How to bake cookies that are perfect every time! I am sharing my top 11 tips and tricks for cookie baking. These tips will help you make the BEST Christmas cookies and cookies throughout the year.
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It’s December, which means Christmas cookie time! Based on the comments and questions I’ve gotten throughout the years, I thought I’d write-up my best cookie tips and trips so everyone can learn how to bake cookies that are the best every time.
Some of the tips may seem like common sense, some maybe not so much. I think there’s a little bit for everyone.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few tips, so let me know your favorite cookie baking tips in the comments below.
How to Bake Cookies
Here they are, my 11 best cookie tips and tricks…
1. READ RECIPE THOROUGHLY
Try to read through the FULL recipe before starting. Make sure you have all the ingredients, equipment, pans, and anything else you need. Also, make sure the directions are complete and you understand all the steps. I know everyone likes to save time, but try not to take shortcuts unless you are confident in what you’re doing.
2. INVEST IN PARCHMENT PAPER
Instead of greasing your pans or using nonstick pans, I highly recommend parchment paper. Not only does it make cleanup a breeze, I but I also find the bottoms of cookies come out perfectly browned and easy to remove with parchment paper.
Silicone mats are a good alternative, but I find cookies don’t always brown and get crispy as well on the bottom. If making bars in a pan, try lining the sides and bottom of the pan with parchment paper so you can lift the cookies out of the pan and cut evenly.
3. USE GOOD QUALITY PANS
I know this seems like common sense to many of you, but based on some of the photos people have sent to me, please start with some good pans. Make sure your pans aren’t warped or rusty. Pans that are “dark” can sometimes result in cookies with darker or burnt cookie bottoms, as can cast iron pans, pizza stones, etc.
I personally like to use aluminum baking sheets (with edges) rather than cookie sheets (no edges) because they are more versatile. These aluminum baking sheets are my absolute favorite. They hold up well, haven’t warped, and are lightweight and perfect for cookies. Reasonably priced and they’re also currently the #1 seller on Amazon.
For cookie bars, I love these 13×9 baking pans or similar ones in smaller sizes. Be sure to use the right size pan if baking bars as well. If you use a different size than what the recipe calls for, you may be disappointed with the results.
4. USE QUALITY INGREDIENTS & PREP
Better ingredients result in better cookies. If you want delicious perfect cookies, be sure to use high-quality chocolate, butter, vanilla, nuts, and other ingredients. Also be sure to check the expiration date on your eggs, baking powder, baking soda, nuts, etc.
For baking powder and baking soda, it’s also a good idea to test it from now and then. Place a little baking powder in water and a little baking soda in something acidic like vinegar and make sure it bubbles. If it doesn’t bubble, time to replace!
Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature before starting unless otherwise stated in the recipe. If the recipe calls for softened butter, make sure it is fully softened to room temperature to prevent lumps in your cookies.
5. SUBSTITUTE WITH CAUTION
If you plan to substitute a lot of ingredients in a recipe, you may want to just find another recipe. Just saying… haha! Butter, margarine, shortening, and fat substitutes can all have very different results in cookies. So can substituting different types of sweeteners, flours, leaveners, etc.
Generally, you can swap “mix-ins” such as nuts, baking chips, sprinkles, and anything else that is mixed into the cookie dough at the very end. You can also generally substitute different extracts for vanilla extract. The taste will change, but it shouldn’t change the consistency of the cookie dough.
6. USE GOOD EQUIPMENT
Be careful measuring your ingredients. Use liquid measuring cups for liquids and dry measuring cups for dry ingredients. A kitchen scale is great for getting consistent results time and time again. A trigger scoop is an inexpensive tool that results in similar sized cookies. They are also quicker and easier to use in my opinion compared to a regular spoon.
Good quality spatulas also make it easier to remove cookies from pans so that you don’t squish or break the cookies.
(photo above is my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies before refrigerating the dough)
7. SPACE OUT THOSE COOKIES
Leave plenty of room between your cookies on the baking sheets. Unless it’s a recipe you’ve made before it’s always hard to know how much each cookie will spread. So to prevent one giant cookie try to leave a couple of inches between each cookie unless specified differently in the recipe.
8. BAKE IN MIDDLE OF OVEN
If you can, bake your cookies in the middle of the oven for even baking and browning. If you need to put more than one baking sheet in at a time try to spread them out (but not too close to the top or bottom of your oven) and rotate the pans halfway through baking.
I like to not only rotate the pans between oven racks but also rotate the pan around to the other side of the oven. Be sure to not overcrowd your oven with too many baking sheets or pans at one time.
9. CAREFUL NOT TO OVERBAKE
Better to underbake slightly, then overbake or burn your cookies. Generally speaking, your cookies will cook a little more and firm up a bit after removing them from the oven. Make sure your oven is preheated and at the correct temperature before placing the cookies in the oven.
If you are finding that the baking times in recipes are way off from how long you need to bake, you can buy an inexpensive oven thermometer to make sure your oven is heating properly. Everyone’s oven is a bit different so always start checking your cookies on the earlier side of the baking time.
Also be sure to not open the door much, while the cookies are baking. You don’t want to let all the heat out and change the oven temperature. Every oven can be a little different including convection vs. conventional, gas vs. electric, newer models vs. older models, etc. so get to know your own oven and make adjustments as needed.
10. COOL PANS COMPLETELY
If you’re making multiple batches of cookies, cool your baking sheets or pans completely before placing more cookie doughs on the pans. If you don’t, the bottoms of your cookies can start to bake and brown too quickly.
To expedite cooling your pans, you can run cold water over the pans and dry fully.
11. COOL COOKIES PROPERLY
Once you take the cookies out of the oven, cool slightly, then cool completely on wire cooling racks unless the recipe says differently. Leaving the cookies on the baking sheet too long can result in overly browned cookie bottoms.
However, if you make bars, you may need to leave the cookies in the pan a little longer so you can remove the cookies without them following apart. Also be sure to cool the cookies completely before storing in a container.
Check out my Best Creative Cookies from Scratch for a great list of cookie recipes!