8 Steps for Better Cookie Baking

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Bake someone happy today. Include cookies. And make it easy on yourself with these eight simple steps to better cookie baking.

oatmeal cookies on a white plate with glass of milk

Pictured: Cranberry Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

C is for cookie. It’s good enough for me.

Truer words were never spoken. Who doesn’t have fond memories of the Cookie Monster gobbling down cookies in a flurry of crumbs?

And who doesn’t melt when the baker chick hands Harold Crick a warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie?

Cookies are where it’s at, people.

They are simple to make, freeze beautifully, and are guaranteed to make people happy. While store-bought cookies have certainly improved over the last few years, homemade cookies are almost always better.

So does baking cookies with your kids.

Ideally, if you’ve got a batch of cookies in the freezer, you’ve got everything you need for quick treats to pack in lunches, share with friends, or commiserate over a bad day with.

Cookies make life better.

And accordingly, it’s in your best interests to perfect your cookie baking game.

girl's head reaching for chocolate chip cookies on glass stand

Pictured: Gramma John’s Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

How do I bake the perfect cookie?

The definition of the “perfect” cookie is a little nebulous. Some folks prefer vanilla sugar cookies while others demand chocolate. Some favor crunchy cookies, while other people choose soft and chewy.

That said, you increase your chances of baking the perfect cookie by following the recipe directions carefully, and considering the following tips:

8 Steps for Better Cookie Baking

sticks of butter softening on cutting board

1. Soften the butter.

Oh, it’s such a pain to make cookies with hard butter. And, yes, butter is in order. It makes everything better. For best pricing, buy it in bulk for about $2.50/pound at Costco or on sale at the grocery store.

You can freeze butter, so don’t hesitate to stock up when you see a great sale. (And yes, west of the Rockies, butter comes in short, stumpy sticks like those pictured.)

Leave a package of butter on the counter overnight before you want to bake. This will soften it so that it’s ready for using in your recipe.

If it’s salted, it will stay good at room temperature. Lots of baking recipes call for unsalted butter, but you can fudge on this point. Just adjust the salt in your recipe if need be.

If your butter is not soft enough to “cream” easily, nuke it in the microwave for 10 to 30 seconds at 10% power. This should speed up the softening process.

oven set to preheat

2. Preheat the oven.

You don’t really need to preheat for casseroles and savory dishes, but for baked goods, yes, the preheat step is necessary. It matters when you’ve got chemical reactions going on between leavenings and liquids, so don’t cheat on this one.

Get an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is calibrated properly. Some ovens run too hot or too cold, so you’ll need to adjust for this.

baking ingredients butter sticks and mixer

3. Buy ingredients in bulk.

If you know you’re going to do a lot of baking, particularly at the holidays, build a stockpile from the baking aisle, making sure you have enough flour, sugar, and leavenings to make many batches.

These items are typically on sale during the winter and spring holidays, so feel free to buy a lot if you’ve got the room and know you’ll use it. Check “best-by dates” to ensure best texture and flavor.

Butter and flour can be frozen to extend their shelf life.

box of parchment paper and silpat mat

4. Line your baking sheets.

For easy clean up, line your baking sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper. You can reuse a sheet of parchment 2-3 times and then chuck it.

The silpat mats can be washed and reused indefinitely. Both serve as an excellent measure to prevent burnt and stuck-on-the-cookie-sheet cookies.

Lining the tray also makes it easy for you to quickly transfer each batch to the baking sheet and to the cooling rack. Just lift the paper or mat and transfer the whole unit. While one batch is baking, you can get the next batch ready on a mat or piece of parchment.

You won’t have to wash baking sheets when you line them! So nice!

cookie dough balls with chocolate chunks on silpat mat

5. Make sure the goodie shows.

Sometimes, the chocolate, M&Ms, or nuts hide under a layer of dough. That’s not a bad thing, but the finished product is much more appealing with that goodie showing. Add one or two bits to the cookie balls prior to baking.

(If you don’t already have a quick-release cookie scoop, get some. They make cookie baking so easy for both adults and kids!)

binder clip holding parchment paper on baking pan

6. Use parchment paper and binder clips for bar cookies.

Even if you’re making bar cookies, be sure to line the 9×13 baking dish with parchment. Cookie removal and clean up will be a breeze!

