1. Chill the cookie dough. Not all cookie dough requires the chilling step– and I normally determine that by how the cookie dough looks and feels. If the cookie dough is particularly sticky, wet, or greasy, chilling is in its best interest. And yours! Chilling cookie dough helps prevent spreading. The colder the dough, the less the cookies will over-spread into greasy puddles. You’ll have thicker, sturdier, and more solid cookies. Whenever I make cookies, I plan ahead and chill the cookie dough overnight. After chilling, let your cookie dough sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes (or more, depending on how long the dough has chilled) before rolling into balls and baking. Your cookie dough may be a solid rock, so letting it slightly loosen up helps.
2. Line your baking sheet. Use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Coating your baking sheet with nonstick spray or butter creates an overly greasy foundation, causing the cookies to spread. I always recommend a silicone baking mat because they grip onto the bottom of your cookie dough, preventing the cookies from spreading too much. These mats also promote even browning. Mats can get greasy! Here is how to clean your silicone baking mats.
3. My tall cookie trick. Roll your cookie dough into tall balls instead of perfectly round spheres. Taller balls of cookie dough ensure thicker cookies.
4. Cool your baking sheets. Never place cookie dough balls onto a hot baking sheet. Always room temperature baking sheets.
5. Quality baking sheets are a MUST. Did you know the color and material of your baking sheets greatly impacts the way your cookies turn out? Dark metal sheets typically over-bake cookies and thin flimsy cookie sheets = burnt bottoms. I’ve tested many brands and my favorite is USA Pan half sheet baking pan. They’re a wonderful size for baking a dozen cookies, have an edge so they’re great for other recipes like toffee, chex mix, and sheet cake. I suggest owning a few. I have 6!
6. Cool butter. When butter is too warm, it is too soft. When butter is too soft, your cookies will spread all over the baking sheets. Room temperature butter is actually cool to touch, not warm. When you press it, your finger will make an indent. Your finger won’t sink down into the butter, nor will your finger slide all around.
7. Correctly measure the flour. Cookies spread because the fat in the cookie dough melts in the oven. If there isn’t enough flour to hold that melted fat, the cookies will over-spread. Spoon and level that flour or, better yet, weigh your flour. If your cookies are still spreading, add an extra 2 Tablespoons of flour to the cookie dough.
8. Don’t overmix the cookie dough ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar for only as long as you need to, usually about 1-2 minutes. Don’t begin beating then leave the room with the mixer running. I’m guilty of this too! Whipping too much air into the dough will cause those cookies to collapse when they bake. I guarantee that.
9. One batch at a time, on the middle rack. I know that sounds a little crazy, but that’s how I bake every single cookie recipe. Here’s why: you get the best possible results when the oven only concentrates on that 1 batch. If you absolutely need to bake more than one batch at a time, rotate the baking sheets from the top rack to bottom rack a couple times through the baking process to encourage even baking. And turn the sheets around as well. Ovens have hot spots.
10. Freeze for 10 minutes. We’re coming full circle back to tip #1! After you roll the cookie dough into tall balls, freeze them for 10 minutes. Here’s how I do it: after I roll cookie dough into balls to bake them, I place the balls on a plate and put the entire plate in the freezer. Then I preheat the oven. This time in the freezer firms up the balls which may have gotten a little soft while handling with our warm hands. Remember: the colder the dough, the thicker the cookie.