10 Guaranteed Tips to Prevent Cookies from Spreading

Jump to Recipe

Guaranteed tips to prevent cookies from spreading on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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. Just in time for Christmas!

Super thick and soft Monster Cookies! Peanut butter oatmeal M&M cookies recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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

What are your guaranteed cookie tips?

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

Soft-baked salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

149 Comments

  1. I’m excited to try the spoon trick the next time my cookies start to spread! Thanks for all the tips Sally! In #10, I think you wanted to say place the paper plate in the freezer not refrigerator.

  2. Sally, these tips are amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m saving this in my bookmarks and will DEFINITELY be remembering these next time

  3. good tips, thank you! yes, I’ve had a few cookie sheets that ended up looking like four leaf clovers after after they merged together, thank you for this best practices list!

  4. I made your brown butter toffee cookies and they spread all over…. I wish I would have known the spoon trick! I had chilled the dough overnight and everything!

  5. When I make cookies for gifting, I portion and freeze. Bake day, turn down the heat in the house and fire up the oven. Never had a melty mess with frozen portioned dough balls. Cool house helps cookies cool as well.

    1. I do this all the time! I have the freezer stocked with a couple different batches of frozen dough balls pretty much at all times. Need to bring a baked good to an event? Boom, you got three different kinds with no preplanning. Feel like a fresh baked cookie for dessert but don’t want to make a whole batch of cookies after dinner? Oh, would you like oatmeal raisin or chocolate chocolate chip? Best trick in the book.

      1. I do this too but just with the chewy chocolate chunk ones. My favorite! I make a double batch and only use a tablespoon per cookie and can usually get 80 dough balls! Freeze them on the baking sheet and once frozen transfer to a freezer bag. My mother in law just eats them frozen, win win lol

  6. Well, this post really helped me a lot understanding why my cookies overspread. I have a question though, How do you top the cookies and not end up with melted chocolate of toffee ?? ( I am referring to those beautiful chocolate chips on top 🙂 )

    1. Hey Nevila! This is a great question. Chocolate chips have stabilizers, so they aren’t meant to easily melt in the oven or out of the oven. 😉

      1. I suppose I live in the wring side of the world . Our chocolate chips tend to melt while baking. Thanx for your answer Sally

  7. Hello Sally, my cookie queen 🙂
    I love all of your recipes and tips.
    Cooking time is very important, i stop cooking when the shiny-greasy view disappears above the cookies.

  8. I like to keep a batch of cookie dough in my freezer already rolled into balls. So then when I want cookies midweek I just have to pull out a handful and throw them in the oven!

  9. Thank you for sharing your helpful tips. I have learned so much from you. I look at your site all the time and have made many cookies from your recipes.

  10. I find that I almost always have to add between 2-4 tablespoons of flour to any cookie recipe. I don’t if it is because of the humidity where I live or living at a very slight altitude (1500 ft). It doesn’t really matter which recipe- if I add the extra flour they don’t spread. And of course chilling the dough! The longer the better!

  11. Surprised at your recommendation for cookie sheets, the reviews on Amazon were very mixed. Some buyers had real problem with rust, warping, sticking and staining. While I know reviews are mixed for any product I do consider the type of issues raised before buying.

    1. USA pans are the best pans I have ever used. I have cookie sheets, muffin pan, loaf pan, a 13×9 pan, and a square cake pan. Thin pans will burn bad.

    2. Opinions definitely vary. They’re my personal favorite, but I also love Williams Sonoma’s Gold Touch line. Have you tried those?

      And while we’re talking about it! For cake pans, I prefer Fat Daddios!

      1. I just recently ordered in Fat Daddios pans from the US (can’t get them in Australia) and boy were they worth it!!!! Amazing evenly baked cakes every time which weren’t dry. Definitely my new favourite!

  12. Thanks for the great tips Sally! I will try the tall cookie ball from now on. These are great tips for the upcoming holiday baking season.

  13. Sally,
    Will you please add a “print” button to your ten tips? I wanted to print them but my printer indicates 23 pages loading, or did I miss the “print?” I had a real spreading problem with one of your chocolate chip cookies even though I used the tall ball method; I love the idea of reshaping with a spoon.

