When faced with your next road adventure or camping trip, it’s fair to say that packing light is a pretty crucial step. Simplicity is key, but at the same time, nobody wants to find themselves off the grid with a backpack or cooler full of less-than-stellar food options.
The idea of “just-add-water” pancakes is appealing to us because, well, everyone loves pancakes. While you’ll need a few imperative items -- like a cast iron skillet or griddle and an open flame -- ultimately, this recipe calls for pancake mix and water, and alleviates the need to pack ice, eggs and other perishable goods. It doesn’t get much more minimal than that.
A myriad of just-add-water mixes exist, but we were curious to try a few of the healthier options. Traditional brands in the space use some ingredients you may not recognize, including additives and preservatives like dextrose, dipotassium phosphate, tocopherols, sodium metabisulfite, mono and diglycerides, and the list goes on and on.
After a trip to a couple of our local grocery stores, we sourced two of the most commonly-found, healthier alternative brands: Birch Benders and Kodiak Cakes. Both are geared toward an active audience, and we liked the fact that Birch Benders offers organic mixes, and both brands are non-GMO and have gluten-free alternatives.
The goal was to see which of the mixes stacked up to an outdoor cooking session, in terms of overall tastiness, ease of making, and the best ingredients to fuel a day’s adventure. Below is what we learned, and how we ranked the three pancake mixes, from least to most favorite.
3. Kodiak Original Protein Mix
The biggest advantage to this mix, and one of the main reasons we picked it off the shelf, is the concentrated amount of protein -- 14 grams in about three 4-inch pancakes, to be exact.
This pretty much blows other pancake mixes out of the water, and could be a complete game-changer for those who are looking to depart on a major hike, bike trail or any other high-intensity activity directly after their camp breakfast.
Often, the sacrifice with a high-protein option is a denser, chewier texture -- and that proved true in this case. While there was a good buttermilk flavor with this mix, for those hung up on texture this might not be the best option.
2. Birch Bender Buttermilk Mix
The Birch Bender mix had a much more savory flavor, but we found it was a bit tougher to cook on a cast iron skillet than the Kodiak Original mix. The reason being, the batter didn’t seem to obtain a golden color to indicate it was cooked all the way through, making it susceptible to grilling “guess work” and potential overcooking.
We mixed enough to make several pancakes, but couldn’t seem to achieve that golden hue. Regardless, although a couple were slightly overdone, the flavor was still there, and the texture was a bit less chewy than Kodiak Original.
A sacrifice with this option is that unlike Kodiak, Birch Benders only has about 3 grams of protein in two pancakes. Birch Benders, however, does source all organic ingredients. This mix just edged out the Kodiak Original.
1. Kodiak “Unleashed” Buttermilk and Maple “On the Go”
To throw a wrench in the plan, we also grabbed this spin-off of the Kodiak mix, which is designed for “on the go” situations. The instructions on the back of the package -- which is a 2.15-ounce cup -- calls for cooking in a microwave, but we were extremely curious what would happen if you tried cooking it on a skillet.
We were pleasantly surprised by the results. Not only were we able to cook this up in the shortest time frame out of all three mixes, the pancake was perfectly golden in color, and the flavor was a great combination of savory buttermilk, plus slightly sweeter undertones (due to the addition of pure maple syrup flakes).
For those who don’t like syrup on their pancakes, this could be an issue. Kodiak doesn’t currently offer any of its On the Go cups without some form of maple, fruit or other sweet flavor combination.
What we liked best about this mix was that it made much fluffier pancakes, similar to the texture you would get from a regular mix made with eggs and milk.
The On the Go cup actually contained the most protein-per-serving compared to the others, at 10 grams per 1 container, which we made into an approximately 6-inch pancake. It’s also easier to carry along with you on a hike or in the car, versus larger containers.
The only disadvantage was that the batter was so fluffy it didn’t hold its shape for flipping as well as others. But we will take this misshapen pancake over the others, and will be bringing these along on our next trip into the great outdoors.
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