Binder clips will hold the paper in place until you get your dough or batter in the pan. Then remove them prior to baking.

You’d be surprised what office supplies work well in the kitchen.

cutting bar cookies with knife on parchment paper

7. Trim the ugly edges.

It doesn’t matter if you’re making brownies, magic bars, or these yummy Pepita Cookie Bars. The edges sometimes get ugly. Trim those off so you can cut prettier, sharp-edged bars.

You get to eat the edges. Ahem.

stack of chocolate chunk cookies and cups of milk on red tray

Pictured: Baby Cakes

8. Serve on a tray with milk.

Cookies on a tray with a glass of milk, mug of cocoa, or cup of hot tea are so inviting and comforting. And that’s what cookies should be. They should welcome you home and bring you comfort on a hard day.

So bake a lot of cookies and enjoy them with your peeps!

Ease your holiday stress!

Speaking of cookies…. want to make the holiday season a little brighter? Ease your seasonal stress by planning in advance how you will handle your holiday kitchen.

Take the Celebrate Simply workshop and get ready to jingle all the way.

Learn more here.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Kimberly says

    You can safely leave unsalted butter out at room temperature too. (In European countries it is also not uncommon to leave eggs and butter out of the fridge entirely). As a former pastry chef, I would suggest that unless a recipe indicates otherwise, it is best to have all ingredients room temperature (if you are not comfortable leaving eggs out until they are room temperature, you can always put the uncracked eggs into a bowl of hot tap water for a few minutes).

    • Thanks for the tip. Somewhere I read that unsalted butter had to be refrigerated. The restaurant I worked at in college was fastidious about that. Good to know. And thanks for the tip on the eggs!

  2. Paula says

    I just made a super sized batch of monster cookies with red & green M&M’s for Christmas – so good! I have yet to use parchment paper. I’ve never thought about how one could lift them all up and slide them off at once. And sometimes finding that metal spatula I only use for removing cookies off of a cookie sheet is like a “Where’s Waldo” in my house. I also only use a cookie scoop (unless for shaped cookies that have to be rolled in sugar or something crazy like that). Also I found a perfect size scoop for my muffins as well – and only use that. We have five children and people think I’m nuts for making 100 or more muffins/cookies at a time – but hey, they fly off the shelf!! Thanks for the tips Jessica & all you do!

    • LOVE parchment paper. Wish it were a little cheaper, though.

      • Karen J says

        I get my parchment paper at the dollar store-where it only costs a dollar 🙂
        If I’m really feeling wealthy and need to add something to an Amazon order, I’ll buy the Reynolds pre-cut and folded parchment paper. It’s around four dollars a box, but very, very convenient.

        • It is very convenient! I bought that once and was really surprised. That’s the kind of thing to buy on clearance maybe or Grocery Discount.

  3. Michele says

    I tried a different way to be more organized with my Christmas baking. I designated one day for making the dough and the next day for baking. Much more effective use of time.

    • I did that this year, too. I made the dough one night and three days later we baked. It was great! Made clean up not so overwhelming.

  4. Tammy says

    My cookie baking tip: freeze or chill the dough before baking. When I do this my cookie are so much better. If the butter is too warm, the cookie will spread out and be really thin. Also, Aldi has parchment paper this Christmas. I believe it was less than $3/roll.

  5. Kelly Cook says

    My cookies almost always flatten out too much, what am I doing wrong?

  6. sona says

    Wondered where your link was so you could get credit for the Silpat pads I want to purchase?

    • Thanks so much! Any Amazon link on the site will generate a referral cookie, but I’ve corrected the broken link up in #4 above to make it easier. Thank you!

      • sona says

        You are welcome. I see the link goes to Amazons pads rather than the silpat. Have you found them to be as good? I always check the negative reviews etc. I see the silpat is made in France, the other in China and just wondered at the quality difference, even though I am always up for saving money! 🙂

        • I have used both Silpat and a knock-off. I didn’t notice a difference, but both did tear after some time. Could have been user error. Not sure.

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