    1. Hi, I’m sorry printing is giving you trouble for this post! Can you try copying the text and pasting it into a word document to print? And yes, give the spoon method a try next time!

  14. Have you tried using convection oven for cookies? Wondering if you have any tips? I was told you can bake 2 trays at a time since the fan helps keep the oven temperature accurate. The manual recommended adjusting the standard temp to 25’ less for convection feature.
    Any advice would be appreciated. You are one of the few bakers I trust. Every recipe of yours I try is absolutely wonderful!
    Bev Connelly

    1. Thank you, Bev! I wish I could help but I do not have a convection oven. Though from the experience I have working with convection ovens off-site, I agree that lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees F is ideal. My mother, also a baker, has a convection oven. She doesn’t rotate her pans. I agree that I don’t find it necessary.

  15. i made your chewy chocolate chip cookies from your book and they looked great in the oven and nice and puffy, then when i took them out of the oven to cool, they spread thin. So your spoon idea is a great one. I’ll try that next time. Still taste great but i like the puffy look.

  16. I made your soft chocolate chip cookies using the tall column method you describe and they turned out perfect! That is also my ‘go to’ chocolate chip cookie recipe now…after 56 years! Thanks!

  17. Sorry…Comment AND question. When making cookies that are labor intensive such as rolling, I got into the habit of rolling the dough into balls while the dough is easily pliable, using a scoop to keep them all the same size.
    Then I pile the balls on a large plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
    Preheat the oven and put the cold cookies right into the oven.
    I am aiming for a question here….
    Do you think it matters if the dough is refrigerated all at once in the bowl or already rolled into the balls?
    I’ve always wondered if it affects the flavor, but I prefer to tackle the labor all at once and just bake the next day.
    My cookie tip***now that cold weather is here, in New England, when baking with multiple cookie sheets, I put the hot cookie sheets outside my back porch on a metal table I keep near the door, to cool for the next batch. Silpat and all.
    When I’m ready for the pan, it’s nice and COLD including the silpat !

    1. Thank you for the tip Brenda. I usually find the dough is easier to roll after it’s been refrigerated but if you don’t mind rolling the sticky dough then it’s fine to refrigerate them after rolling!

  18. I’ve made your Cake Batter Chocolate Chip cookies several times – love them. One time the first batch spread so much (no clue why), I didn’t want to deal with it and spread the rest of the dough in a jelly roll pan and made cookie bars instead 🙂

  19. Sally!!! Love these tips! I’ve become a better baker because of you. Thank you. And that secret tip!…I do it all the time if my cookies spread!! I discovered it only last year and it works wonders!! Yay!

  20. Thanks for the great tips! I’ll be baking lots of cookies this weekend for a Troop Shipment. Our soldiers always love getting home baked goodies! I’m sure you’re tips will help make my baking go more smoothly.

  21. Great tips!! Spreading is always my biggest issue with cookie baking. I think the most useful tip (that I had already learned from you!) is not using cooking spray on the baking sheets. And refrigerating the dough of course, but I already did that. 🙂 It’s easier if you make the dough and bake it on the next day, plus they allegedly taste better… Also I roll the balls before refrigerating, much easier!

  22. My cookies became flat while they were on the sheet pan after baking. I assume I overbaked them. I thought my cookies looked perfect when they came out of the oven! Maybe I should slightly underbake them next time! You’re my best trusty teacher as always, Sally!

  23. Thank you so much for these tips!! I would love to see a better visual, either with pictures or videos, that explains how to know when the butter and sugar in cookie recipes are perfectly ‘light and fluffy’ or ‘creamed’. I am still never sure exactly what that means, and most recipe videos move so fast through that part, it all just looks like mush to me. Have you posted something for this? Your pie crust videos are AMAZING and I would love to see more!

    I agree about the tip on freezing! That works really well for cut out cookies. I never really thought to try it other ones. Can’t wait to give it a shot for this year’s Cookiepalooza. Thank you again!! 🙂

  24. I adore your blog. I’ve been salivating over your Christmas cookie posts, is it too early to start baking for Christmas?! This post is so helpful, I’ve shared this with friends, thank you!

1 2 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Sally's Baking Challenge

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.

View More

Sally's Cookie Palooza

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

Sally's Pie Week

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×