Tips for Baking Better Cookies

Tired of your cookies not turning out right? Follow our simple tips and techniques and you'll turn out perfect cookies every time.

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Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Photo By: Marcus Tullis

Bake Better Cookies

Master a few techniques and learn some quick tips to turn out perfectly crispy, chewy, sweet cookies every time you bake.

Soften Your Butter

Most cookie recipes call for softened butter. The butter should be starting to soften but still be slightly cool to the touch (it shouldn't feel like it's melting at all).

Creaming Butter

Beating together butter and sugar is almost always the first step in a cookie recipe. Start with butter that's softened and use a mixer to beat in the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. This usually takes about 3 to 5 minutes; just keep beating until it's no longer grainy when you rub it between your fingertips. As you cream the butter, you force in tiny air bubbles, which create the structure of the dough and will later help the cookies to rise.

Measure Your Flour Correctly

Ask two people to measure out one cup of flour, and chances are they'll be slightly (or a lot) different by weight, and that can greatly affect the results of your recipe. For the most accurate flour measurement, spoon it lightly into a dry measuring cup, then level it off with a knife. Never dip the measuring cup into the flour or tap the knife against the cup — you'll pack too much flour into the measuring cup, and end up with tough, dry cookies.

Line Your Pans With Parchment Paper

Lining your baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats is a simple step that really pays off. The paper or mat acts as a layer of insulation between the cookies and the direct heat of the baking sheet, which helps keep cookies from spreading any more than you want. The bottoms of the cookies bake up smoother and more evenly golden, and the cookies slide off the sheet without any sticking. Instead of waiting until the hot baking sheets cool between batches, parchment paper lets you scoop out all the dough at once: Lay sheets of it (mats will work too if you have a lot of them) on the counter and space out the dough balls ahead of time; slide the whole thing onto the baking sheets once they're cooled. And of course, when you're finished baking, clean-up couldn't be easier since all you need to do is throw away the parchment paper.

Add Eggs One at a Time

Adding eggs one at a time to the creamed butter and sugar isn't just to slow you down. Like any other wet ingredient, eggs added all at once won't emulsify properly with the fat in the butter. If the egg isn't mixed in well before the next one is added, the emulsion could break. Patience at the beginning of the process will yield better cookies out of the oven.

Add Flour or Dry Ingredients in Batches

If the flour is added all at once, the dough would be too stiff and difficult to mix together. The more the flour and liquid are mixed, the more gluten will develop, creating a dense cookie. Adding the flour in batches also ensures the dry ingredients get evenly dispersed.

Fold in Chocolate Chips by Hand

Folding the chocolate chips, and other cookie add-ins, in by hand reduces the chance of overmixing the dough, which can result in a tougher cookie.

Space Cookies Evenly on Baking Sheet

Space the balls of cookie dough far enough apart on the sheets so that they don't spread into each other as they bake. Usually, this means about 2 inches apart. If your dough has a lot of butter in it, or very little leavening agent, the cookies will spread more, so give them a little extra room.

Use an Ice Cream Scooper to Measure Out Dough

An ice cream scoop portions out the cookie dough in a uniform shape and size, ensuring the cookies will bake evenly. It also helps compact the dough and prevent the cookies from spreading as much during baking. [Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to make cookies the same size, better for even baking.]

An Offset Spatula Isn't Just for Frosting

Offset spatulas are thin, flexible and sturdy, which makes them a go-to tool for baking. The most obvious use is for frosting cakes, but they're just as helpful for cookie-baking. If you're not familiar with one just yet, think about using it to spread batter evenly in a pan for bar cookies, lift cut-out cookie dough from your work surface onto a baking sheet, move baked cookies onto a cooling rack or gently flatten balls of unbaked dough on a baking sheet. The way the blade extends at an angle makes it easy to maneuver without your hands getting in the middle of things.

Rotate Pans During Baking

All ovens have hot spots, and if you bake often enough you'll soon learn which cookies on the baking sheet brown the fastest. To make sure they all bake evenly, rotate the baking sheet from front to back halfway through the baking time. If you're baking two sheets of cookies at once, switch the position of the sheets from top to bottom and then rotate them from front to back.

Let Cookies Sit Before Moving

If you've ever tried grabbing a cookie off the baking sheet straight out of the oven, you know that it falls apart immediately. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheets for 2 to 3 minutes. This lets them cool just enough so that they won't break when you slide them onto a spatula to move to a rack.

Use a Cooling Rack

If left on the hot baking sheets for too long, cookies continue to bake and the bottoms can start to steam. Cooling racks allow air to circulate evenly on all sides of the cookie, preventing them from getting soggy. Look for racks that sit at least 1/2 inch above the counter, leaving enough space for air to move underneath. The best racks also have a tight grid to support soft or delicate cookies and keep them from falling through.

Use a Ruler to Cut Uniformily Sized Bars

Baking involves a lot of measuring, but it's not always obvious to reach for a ruler. Start keeping one with your baking tools, and you'll find all sorts of uses for it. Cut perfectly even, straight brownies or sugar cookies. Hold the ruler vertically on your work surface to make sure your cookie dough is the right thickness. Or hold it against a log of biscotti or refrigerated cookie dough and mark out even slices rather than just estimating. Your baked goods will look that much more professional.

Slice Biscotti Like a Pro

The right knife can mean the difference between getting coffee shop-worthy biscotti and a crumbly mess. For straight, even slices, use a long, sharp serrated knife and gently saw it back and forth over the dough log, without pressing too hard. Many recipes say to let the log cool slightly before slicing, but cooling it longer (or even refrigerating it overnight) allows time for the glutens to relax, making the dough more pliable and less likely to crumble.