15 Best Cookie Baking Tips

By Jennette Ross / October 19, 2015
cookie baking tips

Cookie baking tips aren't just for new bakers. Everyone botches a batch here and there. Sometimes the reasons for why the cookies look like a hockey puck allude even the best. But we all keep trying, crossing our fingers that this batch will take because cookies are worth trying again for. 

Come on, warm, gooey, fresh out of the oven cookies...nothing beats it. The first bite instantly transports the heart right back to happy childhood memories of Grandma's kitchen. I can remember my mom greeting my brothers and me with a plate of home-made cookies after a long hard day battling the many perils of elementary school.

Cookies make everything better. 

Cookies are so much more than flour and sugar, they are little bites of comfort and love. Nothing is more disappointing though than laboring over this love, only to have the cookies burn or morph into one enormously thin, hard cookie blob, instead of the dozen carefully spooned out cookies planned on.

We've all been there, scraping the bowl with gleeful anticipation as each mound of cookie batter rests so hopeful and full of promise on the cookie tray. Then comes the big moment, time to go gingerly into the oven to watch as the magic ensues.

Yet, egad! What once was a scene of excitement and wonder, quickly turns for the worse. The oven, once thought to be a port of good tidings, has become a cookie tomb. There is no way to save them, it's much too late. Another cookie batch has met an untimely cookie demise in the oven of doom!

Maybe that's a little dramatic, but still no one wants to put the time and energy into making home-made cookies just to turn around and toss them in the garbage. What a waste of ingredients and effort. ​Because cookie misfortunes happen to even the most seasoned bakers, we compiled a list of 15 cookie baking tips to help all bakers make perfect "grandma standard" cookies every time. 

1

Thick Baking Pans 

cookie baking tips

Perhaps you are thinking I am jumping the gun, talking about pans before getting into ingredients or tips pertaining to at least the batter in some way. But let me reassure you, whether you use margarine or the length the dough is chilled won't matter if you don't have the right type of pan to bake the cookies on.

Not all baking pans are created equal. Prices range all over the place and of course so do styles. Here is one important thing to keep in mind when selecting a baking pan or sheet...thickness. Choose a pan that is thick because the thicker the pan the less likely the bottoms of the cookies are to get burned. 

If you already have a drawer full of baking pans and don't have the budget to invest in a new pan, don't panic. ​ Next time home-made cookies beckon, double up. Use two pans stacked right on top of each other. The bottom pan in the stack will add to the thickness and protect the cookies from bottom burn. 

2

Shiny Baking Pans 

cookie baking tips

I know, I know...yes, we are still on pans, but believe me it's important. As in most cooking situations, having the right baking tools can make a world of difference. Baking with the right pan could mean the difference between cookie success or cookie disaster. 

The second thing to keep in mind when buying a cookie baking sheet is color. Light-colored and shiny cookie pans are optimal because they brown the cookies more evenly than dark pans. If cookies sticking to the pan concerns you, just cover the surface with parchment paper or a silicon baking sheet. ​

3

Mixing

cookie baking tips

Cookie dough is high in sugar and fats, but much lower in water content, compared to other doughs. The ratio of water to starch granules and gluten protein is not even. The sugar actually draws moisture from the other ingredients, minimizing the gluten development.

Therefore​, how the cookie dough is mixed will influence the texture of the cookie.

For more cake-like cookie texture:

  1. Mix the shortening, eggs, sugar, and liquid together first.​
  2. Then, gently fold in the the flour and leavening agent. 

​For a more dense cookie: 

  1. Mix all the ingredients together slowly, so the starch only gelatinizes ever so slightly. ​
4

Equal Goodie Distribution

cookie baking tips

Have you ever made a batch of cookies and no matter how diligently you mixed in the chocolate chips or nuts, by the end of the bowl you have way more dough than yummy add-ins? Everyone seems to snubs their nose at those poor chip-less cookies on the cookie tray. At least until the rest are gone and someone is desperate enough for any bit of sugar they can get their hands on in the pantry. 

