5 Tips to Improve Your Next Batch of Cookies

top 5 cookie tips

While working with my publisher on cookbook #3’s concept the past few months, I began pulling a bunch of recipe ideas, tips, and tricks together. Side note: the cookbook will be out next year and I’m planning to tell you more later this summer!

All this razzmatazz got me thinking about the core of Sally’s Baking Addiction and I think we can all agree that the core is, well, cookies! And more specifically, how to bake the best batch of cookies. So today I figured I can gather a few of my tips and tricks together so your next batch of cookies can be even tastier than the last. Baking basics series, we’re back!

cookie tips - cake batter chocolate chip cookies

1) Chill the cookie dough.

I feel like a broken record with this one. But it’s always my #1 tip. Not all cookie dough requires the chilling step– and I normally determine that by how the cookie dough looks and feels. If the cookie dough is particularly sticky, wet, or greasy– chilling is in its best interest. And yours! Chilling cookie dough helps prevent spreading. The colder the dough, the less the cookies are likely to over-spread into greasy puddles. You’ll have thicker, sturdier, and more solid cookies. Chilling cookie dough not only ensures less spreading, but a heightened flavor as well. All the flavors in your cookie recipe will get friendly with one another during the chill time. Whenever I make cookies, I try to plan ahead and chill the cookie dough overnight.

After chilling, let your cookie dough sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes (or more, depending on how long the dough has chilled) before rolling into balls and baking. Your cookie dough may be a solid rock, so letting it slightly loosen up helps. The dough will still be much more solid than it was pre-chilling.

While we’re on the subject of chilling, here’s a little tip I shared on Snapchat last week. After I roll cookie dough into balls to bake them, I place the balls on a paper plate and put the entire plate in the refrigerator. Then I preheat the oven. This firms up the balls which may have gotten a little soft while handling with our warm hands. The extra 10 minutes or so really helps.

2) Prevent excess spreading.

Did your beautiful balls of cookie dough turn into greasy puddles? We’ve all been there. Here are a few ways to avoid that from happening again:

  • Obviously chilling that cookie dough beforehand. See tip #1.
  • Use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Coating your baking sheet with nonstick spray or butter creates an overly greasy foundation, causing the cookies to spread. I always recommend a silicone baking mat because they grip onto the bottom of your cookie dough, preventing the cookies from spreading too much. These mats also promote even browning. They can get greasy, so make sure you are washing the mats and wiping clean with paper towels between cookie batches.
  • Never place cookie dough balls onto a hot baking sheet. Always room temperature baking sheets.
  • Butter may have been too warm. See tip #3.
  • Under-measuring the flour. Less flour means less to absorb all the wet ingredients in your cookie dough. Spoon and level that flour or, better yet, weigh your flour.
  • Don’t overmix the cookie dough ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar for only as long as you need to. Don’t begin beating then leave the room with the mixer running. I’m guilty of this too! But whipping too much air into the dough will cause those cookies to collapse during bake-time. I guarantee that.

3) Temperature is king.

This mainly refers to oven temperature, butter temperature, and egg temperature. Cold cookie dough helps too! See tip #1.

Oven temperature: Unless you have a regularly calibrated oven, your oven’s temperature is probably inaccurate. When you set your oven to 350°F, it might not really be 350°F inside. It could be 325°F or 375°F. While this might not seem like a big deal, it poses a huge problem for your cookies. Over-browning, excess spread, underbaking in the centers, uneven baking. Get an oven thermometer. They’re so cheap, but will save you a million headaches. you chose a particular cookie recipe for a reason, now don’t sabotage yourself (your time, your tastebuds, your money!) by baking at the wrong temperature.

Butter and egg temperature: I wrote an entire post on this one! There I tell you a lot of information, mainly that room temperature ingredients emulsify easier into dough creating a uniform structure and texture throughout your cookies. You can’t cream rock hard butter and you certainly can’t cream butter that’s been melted in the slightest. Same goes for eggs, especially the egg whites. They give so much more volume to the batter at room temperature. I always place my butter and eggs on the counter 1 hour before I begin baking. PS: my trick for bringing both to room temperature QUICKLY is in this post!

4) Specified baking time? Who cares.

