Making a perfect cookie is like reaching the pinnacle of your baking career. Once you have that perfect recipe and have discovered the perfect method to make those cookies, you are set for life.
However, it can be difficult to get to this point of perfection. I know from experience that you will have to go through batches of burned cookies, flat cookies, overly crunchy cookies and cookies that just taste wrong.
These tips and tricks are going to help you get those perfect cookies faster. Once you successfully make them once, there is no stopping you- you will be a perfect cookie making machine!
1 – Cream the Butter
The majority of cookie recipes begin with creaming the butter. This is a very important step and should not be rushed through.
When you cream the butter, you add air to the mix which, when heated in the oven, will help your cookies puff up and rise. If you have ever made a batch of cookies that came out flat, you may not have creamed your butter well.
Cream the butter and sugars together for about three to five minutes. You should also stop and scrape the sides of the bowl frequently to make sure that all of the butter is being blended in evenly.
The grainy sugar is going to help the butter to get fluffy, but once the butter is properly creamed, you shouldn’t feel the graininess anymore.
Nicely creamed butter will feel smooth to the touch despite the sugar being mixed in there. So let the mixer run and your butter get light and fluffy, it will make for thicker, chewier cookies later on!
2 – Get Your Butter to the Perfect Temperature
Many cookie recipes ask for the butter to be room temperature or softened.
While this definitely makes it easier to cream the butter, it is a good idea to have your butter be soft, but still slightly cold. This may sounds confusing so let me explain.
When you cream the butter, you want to incorporate air into the mix and the more firm the butter is, the more air it will hold, therefore, leading to thicker, puffier cookies. If you tried to cream melted butter for example, the butter would never get light and fluffy but remain liquid.
It is still easier on your mixer and a little quicker to cream soft butter but if you really want those thick cookies, make sure you butter is still a little cold and not borderline melted.
If you use cold butter, you will need to scrape down the bowl frequently as cold butter will tend to clump together and needs a little extra help to be mixed evenly. The additional effort will be worth it when you are eating a super thick cookie!
3 – Choose the Right Pan Liner
What you scoop your cookie batter on top of makes a huge difference in the end result. The pan and liner you use will affect the look and feel of the bottoms of your cookies directly and can change how your cookie bakes overall.
It used to be okay just to grease your cookie tray with a little butter, drop the dough on the pan and bake. Those cookies most likely had very crispy bottoms.
By placing the cookies on a tray that has simply been greased puts the cookie dough directly on what will be a very hot metal surface. The butter will get extremely hot and ‘fry’ the bottoms of the cookies and the heat of the pan will also make the bottoms of the cookies cooked well done while the rest of the cookie may still be undercooked.
If you think putting a sheet of aluminum foil on the tray will help, think again. You are essentially putting another layer of metal on top of the pan and the cookie bottoms will still get significantly darker than the rest of the cookie.
Lining a cookie sheet with parchment paper is one of your best options. Parchment paper is lined with a very thin layer of silicone which makes it non stick and also prevents your cookies from being in direct contact with the hot metal sheet pan.
This is ideal for two reasons: your cookies will pop right off of the paper (no peeling tiny bits of foil off the bottoms of cookies) and the bottoms will stay golden brown as the rest of the cookie continues to cook (unless you leave them in the oven for too long which is a whole other story…).
In almost every commercial bakery, you will find the bakers using parchment paper- it is just the best!
You can also opt to line your cookie tray with a silicone baking mat which has all the same benefits of parchment paper (they are both made with silicone) but they are also reusable. If you do a lot of baking, these are worth investing in rather than continuously buying more parchment paper.
4 – Add One Egg at a Time
Many cookie recipes and cake recipes ask you to add the eggs to the creamed butter one at a time. Don’t skip this important step!
There is a very good reason why you should add the eggs slowly into the batter and that is to prevent the batter from breaking. Yes, you can break your batter.
Cookie batter is an emulsion, especially at the stage when you are adding the liquid eggs to the greasy butter.
