10 Guaranteed Tips to Prevent Cookies from Spreading

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salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies with 10 guaranteed tips prevent cookie spreading text overlay

I’ve been there.

  • Are your cookies flat greasy puddles?
  • Did you just waste an hour of your time?
  • Is your cookie recipe a complete flop?

After years of baking cookies– and writing a cookie cookbook— I know exactly what a failed batch of over-spread cookies is like. It’s frustrating, unappetizing, and a waste of money.

Let me help.

I’m sharing my 10 guaranteed tips to prevent flat cookies.

stack of 2 monster cookies

10 Guaranteed Tips for Thicker Cookies

  1. Chill the cookie dough. 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 will over-spread into greasy puddles. You’ll have thicker, sturdier, and more solid cookies. Whenever I make cookies, I 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.
  2. Line your baking sheet. 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. Mats can get greasy! Here is how to clean your silicone baking mats.
  3. My tall cookie trick. Roll your cookie dough into tall balls instead of perfectly round spheres. Taller balls of cookie dough ensure thicker cookies. You see this photo? (Scroll down in the post.) Just like that.
  4. Cool your baking sheets. Never place cookie dough balls onto a hot baking sheet. Always room temperature baking sheets.
  5. Quality baking sheets are a MUST. Did you know the color and material of your baking sheets greatly impacts the way your cookies turn out? Dark metal sheets typically over-bake cookies and thin flimsy cookie sheets = burnt bottoms. I’ve tested many brands and my favorite is USA Pan half sheet baking pan. (Not sponsored!) They’re a wonderful size for baking a dozen cookies, have an edge so they’re great for other recipes like toffee, chex mix, and sheet cake. I suggest owning a few. I have 6!
  6. Cool butter. When butter is too warm, it is too soft. When butter is too soft, your cookies will spread all over the baking sheets. Room temperature butter is actually cool to touch, not warm. When you press it, your finger will make an indent. Your finger won’t sink down into the butter, nor will your finger slide all around. Soften butter to room temperature quickly with this trick!
  7. Correctly measure the flour. Cookies spread because the fat in the cookie dough melts in the oven. If there isn’t enough flour to hold that melted fat, the cookies will over-spread. Spoon and level that flour or, better yet, weigh your flour. If your cookies are still spreading, add an extra 2 Tablespoons of flour to the cookie dough.
  8. Don’t overmix the cookie dough ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar for only as long as you need to, usually about 1-2 minutes. Don’t begin beating then leave the room with the mixer running. I’m guilty of this too! Whipping too much air into the dough will cause those cookies to collapse when they bake. I guarantee that.
  9. One batch at a time, on the middle rack. I know that sounds a little crazy, but that’s how I bake every single cookie recipe. Here’s why: 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, rotate the baking sheets from the top rack to bottom rack a couple times through the baking process to encourage even baking. And turn the sheets around as well. Ovens have hot spots.
  10. Freeze for 10 minutes. We’re coming full circle back to tip #1! After you roll the cookie dough into tall balls, freeze them for 10 minutes. Here’s how I do it: after I roll cookie dough into balls to bake them, I place the balls on a plate and put the entire plate in the freezer. Then I preheat the oven. This time in the freezer firms up the balls which may have gotten a little soft while handling with our warm hands. Remember: the colder the dough, the thicker the cookie.

How to Save Your Flat Cookies!

Here is the trick I always use when my cookies begin to over-spread as they’re baking. I’ve actually never shared this with you before, so I’m excited to spill the beans. 🙂

  • Use a spoon. When you notice your cookies over-spreading, remove your baking sheet from the oven. Use a spoon to push the edges back towards the center of the cookie. A spoon can literally reshape your over-spreading cookies. Place back in the oven. Repeat during bake time if necessary, then repeat one more time when the cookies have finished baking.

Works every time.

Caramel cookie after baking with a spoon shaping the edges

What are your guaranteed cookie tips?

Pictured today are my salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies and soft-baked monster cookies recipe.

salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies on a red plate

232 Comments

  1. Carol Indrisie says:

    My daughter and 3 of her children are gluten free. I have been making various recipes using cup for cup gluten free flour. Thank you for the amazing recipes. So far what I have made have been such huge hits with them, they have come out perfect. All your tips are just brilliant. I actually feel I can bake now. Scales are really an important gadget to have. Thank you Sally.

  2. Kathleen Chojnacki says:

    Thank you so much for the ideas to keep cookies from spreading! I was so disappointed this year, that I stopped baking after two trays. I never had this problem when I started baking in the early ‘70s. I’m not sure if I was just faster, or if changes have been made to the flour over the years. Luckily with COVID this year, I haven’t seen all the people I want to give cookies to. Thanks!

  3. Can the dough sometimes be TOO cold? I prefer to scoop my cookie dough into balls rather than scooping them after the whole bowl has been chilled (I just can’t’ seem to get that method down). I then chill them in the fridge for at least 24 hours and then put them straight into the oven. Should I let them sit out for a few minutes? I’ve never tried freezer to oven, but I’ve read lots of people do this with no problems, no thawing, and don’t have trouble with not spreading.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jessica, baking cookies directly from the fridge or freezer should usually be fine, but if you find the cookies are not spreading, you can try gently pushing them down with the back of a spoon before sticking them in the oven (or even part way through baking). We also have more tips on helping cookies spread in this blog post — see the heading “What if cookies AREN’T spreading?” for more. Hope this helps!

      1. I usually spoon and level, but am never sure if I’ve got it just right. I’ve started trying my hand at weighing ingredients, so hopefully, that’ll help. Overall, my cookies have SO much improved once I started chilling them! It’s made such a difference, and is probably the best cookie tip I’ve ever found…it’s totally changed my “cookie life”, haha. Just wondering why I sometimes end up with those little mounds. I’ve yet to try these tips on my favorite CCC recipe though. I’m so picky, always looking for that “Goldilocks Cookie”. Thank you!

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