I never look at recipe times when I bake cookies. I look at the cookies themselves. This is primarily because all ovens are different. And maybe your oven is a convection oven, while the recipe writer’s is a conventional oven. (I bake with conventional.) Always go with your instincts on this. The cookies are done when the edges are set and lightly browned. The center of the top can look slightly underbaked if you want a softer cookie, or leave the batch in a little longer until the centers appear “set” for crispier cookies. Keep in mind that cookies’ centers will continue to cook for a few minutes while out of the oven cooling.

5) One batch at a time. I know that sounds crazy.

One batch at a time, on the middle rack. That’s how I bake every single cookie recipe. My reason is because you get the best possible results when the oven only concentrates on that 1 batch. If you absolutely need to bake more than one batch at a time (hello Christmas cookies!), rotate the baking sheets from the top rack to bottom rack a couple times through the baking process to encourage even browning. And turn the sheets around as well. Ovens have hot spots!

Q: Share your cookie baking tips!

Further reading:

Cookie models in this post: cake batter chocolate chip cookies. Sprinkles in this post: luxury sweet twinkle sprinkle medley by Sweetapolita’s Sprinkle Shop. This post contains affiliate links.

94 comments

  1. This is a great post for anyone who likes to bake cookies! As I read through your tips, I was nodding in agreement. 🙂

  2. Excellent tips, Sally!! Can’t wait for more info about your 3rd cookbook! <3 I've been trying to think about what that will be focused on since you've already done baking and candy. Hmmm…;)

  3. Great tips, Sally! Couple of points that have helped me over the years….

    1. Use shiny metal half sheet pans to bake cookies. Don’t use dark cookie sheets. Burnt bottoms for sure!

    2. Don’t bake on top of your pizza stone. I have a pizza stone I love for bread and pizza, but it will burn my cookie bottoms and my granola if I bake on top of it.
    3. This tip was actually from you, Sally. If your cookies spread too much, roll them into cylinders rather than balls. This tip really helped me to make thicker chewy cookies. 

    Thanks for the post, Sally!

    • I’ve tried cookies on a pizza stone before… never again. NEVER. I’m glad the tall cookie ball trick works for you! Thanks for sharing all your tips.

  4. I weigh every cookie.   I get evenly baked perfect cookies every time!

  5. I’m also very excited to hear about your next book! I’m still very much enjoying your first two cook books. My tip for baking cookies is to experiment with your dough. I find some of my recipes work better using a baking margarine ( such as Imperial) while others turn out better using unsalted butter. I’ve found that the margarine works well in recipes with many add-ins. (Chocolate chips, nuts, fruit, coconut, etc.)

    • Recipe testing is so important! Thanks for sharing and I’m excited to share more about the next book. 🙂

  6. I make up my chocolate chip cookie recipe, form into balls…then freeze the balls on a cookie sheet. Once, frozen, I put them in a zip lock bag…then just take out the number I need and bake them as I need them (slightly lower temperature for slightly longer). No change in texture or flavor!

  7. Love all your info and ideas to improve baking. I’ve picked up a lot of pointers. One concern though, shortning. There is so much information about how bad it is for you. A quote from Oh Lardy, “Trans fats have been linked to cancer, higher levels of blood cholesterol levels, hardening of the arteries, type 2 diabetes, obesity, stroke, and immune system disfunction, to name a few.  (source)  Do you still want to bake your cookies with Crisco?  I didn’t think so.”
    Also their page explaining this in greater detail: http://ohlardy.com/5-reasons-to-stop-using-crisco-plus-a-healthy-alternative/
    Have you ever considered using coconut oil or even lard as a substitute for shortning?  

    • Hi Brenda! Thanks for sharing. I’ve never tried making pie crust (usually the only place I use shortening– minus 1 cookie recipe, my mom’s gingersnaps) with coconut oil before, but I have had readers report back who have. Great success! Lard would be wonderful there as well. As for cookie recipes calling for shortening, feel free to substitute either!

  8. Love your baking series!!! I love the instructional part of your blog and your willingness to share how to become a great baker. Most won’t share any tips or “secrets”. Thank you!!!

  9. Thes are such great tips. I will be referring back to this post next time I bake some cookies! Sharing on Pinterest 🙂

  10. Thank you Sally for all these tips!!!

    I used all the tricks you´ve shared before and I get better cookies! Thanks!
    I love your “become a better baker” posts! 😀

  11. A great reminder on little things that have slipped my mind over the years, or that I felt weren’t that important. I’m ready to bake some cookies!

