5 Cookie Baking Tips to Improve Your Next Batch

Let me help you perfect your cookies! With a video tutorial and in-depth descriptions, these cookie baking tips will help improve your next batch.

It goes without saying that cookies rule all. And cake batter chocolate chip cookies, you take 1st prize in my eyes.

Since launching my website in 2011 and publishing Sally’s Cookie Addiction cookbook years later, I’ve witnessed the undeniable allure of these treats. Cookies are the most popular category on this website, as well as my most requested dessert. I have over 200 cookie recipes published! They’re relatively easy and approachable– most don’t require special equipment or complicated ingredients, either. They’re also an easy treat to eat, share, store, ship, freeze, and make ahead. Not only this, cookies are portable, perfect for gifting, and can be made in large batches for bake sales, parties, etc. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t appreciate a fresh-baked homemade cookie. Have you?

Let me help you perfect your cookies. The following 5 cookie baking tips guarantee a better batch. No more wasted time or ingredients!

5 Cookie Baking Tips

Let’s dive into these cookie baking tips a little further.

1. Chill the Cookie Dough

If there’s one thing you learn from this post, it’s this: chill your cookie dough if a recipe calls for it. Chilling cookie dough in the refrigerator firms it up, which decreases the possibility of over-spreading. It not only ensures a thicker, more solid cookie but an enhanced flavor as well. In these soft chocolate chip cookies, for example, it helps develop a heightened buttery, caramel-y flavor. Cold cookie dough is also easier to handle and shape. After chilling, let your cookie dough sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes (or more, depending how long the dough has chilled) before rolling into balls and baking. Sometimes after refrigeration, cookie dough can be too hard to roll/handle.

  • If a recipe calls for chilling the cookie dough, don’t skip that step.
  • If a recipe yields super sticky cookie dough, chill it before rolling and baking.

You can also chill the cookie dough after you roll it into individual balls. However, some cookie doughs are too sticky right after you mix the ingredients together. So it’s helpful to chill it first (perhaps for just 1 hour), roll into balls, then continue chilling for the amount of time the recipe requires.

Don’t Have Time? Here are my No Chill Cookie Recipes


2. Prevent Excess Spreading

Did your cookie dough turn into greasy puddles? I’ve been there too. Here are a few ways to prevent that from happening again:

  • Chill your cookie dough. See tip #1 above.
  • Use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Coating your baking sheet with nonstick spray or butter creates an overly greasy foundation which leads to excess spread. Instead, I recommend lining your baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. I prefer to use the mats– 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 overtime, so make sure you wash the mats and wipe them clean between cookie batches. (By the way, here’s how I clean silicone baking mats.)
  • Never place cookie dough balls onto a hot baking sheet. When baking in batches, let the baking sheets cool to room temperature first.
  • Butter may have been too warm. See tip #3 next.
  • Under-measuring the flour. Less flour means there’s less to absorb all the wet ingredients in your cookie dough. Spoon and level that flour or, better yet, weigh your flour.
  • Don’t over-mix the cookie dough. Cream the butter and sugar for only as long as you need to– a recipe usually specifies the amount of time. Don’t begin beating then leave the room with the mixer running. Whipping too much air into the dough will cause your cookies to collapse as they bake. I guarantee that.

This tip is so important that I wrote a separate post about it: 10 Guaranteed Tips to Prevent Your Cookies from Spreading

What if cookies AREN’T spreading? Cookies that resist spreading can also be a problem. When cookies aren’t spreading, it means that there’s too much dry ingredient (flour) soaking up all the liquid. Make sure you are properly measuring your flour. When measuring flour, use the spoon & level method. Do not scoop the flour out of the container/bag. Doing so leaves you with excess flour in the cookie dough. If you’re in the middle of baking a batch and the cookies still aren’t spreading, remove them from the oven, and use a spoon to slightly flatten them out before returning them to the oven. You can also take your big bowl of cookie dough and microwave it for 10-15 seconds to slightly warm it up before scooping/rolling/baking. Warm cookie dough spreads more. (This is what I do when I notice my cookies aren’t spreading!)


