Crisp, crunchy cookies have their place, but nothing beats a thick, chewy, fudgy chocolate chip cookie. But why do cookies sometimes fall flat and spread instead of puffing up, even if you’re using the same recipe every time? How do you make thicker cookies?
To make thicker cookies, you need to keep your ingredients and dough as cool as possible. Use the freshest ingredients specified by the recipe and measure and mix them carefully. Use high-quality, ungreased baking sheets and make sure your oven is calibrated to the correct temperature.
There are a few key reasons for pancake-like cookies, most of which relate to your ingredients’ temperature, quantity, and quality. Baking batch after batch of thick, luscious cookies is only a matter of following a couple of baking secrets.
1 – Refrigerate Your Cookie Dough
The key to thicker cookies is to refrigerate your cookie dough. Refrigerated cookie dough produces thicker, chewier, tastier cookies even it’s only been in the fridge for a couple of hours. For best results, stash your cookie dough overnight.
Refrigeration is a magical process for cookie dough. Not only does it cool all the ingredients down, but it also allows the gluten in the flour to relax and the flour to start absorbing the moisture in the dough, intensifying the flavor and texture. Cool cookie dough is also much easier to work with.
If you’re baking a few batches of cookies, keep half the dough in the fridge while you work with the other half. If you can’t fit all the trays in the oven at once, keep the trays of unbaked cookies in the freezer so that they don’t warm up in the kitchen.
2 – Use Room-Temperature Butter
If you don’t have time to refrigerate your cookie dough, then follow the legendary Betty Crocker’s suggestion. According to Betty Crocker, the main reason that cookies fall flat is that the butter in the dough was too warm, even melted, and the cookies didn’t have a chance to set. This makes the cookies spread out and results in thin, unsatisfying cookies.
To produce thicker cookies, the ideal temperature for your butter is a cool room temperature, around 67⁰F (about 20⁰C). Butter at this temperature will still be firm but pliable enough to prod with your finger.
If your butter is too cold, avoid popping it in the microwave. Instead, take it out of the fridge about half an hour before baking, and cut it into pieces to cool more quickly.
If your butter is too soft, put it back in the fridge to solidify.
3 – Use the Correct Fat
Not all fats are interchangeable in cookie baking as they react differently when heated and have different fat percentages. For example, margarine only contains 35 % fat and is not a butter substitute in cookies unless the recipe allows it.
On the other hand, shortening is 100% fat and will spread less than butter, which contains water. Try baking with a combination of half butter, half shortening to create thicker cookies.
4 – Focus on Your Mixing Technique
Overbeating and undermixing your dough are equally bad and can both lead to flat cookies.
Don’t Overbeat the Butter and Sugar
Overbeating or creaming the butter and sugar can cause pancake-like cookies for two reasons:
- Overbeating heats the butter, which then starts to melt.
- Overbeating also adds too much air to the mixture. The structure of a cookie, unlike a cake, will collapse either during baking or during cooling.
Don’t Undermix the Dough
Make sure all the ingredients are incorporated into the dough. It’s easy to scrape the bottom of the bowl while mixing to ensure that all the butter is mixed.
If you haven’t mixed in all the butter especially, you’ll have uneven results – some cookies will be dry, while others will have too much butter and spread out.
5 – Add Less Granulated Sugar
A heavy hand with sugar can also be your thick cookie nemesis. Although sugar is solid at room temperature, it melts when heated, so it causes more spread in the oven.
For thicker cookies, try measuring your sugar more carefully. You could also try replacing some white granulated sugar with brown sugar, making for thicker cookies.
6 – Add More Flour
Another key reason for cookies falling flat is a lack of flour. If this is the reason you’re not making thicker cookies, increase the amount of flour in your usual recipe. First, add a couple of tablespoons to the dough and bake a test cookie. Adjust the amount of flour up or down to get the perfect thickness.
You might need to use more flour for one of these reasons: either you’re not measuring well enough or live in a damp climate or at a high altitude.
You’ll know if you’re a freestyle baker who likes to add a bit of this and a bit of that – unfortunately, only professionals (and grandmothers) can guesstimate how much a cup or tablespoon is. Invest in some decent measuring cups and a kitchen scale, and watch your cookies rise.
To measure flour correctly, spoon the flour into the correct size measuring cup. Once it’s full, carefully level off the flour with the flat side of a knife.
If You Live in a Humid Environment
Flour can absorb moisture from a damp or humid environment, which can lead to cookie dough puddles. If the climate is why your cookies are never thick and luscious, try adding a bit more flour.
If You Live at a High Altitude
A high altitude tends to affect cakes and bread more than cookies, but you still need to make small adjustments to your cookie recipes. One of the adjustments is to increase the amount of flour needed – probably by about half a cup.
7 – Use Bleached Flour
If you’ve been using unbleached flour – which is a healthy choice – but your cookies fall flat, try using bleached flour. Bleached flour tends to absorb moisture more easily, so your cookies will turn out thick and gorgeous.
8 – Check Your Rising Agent
Most cookie recipes include a rising or leavening agent such as baking powder and baking soda. If your rising agent isn’t fresh and doing its job, your cookies will never thicken. Check the expiry date on your ingredients to make sure they’re up to the task.
Also, check that you measure your rising agent correctly. Oddly, using too much rising agent can make your cookies fall flat in the oven because they rise too much and can’t maintain the structure.
9 – Use an Ice Cream Scoop
Flat, squishy cookie dough will make flat, spongy cookies. The raw cookie dough needs to stand tall and round to be ready for baking. Nigella Lawson, the British food writer, uses a quarter-cup measure ice cream scoop (about 60 ml) to create perfectly consistent, thick chocolate chip cookies.
Cookie Trays Are Important
You can have the best cookie dough in the world, but did you know that your baking trays can influence how thick your cookies turn out?
Use the Right Baking Tray
My tried and tested Pillsbury Poppin’ Fresh Homemade Cookies book gives plenty of guidelines on baking the perfect cookie, and most of these focus on baking trays. The right baking tray for cookies:
- is solid enough to conduct heat efficiently – don’t use a cheapy, flimsy sheet.
- has a small rim on one or both ends, not on all sides.
- is smooth and shiny to allow for light, even browning.
- is non-stick, so you don’t have to grease it.
Use an Ungreased Cookie Tray
Most cookie recipes contain enough fat that you don’t need to grease the pan. Adding a layer of fat to the sheet makes cookies spread and fall flat.
If the recipe requires you to grease the pan, do so sparingly and wipe the cookie tray between batches. Or, if you’re worried about cookies sticking, use baking paper or parchment.
Cool Cookie Trays Between Baking
It’s tempting to grab and fill the nearest tray as it comes out of the oven, but using a hot cookie tray will cause the fat in the dough to melt before it gets in the oven – leading to flat cookies.
Allow each tray to cool to room temperature before filling it again. Also, ensure all residual grease is gone by wiping the tray down with a paper towel before loading it with dough. If you’re in a hurry, cool and clean the trays by running them under cold water.
10 – Check the Oven’s Temperature
If your cookies are still falling flat, your oven could be to blame. Here are some oven-friendly tips:
- Preheat the oven for 10 to 15 minutes to reach the ideal temperature before you start baking.
- Check that your oven is not overheating – too hot an oven will melt the fat in the cookies too quickly and leave you with puddles of dough.
- Invest in an oven thermometer to keep your oven correctly calibrated.
Many factors can influence whether your cookies come out thick or thin. To ensure you always bake thick, chewy cookies, pay attention to the temperature and quality of your ingredients, measure them carefully, use quality baking pans and check that your oven is working properly.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.