8 Common Brownie Mistakes to Avoid
How do you know when brownies are done? How long do they take to cool? Knowing the answers will lead to your best-ever batch of homemade brownies.
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If you’ve ever put down the store-bought brownie mix and made brownies from scratch, you know that these chocolatey squares make for a deceptively difficult dessert.
While it’s hard to generalize across the many different types of brownie recipes—especially when you’re comparing a dense, fudgy brownie to a fluffy, cake-like one—steering clear of these brownie baking mistakes is a good start.
Overmixing the Batter
If you prefer fudgy brownies, mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined. Overmixing allows more air into the batter, which will give you lighter, cake-like brownies instead of dense, rich ones. (On the flip side, if you do want your brownies to be cakey, beat the eggs more.)
To help avoid overmixing, Taste of Home culinary assistant Mark Neufang recommends skipping the electric hand or stand mixer. Instead, he suggests using a whisk to combine the wet ingredients and then a silicone spatula to fold in the flour and other dry ingredients. Mix “just until the flour disappears,” Mark says.
Cutting in Right Away
We know it’s oh-so tempting to dive into a pan of just-cooked brownies. But if you’re looking to cleanly slice your brownies, let them cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into them. (Here’s how to cut brownies three different ways.)
For super clean-cut brownies, chill them in the refrigerator—or even freeze them overnight—before slicing, Mark says. First, let them cool completely, and then cover the pan with foil or plastic wrap and place it in the fridge or freezer. Check out our full guide to how to freeze brownies if you want to save them for later.
Using a Glass Baking Dish
Glass baking dishes are ideal for casseroles—like these recipes made in vintage Pyrex dishes—but they’re not the best for brownies. The thick glass makes it harder for your brownies to bake, which could leave them gummy and unevenly cooked. A dark pan, on the other hand, absorbs heat faster and can lead to the opposite problem.
To avoid any issues, stick with a light-colored metal pan.
Test Kitchen tip: If you only have dark metal pans, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees. Here are more handy secrets to making brownies better from our Test Kitchen.
Overcooking the Brownies
Generally, bake your brownies for the amount of time specified in the recipe—no longer. If you’re using a toothpick or cake tester to check if your brownies are done, similar to how you’d check a cake for doneness, here’s what to look for:
- For fudgy brownies: Take them out of the oven when the toothpick turns up streaks of batter and a few moist crumbs.
- For cake-like brownies: Bake them until you see just a few moist crumbs.
Brownies keep cooking after you remove them from the oven, so you’ll end up with an overcooked batch if you wait until there are no crumbs at all. Using an oven thermometer can also help you avoid overbaking because it’ll tell you the exact temperature of your oven.
Using Cold Eggs
Adding cold eggs to your brownie batter will make the other ingredients firm up, which can be disastrous for your batter. For the ideal batch, bake with room-temperature eggs and butter instead of tossing them into the mix directly from the fridge.
If your recipe calls for combining eggs with melted chocolate, butter and sugar, add the warm chocolate mixture to the eggs a little at a time—otherwise, it could cook the eggs.
Here are other common baking problems to avoid.
Using Low-Quality Chocolate
Whether you’re reaching for chocolate chips or a chopped chocolate bar, Mark suggests using the highest-quality chocolate you can afford. He likes Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. If you prefer semisweet, our Test Kitchen found that the best chocolate chips are Nestlé Tollhouse.
Test Kitchen tip: Check the ingredient list when you’re buying chocolate chips for baking. Ideally, you want chocolate that has minimal stabilizers and preservatives.
Deviating from the Recipe
There’s no one right way to make brownies, but keep in mind that recipes are formulated in very specific ways. A method that works in one brownie recipe may not work in another.
Even the general tips we’ve listed here—like using room-temperature eggs—can sometimes be broken when the recipe specifically calls for it. For example, in a recipe that calls for heavily whipping eggs with a stand mixer, it may direct you to use cold eggs since the whipping will warm them.
In short, always defer to the recipe that you’re following.
Sticking to the Same Recipe
While it’s certainly not a “mistake” to stick to one tried-and-true recipe, you can learn a lot from trying out different brownie recipes.
For instance, one of celebrity chef Alton Brown’s brownie recipes says to remove the brownies from the oven when they’re almost done, let them cool for 15 minutes and then bake them again for about 30 minutes. The cooling time allows the temperature to even out, reducing the discrepancy between the soft inner pieces and firmer edge bites.
(Alton Brown’s chewy chocolate chip cookies have an unconventional twist, too!)