Preparing crepes in a pan

Home chefs can craft a flawless crepe with tips from new fluid-dynamic modelling. Credit: Getty

Fluid dynamics

Physicists tackle a delicate challenge: making the ideal crêpe

Computer simulations validate common technique for creating an even pancake.

The key to a perfect crêpe lies in tilting and twirling the pan — an intuitive conclusion that is now backed by computer simulations.

A cook preparing the thin pancakes must evenly coat the bottom of a pan with batter. That’s a tricky task, because the batter cooks quickly and then solidifies, halting its own flow across the hot surface. Most home chefs tilt the pan so gravity works to spread the batter.

Edouard Boujo at the École Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France, and Mathieu Sellier at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, created mathematical and physics-based models to find the optimal pan-tilting strategy. The researchers’ most efficient algorithm hit upon the method adopted by many cooks: tilt the pan so the batter collects on one side of the pan bottom, and then rotate the pan once or twice until the batter is spread evenly. This results in the most uniform layer of batter and a cooked crêpe with the most consistent thickness.

This technique could also be applied to the manufacturing of devices, such as smartphone displays, that require thin liquid films.