In order to create an emulsion, you need to make the eggs and the butter become friends and bind together. If it fails, the beautifully creamed butter you made will collapse and all the nice air you managed to whip into the butter will be gone.
If you go slow, add just one egg and let it mix into the batter, then add another egg and let that one mix in, you will get a beautiful, smooth cookie dough. Your emulsion will be made and the air bubbles will be locked in the batter (remember you want those bubbles to make thick chewy cookies!).
Don’t rush! One egg at a time for the win!
5 – Use Cornstarch
If you love thick chewy cookies, cornstarch is going to be your new best friend. Add a teaspoon of cornstarch to a standard cookie recipe along with the dry ingredients.
Cornstarch helps the cookies stay tall and thick rather than spreading thin as they bake. It binds the ingredients together and also acts as an additional leavener (along with baking powder or soda that your recipe may already use).
Cornstarch also has no flavor so the taste of your cookie will not be affected. A little extra cornstarch and you will have the tallest, gooiest cookies you have ever made!
6 – Measure Carefully
Baking is a science and recipes are written to be followed precisely.
If you are at home, cooking a chicken dinner, you might add a touch more salt or a dash of garlic and your food will be just fine. However, doing that in baking can lead to disaster.
Adding ‘a touch’ of baking powder is not the same as adding the teaspoon of baking powder that may be needed to make your cookies rise.
Guessing at the right quantity of flour will either make your cookies spread thin immediately (not enough flour) or become tough (too much flour).
So get out those measuring cups and spoons and be sure to measure correctly- your cookies will be much better for it and you will have more consistent results every time you bake.
7 – Ice Cream Scoop Those Cookies
If you are looking to make the perfect cookie then it must look round and flawless.
To get this uniform, perfect circle look, use an ice cream scooper to portion the dough. Each cookie will be exactly the same size and shape.
This also helps with baking the cookies as cookies that are the same size will bake at the same rate.
Ice cream scoops are for more than just ice cream- they are your cookies best friend!
For other cookie shapes, use a cookie press – see my favorites here.
8 – Give the Cookies Space
There is nothing worse than opening your oven and seeing one massive blob of cookie dough (unless you want to have one big cookie all to yourself!). This problem can easily be avoided by just spacing your cookie dough out on the sheet tray.
Always leave at least two inches in between each cookie dough ball to allow them room to spread. The bigger the cookie dough ball, the more space it may need. Easy enough!
9 – Preheat Your Oven
Preheating your oven is a must when it comes to baking cookies. Cookies will begin to bake the second they reach the heat so you don’t want that heat to be too low which will cause your cookies to be in the oven significantly longer and therefore dry them out.
Turn your oven on to the correct temperature before you even get out your mixer. Ovens typically take about ten minutes or more to get to the proper temperature so plan ahead!
10 – Turn The Pan
Every oven has a hot spot. Even if it is a brand new, state of the art oven, I can guarantee that one place in the oven is slightly hotter.
To help combat this hot spot, turn the tray of cookies halfway through the baking process. Just reach in with a pot holder and give that tray a nice 180 degree spin.
This will help your cookies bake evenly and be golden brown all the way around rather than having one side cook darker than the other.
11 – Wait! Let Them Cool
I know it is tempting to pull the cookies off the sheet tray immediately after baking but you must resist!
When cookies come out of the oven, they are so hot that they will not hold their shape. If you try to immediately take them off the tray, they will certainly break.
While everyone enjoys broken cookies, they will not reach that level of perfection you are looking for. Wait about 5 minutes at least before moving them to a cooling rack.
12 – Store Them Well
Now that you have made the perfect cookie, you need to make sure you store it correctly.
Place the cookies in an airtight container such as a cookie tin, Tupperware or just on a plate wrapped in plastic wrap.
If you leave your cookies out in the open air, they will dry out very quickly and become hard overnight. All of that work creating a cookie masterpiece will be lost! Wrap them up well and they will be perfect for another day!
Now you know some tricks and tips so you are ready to bake. Get out your grandmother’s famous cookie recipe and begin! Keep all of the tricks in mind as you bake and your results will be out of this world!
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.