My kids will scrutinize each cookie in hopes of selecting the most goodie filled offering on the plate. But I've learned how ​to beat them at their game. This tip comes right out of every skilled master baker's secret arsenal. 

Instead of mixing all the raisins​ or coconut slivers into all the dough straight away, hold back. Reserve half the mix-ins with half the dough. Now stirring will be even easier because you have less dough to work with and you take better care to mix thoroughly. 

Once you've used up half the dough, then you can take the other half and the mix-ins previously put aside to repeat the whole process. Now, every cookie will have ample amount of whatever treasured treat is waiting to be discovered and enjoyed by its owner. ​No cookie will be left behind. 

5

Scooping

cookie baking tips

Some rules shouldn't be broken, and this rule is no exception. The best looking home-made cookies need to be the same size. They will cook evenly and look nice displayed on the cookie plater or container when they are uniform in size. 

One method to help achieve similar sized cookies involves a ruler and some good old fashioned eye balling. Place a 12" ruler over each spoonful scooped out of the mixing bowl. Confirm each time that the size of the cookie ball dough is the same as the rest. Add or delete dough as needed.

The easiest method is with an ice cream scoop or a cookie scooper. Some really smart inventor came up with the idea of making a spring loaded ice cream scoop ​smaller and perfectly sized for cookie dough. This kitchen upgrade isn't necessary, but sure makes life easier. Well...cookie making life at any rate.  

If you invest in a scoop, fill a glass of water and keep it near by. Periodically dip the scoop into the water to keep the dough from sticking to the scoop and to aide in the dough releasing onto the baking sheet with ease. ​

6

No Burned Bottoms

cookie baking tips

Dark pans absorb a lot of heat and often times cook the cookies too fast, burning the bottom side. They also sometimes burn the edges by cooking the outer edge too fast and not cooking the middle fully.  We already discussed avoiding dark pans and opting for shiny light colored pans, or using parchment paper or silicone baking pads on dark pans. 

Pan color is only one bottom burn contributor. Here is another helpful tip, cool down. Rotate using different pans, giving a recently used pan a chance to cool between uses. Pans that are already hot will obviously cook cookies faster, so allow the pan to come back to room temperature before scooping the dough back onto them. ​

7

A Little Elbow Room

cookie baking tips

Cookies spread out in the oven. If the dough is not given enough room to expand, the cookies will wind up touching each other. Then, instead of nicely round shaped cookies, you are left using a knife or hard spatula to separate what now looks more like a strange stop sign. 

To stop this madness (see what I did there?) watch how you line the cookies up on the baking sheet. In the first row, line up three, parallel. In the next row, do only two, but off set them making each cookie line up in the "open windows​" of the first row. In the third row, line them up exactly like the first row, but in its own parallel line. 

No, you won't cook as many cookies at one time, but what you do bake will have space to spread out, bake right, and get purrrrty. Slow and steady wins this race and the wait will be worth all the effort. The reward will yield not only delicious cookies, but nice looking batches that turn heads too. 

8

"Mom, he's touching me!" 

cookie baking tips

Ok, I admit it, I was that kid. Many a car trip was filled with the sounds of my whiney voice complaining to my poor mother about my brother's leg getting too close to my section of the back seat. Of course he took advantage and would poke in the air around me, never touching me, but close enough to annoy the snot out of me. 

What , you may ask, has this to do with cookie baking tips? Honestly, not much. Except, I guess I've learned the importance of everybody having their own space bubble to work in. Thank you Patrick Swayze and my big brother. Cookies are not much different that way from people. They need their space. 

So although you may be seriously tempted to cram as many baking sheets into the oven as possible to speed up the process and get to the eating of said cookies, don't. ​Cramming baking sheets may save time, but will often ruin some of the batch. 

