. When I go to eat breakfast at a restaurant somewhere, what do I know for certain will lead to a delicious meal? Pancakes, when made well, are difficult to beat in terms of flavor and texture, but they’re also very easy to mess up. If the chef leaves one side too long before flipping it, the pancake might get burnt, but if they don’t leave it long enough, it might be slightly undercooked and doughy. There’s an art to making pancakes that is difficult to master that is not necessarily present in most waffles. 

The majority of waffles are made standardized in specifically designed waffle makers. You simply pour the mix in, wait for a timer to go off and remove the final product. This reduces the threshold for error by a significant amount, and so even if I’m at a restaurant I know nothing about, I usually feel like waffles are the most reliable bet to be delicious.

The final area I will discuss in which waffles far exceed pancakes is, in my opinion, the most evident and the most convincing: customizability. Both waffles and pancakes can be made by baking toppings directly into the batter, and they are relatively equal in this regard. 

However, in terms of post-creation toppings, waffles win with ease. The grooves in waffles act as perfect slots for toppings.

Chocolate chips naturally spread out to be even and delicious, fruit stays in place instead of sliding around and syrup pools up in small pockets that can be transferred to one another just by a gentle tilt. Pancake toppings have no traction; they slip slide and fall as you go from bite to bite. The same toppings can be used, but their effectiveness is vastly decreased. 

Waffles seem to have been specially designed with surface area as a main priority, and that pays off as the sheer amount of variety they are capable of is astounding. Pancakes are a phenomenal breakfast food, make no mistake, but in terms of objective breakfast superiority, waffles easily win the battle. 

There is simply no other way of putting it: in the battle of pancakes vs waffles, waffles reign supreme.