Why Are My Cookies Flat?

Have you ever had the super sad experience of woefully flat cookies? Paper-thin, oily cookies, when you’d kill for a toothsome, chewy-middled, crisp edged chocolate chip cookie just like your best friend Beth’s mom makes? I’ve known some pretty great bakers for whom flat cookies are all that’s ever produced, even with famous recipes.

Having learned the chemistry magic of baking perfect cookies in a food science classroom, I’d like to pass on a few tidbits to prevent the sorrowful flat cookie fate.

Why Do Cookies Go Flat?

Here’s exactly how to prevent flat cookies:

1. Refrigerate your dough: let it chill for at least a couple of hours, or overnight, before baking. This is the single most useful tip! Doing this prevents the butter from melting in the oven before the starch has time to set. It also improves the flavour. Or, if you’re impatient, scoop the dough balls onto the pan, then stick it in the freezer till the dough is cool and firm (about 15 min).

2. Preheat your oven: completely preheated, no impatience here! For the same butter-melting reason as #1. Also, make sure your oven temperature is accurate… for the sake of all your baking! If you think it may be off, buy a cheap oven thermometer.

3. Cool your pans: run baking sheets under cold water for a minute between batches. Never ever ever ever ever put dough onto a warm cookie sheet. Again, butter melts too quick, cookies spread too fast.

4. Make sure you’re following the recipe correctly: measure or weigh ingredients meticulously. Make sure you’re not adding too much butter, which can happen if you just use the ruler-guide on the foil wrapper. A scale is the best option for accuracy – a cup of butter is 8 oz/227 grams. Don’t add too much liquid in the form of egg – typically recipes use large eggs; if you use extra-large you’ll have too much. And don’t be tempted to just add more flour! This makes cakey, not chewy, cookies.

If flat cookies aren’t an issue for you, two tips to take your already-perfect CCCs to a whole ‘nother level: the best possible vanilla extract and high quality chocolate. My current favourites are Los Cinco Soles vanilla extract (I could drink it straight from the bottle) and TCHO’s incredible, silky-rich 66% baking chocolate drops. From these two ingredients your best cookies ever could truly be produced.

More Popular Cookie Recipes

Now that you’re armed with this scientific cookie know-how, why not try one of these popular cookies recipes:

Toffee & Milk Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Lemon Pistachio White Chocolate Cookies

Giant Healthy “Kitchen Sink” Cookies

Best-Ever Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

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[…] This is a sturdy cookie dough that holds chunky fillings well, and typically can be made without chilling. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen and how soft your butter was, you can opt to chill the dough if you want a thicker cookie after baking the first batch. Here’s my guide to avoiding flat cookies. […]

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