Ten Things Cookie Bakers Really Ought to Know

Tips for Cookie Baking

By Ken Haedrich
December 11, 2020
10 Cookie Tips

Who doesn’t love cookies? Baking them is almost as much fun as eating them. Almost. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has ten tips that all cookie bakers should know. And what better time of year to turn on that oven?

1. Organize! Clutter is your worst enemy. You can’t bake if the counter is a mess, the bottle of vanilla extract is hiding, and there’s no place to put the cooling rack. Clear your work area before you begin, and get out all the ingredients. Put each one away as you use it, so you don’t forget what you’ve used. Rinse bowls and utensils as you go.

2. Read the recipe through before you do anything. As you read, check your supply of staples (flour, sugar, butter) and watch for any unusual ingredients, steps, or equipment that might trip you up. For example, if the dough has to chill for 12 hours, you should know this before you start, in case you need the cookies by noon today.


3. Insist on good fresh ingredients. Spices lose their flavor over time; if you’ve had them around since last December, replace them. Use fresh local eggs if you can find them. Unsalted (“sweet”) butter is preferable to salted; it tastes cleaner, sweeter, and fresher than salted butter—and often it is. Because salt acts as a preservative, salted butter can be warehoused longer than unsalted.

4. Butter needs to be at room temperature, not too cold or your cookies will be too dense. If you forget to soften your butter ahead of time, cut the stick(s) into thin pats and place them on a room-temperature plate. Leave in a warmish spot for 10 minutes or so, until the butter yields to gently finger pressure. Not too soft or it won’t hold up and make a greasy dough instead of a fluffy dough. Even if a recipe calls for softened butter, it doesn’t have to be squishy soft.


5. When a recipe calls for toasted nuts (incidentally, that’s 8 to 10 minutes in a 350 degree F oven), make sure they’re thoroughly cooled before adding them to dough. Adding hot nuts to a dough could melt the butter and drastically change the texture of your cookies, probably not for the better.

6. If you don’t already own them, buy yourself a couple of good baking sheets. Thin, flimsy sheets don’t diffuse heat well or evenly and can result in scorched cookie bottoms. Tinned steel and anodized aluminum are two good material choices. Neither is inexpensive, but they’ll last. Look for them in gourmet kitchen shops. While you’re there, invest in a heavy-duty stainless steel cooling rack that’s large enough to hold 2 to 3 dozen cookies. Letting your cookies cool directly on the hot pans can lead to over-browning on the bottoms as well as soggy cookies.

7. Generally speaking, bake only one sheet of cookies at a time, on the center rack. This allows for the most-even baking. 

8. If you own only one cookie sheet, make sure to let your sheet trays completely cool it to room temperature before baking another match on them. This prevents the butter from melting out of the dough and puddling up on the sheet.

9. As a rule, let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes, just long enough to firm them slightly and make it easier to slide them off the sheet and onto a rack.

10. And here’s a shipping tip! Most cookies ship well. For best results, however, choose a relatively firm or dense type of cookie. Wrap cookies individually in waxed paper and pack them snugly in a tin. Pack the tin inside a bigger box, cushioned on all sides with additional waxed paper. And it never hurts to be nice to the postal clerk.


Cooking With the Almanac

Enjoy this video demonstrating some of the cooking baking tips—and get into the spirit!

Ready? Browse Our Delicious Cookie Recipes

Now see some delicious cookie recipes and enjoy trying out your baking skills!


This page was first published in 2009 and is regularly updated.


Reader Comments

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cookie advice

I ALWAYS take the butter and sugar and cream/beat the HECK outta them! Until they are truly creamy and fluffy, then I add the egg - if the recipe calls for it- and beat that into it as well. Cookies always come out a little lighter. I do this for any recipe that uses these ingredients cookies, cake etc.

hi if i cut down on the

hi if i cut down on the quantity of chocolate chip in the recipe will it make it soft cookie..how to prevent too soft cookie. pls help. also, how freesing the dough affect the cookies.

Cutting down on chocolate

The Editors's picture

Cutting down on chocolate will not make the cookies softer. If you want to make soft cookies, use shortening instead of butter.

Can you tell me the texture

Can you tell me the texture difference when using either butter, margarine or vegetable shortening/oil? My husband likes soft cookies and I need a good basic soft cookie dough recipe. Help!

If your husband likes soft

The Editors's picture

If your husband likes soft cookies, we suggest you use vegetable shortening.

...I laugh to myself that

...I laugh to myself that many of the cookie tips I having been doing naturally over the years....it made feel so good inside like my cookies !!! I still enjoy making my cookies from scratch and other foods !!! Enjoy !!!

Do not store any "food" in

Do not store any "food" in egg cartons. Even egg producers will tell you, they can contain salmonella from broken eggs. Food producers now say NOT to taste uncooked batter because of those concerns, and more cooks are coming down with food sicknesses who do taste uncooked batters -- particularly store-bought cookie dough, etc. Some have died of it! Personally, I have always tasted my cookie (and even cake) batters. But today is different! Also, if any recipe calls for soy flour -- DO NOT TASTE! It TASTES hideous! But once it's cooked, it's good!...... Tips from a longtime cook and former food editor for a small-town newspaper.