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 could be 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 such as over-browning, excess spread, underbaking in the centers, and/or uneven baking. Purchase an oven thermometer and place it in the center of your oven. While inexpensive, they’re irreplaceable in a baker’s kitchen. Place it in your oven so you always know the actual temperature.
  • Butter and egg temperature: If a cookie recipe calls for room temperature eggs, butter, or any dairy ingredients, make sure you take the time to bring these ingredients to room temperature. Recipes don’t just do that for fun– room temperature ingredients emulsify much easier into batter, which creates a uniform texture. Think of cold, hard butter. It’s impossible to cream cold butter into a soft consistency necessary for cookie dough. Same goes for eggs– they add more volume to the dough when they’re at room temperature. Something to note: room temperature butter is actually cool to the touch, not warm. When you press it, your finger will make a slight indent. To get that perfect consistency and temperature, remove butter from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to beginning.

So yes, temperature is imperative. There’s legitimate science involved!

  1. Short on time? Soften butter to room temperature quickly with this trick!
  2. Further Reading: Here’s What Room Temperature Butter Really Means
  3. Further Reading: Why Room Temperature Makes a Difference

4. Specified Baking Time? Who Cares.

I’m admitting something to you– I never look at recipe times when I bake cookies. Instead, 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. General rule– if you use a convection oven, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F.)

Always go with your instincts. Cookies are done when the edges are set and lightly browned. The top centers can look slightly underbaked if you want a softer cookie. For a crispier cookie, bake the batch a little longer until the centers appear “set.” But always keep in mind that cookies continue to cook for a couple minutes as they cool on the baking sheet.


5. One Batch at a Time

If you’re able and time allows it, I recommend baking 1 batch of cookies at a time on the center rack. Why? You get the best possible results when the oven only concentrates on 1 single batch. If you absolutely need to bake more than one batch at a time for an event, holiday baking, etc– rotate the baking sheets from the top rack to bottom rack once halfway through the baking process. Ovens have hot spots!

cake batter chocolate chip cookie dough

When it comes to baking cookies, it pays off to be a perfectionist!

How to Freeze Cookie Dough

I have an in-depth guide for you: How to Freeze Cookie Dough

44 Comments

  1. 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.

    1. Happens to us all! I usually only bake 9 cookies at a time.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. Lisa | Drop The Sugar says:

    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.

  6. 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!

  7. Helen Seufert says:

    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

  8. Alex Briatesta says:

    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?

    1. 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.

  9. Lifes a stew says:

    Thanks for the tips Sally! 
    I love baking and cooking but I’m not a cookie fan, however my younger son is a cookie addict so any tips on making the best cookies is fantastic! He’s a VERY harsh critic! … crunchy on the outside , soft and gooey inside is apparently the “best” cookie
    Gosh I never realised one could be so serious and addicted to cookies !!
    Ok I need to try your recipes and will let you know if the Cookie Monster approves ! 

    1. Haha – let me know which ones you try first 🙂

  10. You are my new favorite blogger. I have wondered about each of these things, so I am glad to know now why my cookies spread. Thanks so much!

  11. Hi Sally, absolutely great to have a place where I can learn ‘cookie science’ in plain English! I wonder if you could help with a couple of questions about this excellent post:
    1. My new oven is fan-forced, but I don’t turn on the fan until I put in the cookies – got to thinking, this probably alters the thermometer reading! How do your recipe temps work – are they the temp with or without fan on?
    2. Even with chilling, I find some spreading with things like shortbreads, using the baking mat, but not when using parchment paper. Is parchment paper more slippery for these high-butter cookies?

    Thanks for all your sharing,
    Vincent

    1. Hi Vincent! So happy to help. 1) I test and bake my recipes with a conventional oven. If using a fan-forced oven for cookies, lower the oven temperature by 25F degrees. The bake time may also be a minute or 2 quicker as well. 2) I find that extra buttery cookies spread a bit more on silicone baking mats. If using them, however, make sure you really scrub them clean as they can hold onto grease from previous batches of cookies.

  12. Thanks for your tips. I do agree chilling is one of the best secrets to getting thick chewy cookies. I do find that after I chill for pretty much all of your recipes, it is extremely hard to roll out the dough, even after 30 min or so of the dough sitting out at room temp. Any tips?

    1. Hi Tamara, If you find the dough too difficult to work with, try chilling for a shorter time, then rolling the dough into balls and then continue to chill!

