12 Secrets to Take Your Baking from Good to Great

Doesn't it seem like some people have a knack for turning out incredible baked goods every time? We're sharing the best baking tips from our kitchen so you'll have that baking knack, too!

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Chocolate cookies with colorful candies.
Shutterstock / beats1

Play with Add-Ins

The ratios in baking recipes are crucial, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be playful with some add-ins. For a chewy texture, sub in oats for up to a third of the flour. Make a blend of chocolate chip flavors in cookies, brownies and quick breads (I always add more than what the recipe calls for!) or add dried fruit or candy. Throw some rainbow sprinkles into cake and cookie batters, too.

Experiment with one of these favorite cookie recipes.

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Frosted fudge brownies
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Cut Bars Like a Pro

It’s easy to get nice, square slices of your brownies and bars if you cut them out of the pan. Use parchment paper to line the pan with extra extending over the sides to serve as handles. Lift the baked slab out of the pan and cut it into squares on a cutting board, slicing away hard or tapered edges.

Try this with the best brownies you haven’t baked (yet).

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Chocolate chip cookie dough balls on a baking sheet
Shutterstock / VDB Photos

Line Your Baking Pans

Lining your baking pans with parchment paper is more reliable than greasing and allows you to transfer cookies, breads and cakes without them tearing or falling apart. On a greased sheet, cookie bottoms can over-brown, but on parchment they bake perfectly. Cut parchment paper (or buy pre-cut sheets) to fit loaf pans and cake pans. Silpat silicone liners are another great option.

Learn more awesome benefits of baking with parchment paper.

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Baking Ingredients on Wooden Board
Shutterstock / Jiratthitikaln Maurice

Use Only Fresh Ingredients

We get it—those expiration dates sneak up on you! It’s tempting to use up old ingredients like spices, chocolate and flours, but the result will be lackluster or off-flavor. Using expired leaveners like baking powder, baking soda and yeast will also hurt the rise and texture of breads and cakes. Ditch ’em and replace with something fresh.

Keep your baking pantry organized with these tips.

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Farm Apple Pan Pie
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Use the Right Pie Plate

To get the most reliable browning of pie crust bottoms, metal pie pans are your best bet. The metal is thinner than glass and is a better conductor of heat. If you’re using a glass pie plate, position the oven rack down closer to the heating element so the bottom can cook through more easily. Ceramic pie plates are beautiful but poor conductors of heat, and more likely to give you a soggy bottomed pie.

Find all of the very best pie recipes right here.

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A stack of chocolate chip cookies on a plate.
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Bake for Less Time

Check the minimum bake time called for in your recipe and set your timer for 5-10 minutes less. Oven temps vary and you never know if your treats will bake faster! In addition to preventing dry or burned baked goods, some things like fudgy brownies and gooey chocolate chip cookies will be more delectable if taken out early.

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Materials of milk bread -- flour, egg, melted butter, yeast, salt, sugar and milk.
Shutterstock / Lonely Walker

Plan Ahead

Know your recipe and have the ingredients and equipment ready to go. Does the butter need to be chilled or softened? Take eggs out of the fridge in advance to warm up.

Consider the environment when choosing a recipe, too: hot, humid days are tough for making pastry dough, croissants or buttercream. Make sure you have a way to keep ingredients at the proper temp, or choose a different recipe like one of these no-bake desserts.

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Pretty young brunette looking into an oven and checking if the cake is already baked and ready

Be Patient

Don’t rush ahead with ingredients that are not the right temperature. Also, be patient with bake times, rising times for breads and cooling times before you slice into just-baked pies, loaves and bars.

Test Kitchen tips: Place cold eggs in a bowl of warm water, changing the water every 5 minutes until the eggs are no longer cold; microwave butter in 5 second bursts, rotating the stick, until it is softened.

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Putting mixed cookie ingredients into tray
Shutterstock / Silatip

Scoop Perfectly Sized Cookies

When cookies are “dropped by the tablespoonful,” you will likely end up with a range of cookie sizes. Get a spring-loaded cookie scoop and you will never look back. Not only will your cookies be uniform, the scoops make the work faster, neater and more fun. They’re great for portioning muffin batter, too.

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Measuring Cup with Flour
Ambient Ideas/Shutterstock

Perfect Your Cup of Flour

You can weigh flour like professionals, but if you’re accustomed to using measuring cups (and your recipes are written for measuring cups) then practice your dry measure. Here’s how to measure flour the right way. You’ll get it in no time!

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Aged female hands sifting flour by sieve in glass bowl.
Yolya Ilyasova/Shutterstock

Sift Your Dry Ingredients

For some, sifting flour and other dry ingredients may seem like an unnecessary step, but it’s a lot easier than trying to get lumps out of your mixed batters. Get in the habit of sifting flour, cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar to break up clumps before they hit your mixing bowl. And use your sifter to blend baking soda, baking powder and salt evenly into dry ingredients.

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Yeast dough
Shutterstock / Olga Markova

Don’t Rush the Rise

When it’s time to let bread dough rise, many home bakers put it in the warmest place possible to get speed up the process. Acclaimed British baker and author Paul Hollywood says this is a mistake. The best possible bread flavor is developed during a slow, natural rise. Leave your dough to rise in a room-temperature spot, and don’t rush it.

Don’t miss more of Paul Hollywood’s bread baking tips!

Nancy Mock
Nancy has shared her home cooking and baked goods with loved ones her entire life. Taking inspiration from her northeastern roots and Irish heritage, she shares her comfort food recipes on her site Hungry Enough to Eat Six. An expert in New England cuisine, Nancy enjoys delving into food history, viral recipes and regional dishes. Since becoming a Taste of Home contributor, she’s written about Fluffernutter sandwiches (a New England classic), re-created vintage Betty Crocker recipes, shared how to make “marry me chicken” and much more. When she’s not whipping up developing new recipes or testing cooking techniques, she loves finding vintage cookbooks from the last century to add to her growing collection.