Crepe-Making Physics

If you buy a crêpe from a vendor, chances are that they’ll use a blade like the one above to spread the batter evenly across an immobile griddle. But for those of us making our own crêpes at home, this method is impractical. (After all, who wants to purchase a special griddle and utensil just for making one meal?) Instead most of us make our crêpes or pancakes in a standard pan and we use gravity to help us spread the batter.

Now researchers have described this crêpe-making process mathematically and calculated the optimal method for getting a perfect, uniformly-thin crêpe. Their model even accounts for the fact that the viscosity of the batter changes as the crêpe cooks.

For optimal crêpe-making, add the batter to the center of the pan. Then immediately tilt the pan to one side to spread the batter all the way to the edge. Keeping the pan inclined, rotate once to fill in the full circumference. Then continue the rotation at a slighter incline to fill in any holes until the pan is horizontal and the crêpe is cooked through. This is what’s shown in the lower animation, where the colormap indicates the crêpe thickness and the arrows show the effective direction of gravity. (Image credit: crêpe-making – taleitan, simulated crêpe – E. Boujo and M. Sellier; research credit: E. Boujo and M. Sellier; via APS Physics; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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