Every cook needs a classic crepe recipe in their arsenal. Whether filled with rhubarb compote for breakfast-in-bed, folded around savoury ham and melted gruyère for a quick weeknight dinner, or flambéed as crepes Suzette for a decadent dessert, the basic crepe is a blank canvas that can satisfy any appetite. Sure, these thin French pancakes are simple to throw together, but to ensure your crepes reign supreme—consistently delicate, eggy and lightly golden—we’ll let you in on the Chatelaine Kitchen’s trade secrets. Here are 10 of them:
1. A basic crepe batter
The batter consists of five simple ingredients: eggs, milk, flour, melted butter and salt. You could whisk the ingredients together by hand, however, for the silkiest batter, a blender is recommended. (Get our basic crepe recipe here.) The consistency of the batter is key: It should be slightly thinner than heavy cream, with no lumps. Add sugar and vanilla for a sweet crepe; chopped herbs or grated parmesan steer you in a savoury direction.
2. 30 minutes of resting time
Resting the batter allows the flour to fully absorb the liquid and gives the gluten a chance to relax. While it’s not the end of the world if you skip this step, it is the secret to the most delicate, melt-in-your-mouth crepes. Let the batter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to two days. (If you mix it the night before, you don’t have to worry about bringing the batter to room temperature before using it.) Once rested, give the batter a stir before cooking and if it appears too thick (sometimes this happens when the flour becomes fully hydrated), gently whisk in milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s thinned to the right consistency.
3. Crepe pan vs. frying pan
A well-seasoned crepe pan is ideal for cooking crepes because the short sides make them easy to flip, while the heavy bottom ensures consistent heat and even cooking. But if you don’t have a crepe pan, a medium non-stick or well-seasoned, cast-iron frying pan will do the trick. The size of your pan depends on how big you want your crepes, but seven to eight inches is standard.
4. Even, medium heat
Set your heat to medium and let the pan get hot (but not too hot). You might even need to adjust the heat to medium-low as the cooking continues. If the heat’s too high the batter won’t spread to the edges of the pan before setting, and can result in holes or uneven thickness.
Butter is ideal—it will keep the crepes from sticking and add amazing flavour. Use a pastry brush or paper towel to coat the pan very lightly with melted butter. Too much butter can result in greasy crepes that are crispy, dark brown and not as pliable as you’d like.
6. Measure out the portions
For the thin, lacy crepes of your dreams, add only 2 to 3 tbsp of batter to the centre of a standard seven to eight inch pan. Pouring the batter from a pitcher with a spout can be helpful, or use a small ladle or measuring cup to help get the portion right each time.
7. The proper technique
Lift the pan from the heat and tilt your wrist so that the batter pours to one side, then swirl it around so it coats the whole pan bottom evenly. Check out the technique in the video at the top.
8. Use a rubber spatula
When the crepe looks dry on top and it releases from the pan (this usually takes 1 to 2 minutes), it’s ready to flip. Loosen the edges with a rubber spatula. You can use the spatula to flip, but your fingers are your best tool: lift an edge, peel the crepe up, then gently turn it over (just don’t touch the pan). The second side cooks in about half the time as the first. You’ll know it’s done when the bottom is lightly golden.
Like pancakes, the first crepe is never perfect. So don’t sweat it. Consider crepe #1 as a test to see if you have enough batter in the pan, if the heat of the pan is right and if your technique needs tweaking.
9. A clean towel
Stack crepes on a plate or baking sheet and cover with a clean kitchen towel until the whole batch is cooked. They’ll stay quite warm; crepes don’t need to be piping hot when they’re filled.
10. Crepe fillings and add-ons
They can be as simple as your favourite jam with a dusting of icing sugar on top, as elegant as a seafood-rich lobster, shrimp and gruyere main course, or as elaborate as these magnificent crepe cakes.
How to store leftover crepes
Place sheets of parchment or wax paper between crepes, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to two days or freeze up to one month. Rewarm refrigerated or thawed frozen crepes in the microwave for about 30 seconds or a 325F oven for five minutes.