14 Tips for Baking Perfect Cookies, from an Expert

Updated: Jan. 06, 2023

Tie up those apron strings! Our food editor is sharing her baking tips for the best cookies ever.

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Bowl of peanutbutter kiss cookies with another bowl of ice cream
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Start simple

New to baking? You might want to try out an easy cookie recipe before working your way to complex confections like ribbons, windmills and rugelach. These simple Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies are a practically foolproof favorite! Master this batch and you’ll be warmed up for your complete cookie spread.

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metal measure cup of white flour for baking
Shutterstock / farbled

Measure ingredients precisely

Baking is a science. When making cookies, you’ll want to measure the sugar, flour and other mix-ins as carefully as possible. Use a digital scale (here’s why) and follow these tips for measuring ingredients. Really, it makes a difference.

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generic baking supplies in kitchen enviro
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Bring butter and eggs to room temperature

Use room temperature ingredients unless otherwise noted. This is especially important when you’re asked to cream butter and sugar. Room temperature ingredients are best for creaming as it helps incorporate more air into the dough, and that will help your cookies rise. Forgetting to pull out your butter ahead of time could lead to dense, flat cookies. If you’re ever in a jam, turn to these methods on how to soften butter quickly.

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Person using a hand mixer to cream butter and sugar
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Cream correctly

Cream the room-temperature butter and sugar until completely smooth so the cookies rise to puffed-up perfection. You’ll know it’s ready when the mixture is smooth and the sugar has dissolved. Here’s more on how to cream butter and sugar the right way.

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Person using a wooden spoon to mix ingredients in a bowl
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Don’t overmix the dough

When adding in dry ingredients, be sure to mix until just combined. Overmixing can toughen your cookie dough. (Read: crumbly, flat cookies.) A good rule of thumb is to stop mixing before you think you should.

(For more tips, check out our cookie baking guide.)

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Hands open the oven in the kitchen

Prep your oven

Before you bake, test the temperature of your oven with an oven thermometer to see if it’s accurate. Many ovens don’t heat properly. If your oven temperature is incorrect, you could end up with an undercooked or burnt-bottom cookie. Also, don’t forget to preheat the oven before popping in your cookie tray!

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Person using a spatula to pick up sugar cookies
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Give ’em some space

Unless otherwise directed, place cookies 1-2 inches apart on baking sheets. The extra room will help them bake and brown evenly (and not morph together into a giant supercookie!)

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Tray of cookies coming out of the oven
Dervin Witmer/Shutterstock

Manage oven placement

When using a single baking sheet, put it on the middle rack. If you are using more than one baking sheet, rotate pans halfway through the baking time. Swap the location of the pans in the oven and rotate 180 degrees for an even double-batch bake.

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Sugar Cookies on a Cooling Rack
Antonia Lorenzo/Shutterstock

Chill out

Cookies finished baking? Let ’em cool for 1-2 minutes on their baking sheets before transferring to a rack. They’ll continue to bake and firm up on the hot pan. (In the culinary world we call this carryover cooking). Psst! Be sure cookies are completely cool before you decorate or store them.

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Australian oatmeal cookies close-up on a baking sheet on the table.
Shutterstock / AS Food studio

Don’t rush a hot pan

Let baking sheets air-cool completely before starting on a second batch. Rinsing baking sheets in cold water can cause them to warp.

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wax paper roll
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Think ahead

Decorating your cookies with sprinkles, icing or powdered sugar? Cover your workspace with waxed paper before you start. This’ll make for easy cleanup (even when the kids are involved!)

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Child's hand reaching for a piece of chocolate brownie stored in a glass cookie jar.

Opt for smart storage

I like to store cookies between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container. Keep chewy and crisp cookies in separate containers, as the moisture from chewy cookies will soften the crisp ones. To keep your cookies in tip-top shape, store them without the decorations. You can always whip up a batch of icing later.

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Freezer full of ice cubes and frozen food
Shutterstock / PJjaruwan

Save them for a rainy day

For longer storage, wrap cookies in plastic wrap and stack in an airtight container. Cookies can keep in the freezer for up to three months. Just thaw at room temperature when you’re craving something sweet!

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Wire rack filled with frosted sugar cookies
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Remember, practice makes perfect

No one is born a perfect baker. The secret to perfect cookies is practice. So, tie that apron and get started!