  12. Yay I feel like a pro because I do a lot of these.  It’s sometimes is difficult planning for the fact that you have to take the eggs and butter out an hour before and then let the dough chill overnight, but it makes a world of a difference!  I have been struggling with my oven temperature, I probably do need to be using a thermometer.  Thanks for the tips 😉

  13. I am so looking forward to that third cookbook of yours! When I (finally!) got to meet you at King of Prussia last October, you mentioned that you’re working on cookbook #3, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Cookies are definitely my favorite thing to bake. I cannot wait until your cookbook makes its debut. I just know it’s going to be the best yet! So keep working on it – we’re excitedly awaiting!! Go, Sally!!

  14. I am a firm believer in chilling just about every type of cookie dough. I always scoop the dough into balls before I chill…so much easier than trying to deal with a bowl of chilled dough.
    I drop the dough balls…close together… onto a parchment lined sheet, cover with another piece of parchment and chill. I bake straight from the refrigerator and have not ever had a problem. I always bake one sheet at a time…middle rack…and rotate the sheet half way through the baking time. 

    • Love your method!

      • I have an amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe that requires chilling. A few weeks ago, for the first time, I used the method above. It definitely saved time as the chilled dough is much harder to scoop. However, my entire family thought the cookies tasted different and were not as good. Not sure why except that maybe chilling the entire batch blends the ingredients better than individual balls. Thanks for all of your amazing tips!

  15. Helpful tips indeed. One thing I always forget (because I’m an impatient person) is to allow ample room around each cookie on the sheet. Sometimes I rush and want to cram as many on the sheet as possible; this results in 2 or 3 monster blob cookies instead of 12 normal size cookies.

  16. Do you know how to tell from a cookie recipe if the cookies won’t spread at all? I have made several cookies that never changed shape from how I dropped them.

    • It’s tough without testing it out first. I wonder if you’re overmeasuring the flour at all? That would prevent the cookies from spreading.

  17. Sally, thank you for sharing all your tips with us. I’m your absolute fan and just got both of your cookbooks as my birthday gift! I had a question though, my problem was the complete opposite; my cookies never spread, after the time on the recipe ended I looked at them and they were still in the balls so I made the huge mistake of leaving them for a lot longer only to end up with burnt and hard cookies. Any idea of why this might have happened??? 
    Thank you!!!!, 

    • I’m wondering if you are over-measuring the flour? Too much of the dry ingredients will soak up all the butter, which would keep the cookies from spreading. Spoon and leveling is the best way to measure. You can weigh the flour as well. Also, are you at high altitude?

      • Thank you for responding! I will try to make them again, maybe I measured wrong. I live in Tampa, Florida; please plan a book tour this way soon!!! 

  18. Tip #6 don’t eat too much of the cookie dough or else there won’t be enough cookies for everyone!

  19. I agree that chilling the dough is a very important step.

  20. I am hoping that someday we’ll see an all cookie cookbook from you.

  21. If you use 1/2 the butter called for in recipe and half shortening or lard the cookies won’t spread.. If you use all butter, then add 2 Tablespoons of cream of wheat to the dough and that will prevent spreading. Always chill the dough to optimize flavor. I usually mix up 5-6 different batches of cookies one day and bake the next day. Some recipes call for cornstarch, please leave that for making gravy.

  22. This is great info! Thanks for sharing! I bake a lot with gluten free ingredients that are a little trickier, but I like searching through your posts for baking tips. That way, it gives me a baseline with my gluten free/grain free recipes to work with. From there, I’m able to figure things out as I experiment more.

  23. I follow most of your suggestions so that makes me feel good. I have always mixed my dough one day and baked the next day or the day after…I feel the sugars and flavors have a good chance to marinate that way. I started doing this as a time saver actually. I always bake our family desserts and such, and with working and a family, I would make my dough one night and bake the next or as close to the next as I could to save time….and the bonus was really good cookies. I love your blog and definitely enjoy your baking tips. This time, I learned about packaging baked goods for shipping. Never would have thought to wrap them like that. Thank you very much. Life saver!

  24. When taking hot cookies off parchment paper, I put them right away on news papers to absorb grease for five minutes and move them to clean newspaper until cold. Everyone ask me how they get so crispy. Helen

  25. Why is it that we shouldn’t place cookies on anything but a hot baking sheet. If we are going to place it in the oven right after, why is it an issue?

    • Great question! A baking sheet will take a few minutes to warm up in the oven, as will the cookie dough. A hot baking sheet is already hot and, therefore, will melt the cookie dough much quicker. This causes over-spreading and even burnt edges.

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