A pancake machine is an electrically-powered machine that automatically produces cooked pancakes. It is believed that the earliest known pancake machine was invented in the United States in 1928. Several types of pancake machines exist that perform in various manners, for both commercial and home use. Some are fully automatic in operation, while others are semi-automatic. Some companies mass-produce pancake machines, and some have been homemade. The Happy Egg Company constructed a novelty pancake machine in 2013 in commemoration of Pancake Day in the United Kingdom.
In 1928, a man in Portland, Oregon, invented an electric pancake machine that operated by the process of batter being dropped onto a revolving heated flattop grill from a storage cylinder atop the grill. The grill was heated using electricity. The amount of batter dropped was controlled by using controlled amounts of compressed air, which pushed batter out of the storage cylinder. As the batter revolved on the hot grill, the pancake was flipped halfway through the cooking process by a shelf atop the grill. After being flipped, the completed pancake was ejected from the machine upon contact with a gate.
In 1955 in the United States, an automatic pancake machine was developed by Vendo, which used a specially formulated pancake batter mix that was manufactured by the Quaker Oats Company's Aunt Jemima branch. The Vendo machine could produce pancakes "in less than three minutes." It was a semi-automatic machine that performed all of the cooking functions except for the pouring of the pancake batter.
In 1956, four Racine, WI Engineers developed and fabricated two, 5' diameter gas burning pancake machines for the annual Pancake Day sponsored by the Kiwanis Club there in Racine.
Various types of pancake machines exist, such as those that run pancake batter through a heated conveyor inside of a box unit, and those that automatically drop pancake batter onto a flattop grill. Some pancake machines, such as one developed by Crepe-Coer, cook both sides of a pancake simultaneously. Semi-automatic pancake machines also exist, which require some human interaction to function, such as the pouring of batter. Commercial pancake machines may be used in the foodservice industry, in cafeterias and by restaurants, and can serve to reduce the waste of stale pancake batter. Some hotels have pancake machines that guests are allowed to operate. They are also used in other environments in a self-service manner, such as in upscale airport lounges and hotels.
Homemade versions of pancake machines have been constructed. An example of a homemade pancake machine is one constructed in 1977 by Ken Whitsett of the Ocala Kiwanis Club in Ocala, Florida, which was used for the organization's annual pancake day. The Kiwanis machine utilized a hopper filled with pancake batter that was manually dropped onto a revolving griddle. The pancakes were manually flipped and plated when cooking was completed. It required four people for its operation, and could produce between 750–1000 pancakes per hour.
Commercial and home-consumer pancake machines are mass-produced by some companies in contemporary times.
Commercial pancake machines are typically used in the commercial foodservice and hospitality industries.
ChefStack is a pancake machine brand that can produce 200 pancakes per hour. Individual Pancakes are produced in seconds by this machine. The machine was designed for use in commercial establishments such as cafeterias and convenience stores.
Popcake is a U.S. company that produces Popcake-brand pancake machines. The Popcake machine was invented by Marek Szymanski, and as of July 2014 approximately 7,000 of them are used worldwide. This brand has features that allow users to adjust the size, quantity and doneness level of the pancakes produced. Plates of pancakes are produced in around two minutes time by the Popcake machine.
A Popcake pancake machine
Front view of a Quickcakes-brand pancake machine, with various condiments atop the machine
Consumer versions of pancake machines for home use are simpler in operation compared to commercial machines, typically involving a basic griddle and a feature to adjust cooking temperature. Consumer machines are typically countertop-sized small appliances. Brands include the Severin Crepe Maker, the Cuisinart Griddle and Grill, Swan's Come Dine With Me Party Wok and Pancake Maker, the Roller Grill Single Plate Crepe Machine and the Andrew James Crepe Maker, among others. A review of various consumer machines published in The Daily Mail recommended various machines per situational uses. For example, the Roller Grill Single Plate Crepe Machine was recommended for use with large groups of people and the Severin Crepe Maker was recommended for "technophobes" who prefer a simple design The review recommended the Andrew James Crepe Maker as the overall best value.
In March 2015 in the U.S., the PancakeBot pancake machine received over $141,000 on Kickstarter. Its target donation request on the website was $50,000. PancakeBot can produce custom pancakes in various designs, which is performed by the use of pancake batter in a bottle that is moved by a programmable machine arm atop the griddle. The machine utilizes custom software to accomplish this.
In commemoration of Pancake Day in the United Kingdom, a novelty pancake machine was built by The Happy Egg Company in February 2013 that involved a complex series of steps to automatically produce pancakes from scratch. The machine involves the use of a freshly laid egg from a hen that rolls onto a turntable, which then moves the egg to an area where it is automatically cracked and mixed with other ingredients. After this point, the mixture is poured into a griddle, flipped to cook the other side, and then flipped onto a plate.