“There’s an ideal way to make pancakes!” says frying pan retailer

You know those boffins? You know the ones, those zany, crazy nerdo-types who have this bafflingly-square obsession with boiling down the world into mathematical formulae and scientific squiggles? Those ones that absolutely definitely exist and aren’t just a marketing construct from a PR industry hell-bent on conferring a forced legitimacy onto the worthless and vacuous façades they manage to hide their adverts behind?

You know those ones? Them? Well, they struck again on Pancake Tuesday:

Flipping clever! Formula for the perfect pancake revealed by maths boffins (but we’ll still end up with ours stuck to the ceiling)

If you are one of the thousands of Britons planning to flip a pancake or two on Shrove Day tomorrow then your work just got made a whole lot easier.. or harder, depending on your grasp of science.

The formula for the perfect pancake mix has been revealed as 100 – [10L – 7F + C(k – C) + T(m – T)]/(S – E), and was developed by mathematicians at the University of Wolverhampton.

Source: Daily Mail, 11 February 2013

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Well, University of Wolverhampton, I’m glad you decided to spontaneously study what it would take to come up with the perfect pancake, and I’m glad the answer was such a simple and common-sensival – yet scientific-looking – formula. 

Retailer Debenhams unveiled the mathematical formula for the perfect pancake – claiming in the process to be able to eliminate sub-standard crepes across kitchens forever.

…or not. In fact, this was a simple press release from a department store, timed to make headlines around pancake day.

Even more revealing is the fact that this isn’t even a new piece of formulaic nonsense, with both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail running the exact same formula back on Shrove Tuesday 2009:

Formula for perfect pancake unveiled by scientists

Dr Ruth Fairclough, a mathematics professor, has cooked up a complicated formula for the perfect pancake – just in time for Shrove Tuesday.

Dr Fairclough, a lecturer of mathematics and statistics at Wolverhampton University, has plotted the pancake’s creation down to the last detail.

She says the frying pan’s temperature is one of the most important parts, together with the preparation of the tasty batter.

However, the secret recipe in full is: 100 – [10L – 7F + C(k – C) + T(m – T)]/(S – E) with the closer you get to a 100 – the better the pancake.

Source: Daily Telegraph, 24 February 2009

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At the time, this important piece of cutting-edge research was released on behalf of supermarket chain ASDA:

Meanwhile Asda has seen a 13 fold increase in the number Non Stick Aluminium Frying Pan – perfect for Pancake Day.

While the formula may be relatively legitimate, it’s also almost certainly woefully simplistic and derived not so much on lengthy research, but more likely derived from their being a space in the press release that ASDA pimped around universities looking for someone willing to insert some scientific-looking numbers and letters. 

So, four years later, why would Debenham’s pretend they’d just found a formula for the perfect pancake?

Lizzie Singleton (Spokesperson for Debenham’s): ‘Coupled with the right frying pan, following this formula will result in perfect pancakes all round!’

‘Simplifying the science behind this formula, our customers can have perfect pancakes tonight.

‘The golden rules seem to be to have a good pan at 377 degrees, have zero lumps in the mixture, and leave the batter to stand for 30 minutes before cooking, making sure the pancakes are eaten straight away – that seems simple enough.

Or to put it another way, as taken from the press release:

The Jamie Oliver Tefal pancake pan is available exclusively at Debenhams in all stores nationwide and online at Debenhams.com priced at £30.

Do you like pancakes? Then Debenham’s say they can sell you the pan to make the perfect pancake! It’s enough to make you flip…