  13. I love these tips!!
    I get now why my cookies have been crazy looing at times.
    Thank you!

  14. HELP! I have the opposite problem- my chocolate chip cookies were too thick and cakey because they didn’t spread. What might I have done wrong? I’m not an experienced cookie baker. Thank you !

    1. Hi Karen, Make sure you are properly measuring your flour. When measuring flour, use the “spoon & level” method. Do not scoop the flour out of the container/bag with your measuring cup. Scoop the flour and you could end up with 150% of the correct measurement.

  15. What is the best true red food coloring? I use Wiltons gel but the red just isnt Christmas red.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Carrie, I like the AmeriColor brand Super Red. Remember any gel food colors will dry darker so even if it looks like you aren’t getting a bright enough color it will darken!

    2. I found Wilton’s “Christmas Red” just before Christmas and it was perfect. I had not seen that color before.

  16. hey sally!
    I was wondering what is the best for making crunchy yet soft chocolate chip cookies, melted butter or just softened butter?

    1. Hi Beyza! Try my crispy chocolate chip cookies— the centers stay a little soft.

  17. Hi Sally

    is it ok to use hot chocolate powder instead of cocoa powder in the recipies? just find myself with a lot of hot chocolate powder and not a fan of hot chocolate at all but love anything chocolate in cakes and cookies. Not sure what to do with so much hot chocolate powder

    1. Hi Meagan! Unfortunately not. Hot cocoa powder isn’t straight cocoa (it has sugar and other ingredients). You need unsweetened cocoa powder for any recipes calling for it. If you have a copy, I have a hot cocoa cookies recipe in my cookbook Sally’s Cookie Addiction. It uses hot cocoa powder.

  18. Great tips! I never knew so many little things mattered! Thanks!!

  19. I Recently baked your crispy chocolate chip cookies. However, the results are solid rock. I use parchment paper, not silicone mats. And my oven is Kirin, convection and small. I tried the “hot spot” trick by rotating it. I also balled the cookie into a small one (to get crispy cookie) and flatten it using my palm. However, the surface of the cookie is not browning evenly, and so hard, not crispy. What could be the cause and what could I improve/fix? I weigh every ingredient, melt and cool the butter. I use room temperature for all ingredients. I don’t have much experience and just start it since I found your website hehe. Any feedback will be appreciated. Thank you so much Sally

  20. Im a newbie in baking and have been using your recipes in everything I made! It has been a great journey learning from you and getting positive remarks from my little people. I am now the best mommy and best baker in the world for my little ones! Cant thank you enough, Sally. 🙂

  21. Hi Sally

    Thanks for the great tips and recipes. Could you do a post on creaming butter and sugar, the correct way for cookies vs cakes etc. ? I find it difficult to tell if something is over or under creamed. Thanks

    1. Hi Tarryn! What a great idea– I actually have plans for a post like that in the future. It’s such a crucial step in many, many recipes. Usually creaming on medium or medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes is sufficient or until butter sugar mixture is pale, light, and fluffy.

  22. Hi Sally, how long should the butter and granulated sugar be mixed (creamed) by KitchenAid mixer and at what speed when making cookies?

    1. Hi Wilma! It depends on the recipe and volume of butter and sugar, but generally– creaming on medium or medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes is sufficient or until butter sugar mixture is pale, light, and fluffy.

  23. Mariya Zafirova says:

    Now these are some great tips!

    Mariya | https://www.brunetteondemand.com/

  24. This post is reminding me how much I love baking cookies! I may have to block some time this weekend to bake. Thanks for the great tips!

  25. Thank you for all you do!

  26. Please can you help me when baking and the oven temp is say 375 if your oven is thermo fan should the temp be adjusted. Thanks

    1. Hi Sharyn! I use a conventional oven setting and all of my recipes are written as such. If using fan-forced/convection, the general rule is to lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees F.

  27. How do you address a crumbly dough? Followed the peanut butter cookie recipe and it is crumbly

    1. Hi Girlie, I find a splash of milk always helps dough come back together if it’s too crumbly.

  28. Hi, Thanks for the tips. Which salt are you using in most of your recipes? Table, kosher or sea salt?

    1. I bake with regular table salt unless otherwise noted in the recipe.

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