When two cookie sheets touch in the oven, on the same rack, ​hot spots are formed on the baking sheet. Hot spots will inevitably cause sections of certain cookies to bake faster than others. Uneven baking can lead to under baked cookies or burned cookies. Neither option is welcomed, so skip the rush and give your pans room. 

9

Cookie Cups

cookie baking tips

Oh my, I don't know who came up with the idea of combining cookies with gooey centers filled with chocolate, jelly, carmel, or some other yumminess first, but thank you who ever you are. Great idea! 

Making these little bites of goodness require an indentation to be made in the dough before cooking. Some recipes will suggest using a thumb print to make the well, but then the wells come out a little lopsided . Trying to fix the mis-shaped hole not only manhandles the dough more than desired, but keeping the size of the wells consistent from cookie to cookie can be a challenge.  

To elevate the draw backs of thumbprint holes, try using the end of a metal melon ball scoop instead. If you haven't added a melon ball scoop to your kitchen utensils, grab any wide handle end to make the perfect center well.  ​

10

Circulate

cookie baking tips

Food needs space to cook or bake properly. We already discussed why allowing pans to touch causes problems for cookie baking, but here are some other reasons you do not want to over-crowd the oven with baking pans. 

Heat requires room to circulate around the food while baking. ​ The more in the oven for the heat to get around, the longer the heat takes to warm the food to cook or bake properly.  Over crowding means the heat will reach certain places faster than others, so portions of food will cook faster than others. Again, this may lead to burnt or under baked cookies.

I do not recommend putting more than one baking sheet in the oven at a time if continuity from batch to batch is wanted.  If you still find the bottoms of the cookies cooking too fast or even burning, the pan may be too hot. Putting cookie dough on a hot pan may also cause undesirable amounts of spread leading to flat or mis-shaped cookies.  

If you don't want to wait for the pan to cool down between cook times on its own as mentioned earlier, try running just the bottom side of the pan under cold water. Be careful not to get the top wet or your dough will get soggy. 

11

Margarine?

cookie baking tips

Cookie recipes will call for shortening, butter, or margarine. If margarine is what you need, then there a couple of things to know before baking. Depending on what kind of margarine is incorporated in the recipe, will directly effect the firmness of the dough. 

First, make sure when purchasing margarine, to buy actual margarine, not a spread. Margarine made from 100% corn oil will create a softer dough. Margarine will also change the amount of time cut-out cookies need chilled in the refrigerator. 

Cookie dough can chill in the freezer for a short time. Set a timer, so they don't get forgotten though. What once was a time saver, will now take extra time to defrost. That would be counter-productive. If you are going the safe route, allow cut out cookie dough to chill in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours. 

11

Moist, Not Dry

cookie baking tips

What a disappointment biting into a dry and crumbly cookie is. The calories can't be justified or enjoyed. Lucky for you, I have some helpful and easy cookie baking tips and tricks of the trade that will help keep your homemade cookies moist.

Over baking will dry out your cookies, so one suggestion is to take the cookies out of the oven a few minutes early. Allow the cookies to sit on the hot pan for the remainder of the baking time while the pan cools off. Then, remove them from the pan and let the cookies cool off on the cooling rack.

Another idea for moist and soft cookies success is addition. Add a teaspoon of either your favorite jelly or sour cream to the dough. The jelly or sour cream acts as a softening agent to keep the cookies moist, and you won't taste their presence in the cookies one bit. 

12

Dough Delehmas

cookie baking tips

Dough can be tricky to work with, especially doughs requiring rolling pin action. We have you covered though. Just follow these simple trouble shooting tips to help resolve any sticky situations or not so sticky dough problems. 

If the dough you are working with seems crumbly and difficult to keep together, make sure the dough is at room temperature. Keep the dough at room temperature for 30 minutes before handling. While you wait for the dough to reach the desired temp, cover the dough with a lightly dampened kitchen towel.