Save margarine tubs, oatmeal

Save margarine tubs, oatmeal boxes, cardboard containers from chips, cereal boxes .. Anything that can be used to protect cookies for storage and shipping .. Think how things are packaged ... Columns of crackers in waxed paper tubes in boxes ... Put round cookies in agg cartons .. Use plastic grocery bags to cushion ..

These are great tips, they've

These are great tips, they've really improved my at-home cookie baking. I especially appreciate Rennie's question, because I thought I would never master high altitude baking. Of course, right when I did start to get the hang of it we moved to a lower altitude. But at least I know I can do it, now! Thiago | http://www.cookiefactoryspringfield.com

Anyone got any tips for high

Anyone got any tips for high altitude baking of cookies. I was once the queen of cookies but we moved to a mountainous area a little over a year ago and I have not been able to make a decent cookie. They always turn out very flat. Taste is ok but they look hideous. I have not run across any cookie recipe that has adjustments for baking cookies. Any help would be really appreciated. davren2@gmail.com

Hi there. I found this site

Hi there. I found this site that should help you in adjusting your ingredients for the altitude you are at. I hope it helps.;


When my children were small,

When my children were small, we'd spend many hours every Christmas season baking and decorating sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies to share as gifts and to enjoy ourselves. Before baking, I'd use a plastic drinking straw to poke a hole in the top of the cookie. Once baked, I'd string with Christmas ribbon and hang on the tree. This made the Christmas tree safer and more accessible to even the smallest children in our home.

I read a tip somewhere, maybe

I read a tip somewhere, maybe a cookie cookbook, that said to take a dish towel and wipe down your cookie sheets between each batch that it will help prevent the cookies from sticking.I've been doing it since I read it all those years ago and it works great! No sprays needed.

Some excellent tips! By the

Some excellent tips! By the way, that tip regarding organizing your ingredients before you start and putting away each ingredient as soon as you've used it applies to baking ANYTHING, not just cookies. :)

If you forget to soften your butter in advance and you're in a hurry, nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds. (Caution! If your butter stick is wrapped in foil, remove the wrapper BEFORE you put it in the microwave, otherwise you'll get arcing, you know, that scary flash of "lightning bolts.") Another way to save a bit of time is to mix together as many of the dry ingredients in advance as possible and store the mixture in a storage container with a lid. (I use large margarine containers that have been cleaned out.)

If you prefer your cookies soft and chewy rather than crispy and crumbly, as I do, bake them at 300 degrees for about 25 minutes.

I'm not a big fan of using parchment paper myself. I prefer using my trusty Baker's Joy baking spray. (PAM has their own version of Baker's Joy now, but it's more expensive.) I'm not so lazy that I either can't or won't clean off a baking sheet.

If you don't have enough

If you don't have enough cooling racks use a clean grocery bag ripped open to lie flat. I've been doing this for the last 30 years and it works great.

Try packing cookies in

Try packing cookies in popped/unbuttered popcorn. When your package arrives the popcorn will be stale (but good for birds) and the cookies will be in good shape.

Silicone baking sheets for

Silicone baking sheets for cookies are THE BOMB !! GET ONE and you will NEVER go back to greasing and/or scrubbing cookie off the baking sheets.

This is true. These are

This is true. These are awesome!!

I have discovered that you

I have discovered that you can actually make your cookies in advance, but not bake them. This works well with firm dough type cookies. I put them on the pan but instead of putting them in the oven I freeze them and then put them into freezer bags. Then I take them out when I am ready to bake them and put them back on the pan and into the oven. Fresh baked cookies but without the mess and stress at the holidays. We make the dough on rainy days during the summer. I also do this with my apple pies. Line the pie plate with foil, then the bottom crust, add the pie filling and top with the second crust, then freeze. Remove the whole thing from the pie plate, wrap well and return to the freezer. When ready to bake, remove all the wrapping, pop it back into the pie plate and bake. Yum!

I love this time saver too!

I love this time saver too! I also cut up small pieces of parchment paper to insert between each frozen cookie before storing them in the freezer bag. That helps facilitate pulling them apart when preparing to bake them. And the parchment pieces can be stored in the empty freezer bag (I just put it back into the freezer) to be used for the next batch of cookies.

Because my parents always

Because my parents always bought apples by the bushel from a nearby orchard each fall, my mother learned how to bake her wonderful apple pies and freeze them (and my Dad, who loved those pies helped by peeling apples for her!). She baked them just as usual at 425 degrees for the first 10 minutes, then reduced the temperature and baked them half the prescribed remaining time, usually 20 minutes (40 minutes total). After freezing, simply return the pie to the oven at 350 degrees and bake until warmed! They were delicious! Now that she's gone, I try to imitate how Mom made her pies!

Along with organization,

Along with organization, consider this tip. I put newspaper under the wire cooling racks. It keeps things more tidy, and you can throw out the paper when you are done.