Sometimes the dough is sticky and needs to be, given the recipe. Sticky dough is fine and dandy, but not so handy when sticking to your fingers. To prevent the dough from sticking to your hands, go jump in a lake. Okay, not really, but sticking your hands in a bowl of ice cold water (cubes included) for 20 seconds will help. ​

Even when cut out cookie dough is chilled it still can become warmed as it's worked with. The result is usually dough sticking to the rolling pin. Some will suggest adding flour repeatedly to the pin as a solution, but the flour can dry out the dough.

Instead, try putting the rolling pin in the freezer for an hour before rolling the dough. The chilled pin will keep the dough from warming and stay free from sticking to the dough. If you own two pins, you can keep one in the freezer to chill and swap them out as one warms with use. 

13

Soft Science

cookie baking tips

For soft cookie batches, follow these helpful techniques...

  1. Instead of granulated sugar, use honey. Honey is highly compatible to moisture​. Honey will lend a helping hand in keeping your cookies soft.
  2. Bake the cookies at a consistent temperature of 375 degrees. 
  3. Remove the cookies a few minutes before the requested time the recipe calls for. 
14

Nice & Crispy 

cookie baking tips

My personal favorite cookie texture is soft, but not everyone wants soft and chewy. Even if you are in the soft cookie camp with me, you still may have family of friends who enjoy a little crisp to their cookie. So as to not to leave anyone out, we have tips for crisp cookie lovers too.

If crispy cookies are your end game, then sugar needs attention. The higher the amount of sugar, the crispier the sugar will come out. Sugar slows down the cookies ability to set up. In other words, cookies with more sugar will spread, and spread faster.

Sugar also holds moisture, keeping the moisture from steaming. Steam makes the cookies soft. Naturally, less steam will mean less soft and more crisp cookies. 

Oven temperatures also need monitoring. ​Bake the batches at 350 degrees over a slow period of time until the cookies are lightly browned. The slow process at the temperature specified will allow the cookies to dry as they bake. The result will yield nice, crispy cookies. 

15

Storage 

cookie baking tips

Although a cute cookie jar with a sealable lid is a nice addition to any kitchen counter top, it isn't mandatory for proper cookie storage. A plastic bag or container works just as well as the glass or ceramic jars. Just be sure the bags seal tightly. Try to remove as much air as possible before sealing so the cookies stay fresh longer. 

Before storing cookies away, make sure they are completely cooled. To cool the cookies, place them on a cookie rack​ that is at least 6 inches off the counter. If your rack is too close to the counter, steam will build up creating condensation on the bottoms of the cookies. Wet bottoms mean soggy cookie bottoms. 

If your cooling rack isn't tall enough, you don't need to run out and buy another one. Place your rack on top of a bowl to get the elevation needed. ​Then again, allow the cookies to cool completely before storing them away, or the steam from the warm cookies will create condensation on the bag. All the extra moisture will make soggy cookies or create a great environment for mold to grow. 

Once the cookies have been properly stored and sealed they will stay fresh at room temperature for about 2-3 days, if they are soft, and 2-3 weeks if they are hard. Cookie dough can be frozen in the freezer in an air tight freezer bag or container for 10-12 months. Baked cookies will last in the freezer for 2-3 months. ​


The Wrap Up

cookie baking tips

I trust that these 15 tips will help you avoid any cookie fiascos in the future. Perhaps you will feel so confident with your baking skills, you'll even want to go as far as gifting your creations away. If so, make sure to visit It's Always Autumn for an adorable and inexpensive homemade cookie box idea to wrap the next batch up in. 

As always, we love to hear your thoughts and comments. Do you have a great cookie baking tip to share? We'd love to hear all about it in the comment section below. Feel free to tell us about your cookie baking successes and failures too.  ​

About the author

Jennette Ross

Mother of five and creator of Cooking Upgrades, Jennette enjoys helping people get the most out of their experience in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

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