What makes cookies thick, fat, fluffy, and delicious? And why do some cookies come out flat, thin, and sad? Especially if you followed the recipe ‘to a T’ or if you’ve made them before with no problems!
Well if you’ve followed me for a while then you know I like to dive into the science of baking in a fun and visual way.
It’s absolutely shocking how such simple variances in the baking process can result in such massive differences in the final product. Today I want to dive into how to bake THICK cookies that stay nice and fat even after cooling. Read through this whole article to get a sense of why your cookies come out unintentionally flat. I hope you find these tips helpful!
The key to thick cookies: keep cool!
Generally speaking, the warmer the dough is when it enters the oven the flatter the cookies will bake. So for thick cookies:
Use butter at a COOL room temperature
Perfect room-temperature butter for cookie baking should:
- Give slightly when pressed with your finger but still hold its shape
- Be flexible without breaking or cracking
- Is at a cool room temperature of about 67°F
Be careful if microwaving butter to bring it to room temperature. Use 50% power to ensure you don’t overheat it. If you do, return it to the fridge until it’s perfect.
Chill your cookie dough
Chilling your cookie dough for at least 24 hours or up to 72 hours does magical things to your baked cookies. Think of this like a “marinating” period. Not only will the flavors intensify, the texture will improve and your cookies will bake up nice and thick and even chewy. This is due in part to the fact that the flour will have a longer period to absorb moisture within the dough. Give it a try!
Briefly freeze your cookie dough balls
Take your sheet of cookie dough balls and pop it in the freezer while your oven preheats, about 20 minutes. This will help prevent excess cookie spreading so you get nice fat thick cookies. I’d especially recommend this if it’s a hot day, or if you’re baking multiple trays of cookies one at a time. As the first batch bakes, the remaining dough sitting on the counter will continue to get warmer and warmer resulting in thinner cookies. You can even pop your bowl of dough in the fridge in between batches to prevent it from getting too warm.
Scoop tall mounds of cookie dough
Similarly to the tip above, shaping tall mounds of dough instead of balls or discs before baking can prevent too much spreading.
If you live in a humid environment, you may have problems with cookies spreading and flattening too much. Especially in the summer months. Even if it’s not a particularly humid day when you go to make cookies, the moisture can actually seep into ingredients like flour and remain there for a while.
I live in Phoenix which is a very dry climate.
So a cookie dough recipe that turns out perfectly for me here may end up a little too “moist” and flat for those of you in humidity.
Add more flour
Start with 2 tablespoons extra flour and go from there. When I’m unsure about how a tweak will affect my cookies, I’ll just bake off a few cookies to start out with. Let them cool then see what if the dough might need even more flour. Play around till you get it right! Then you’ll have an idea of what works in your kitchen specifically.
This is not my favorite ingredient. However, where butter contains about 15 to 20 percent water, shortening is pure fat. This will reduce spread. If you’d like to get the best of both worlds, the delicious taste of butter and the texture of shortening, then use half and half in a recipe.
Don’t over-beat the butter and sugar!
This can incorporate too much air into the dough. So much that the dough can’t hold onto all that air, the structure will weaken, and the cookies will collapse as they bake or cool. Over-beating can also warm up the butter which increases spread.
So if you’ve ever had cookies bake up perfectly in the oven, then deflate as they cool, try beating your butter and sugar for only 2 minutes. Cookies don’t need as much creaming time as cake.
Use less granulated sugar and more brown sugar
This might seem contrary to the above section since brown sugar has more moisture than granulated sugar. But cookies made with all granulated sugar will actually spread out more than cookies made with all brown sugar. So feel free to tweak the ratio of brown to white sugar in the recipe you’re using to help reduce spread and increase thickness.
Pay attention to your baking pans!
Take a look at the picture below. Each cookie came from the same exact batch of dough, baked for the same amount of time, at the same temperature. The only difference was the baking sheet each cookie was baked on. Crazy right?!
If you want to check out my full Best Baking Pans article, click here. But when it comes to baking thick cookies, here are my baking pan tips:
Use quality baking pans
Thin, flimsy, or cheap baking pans won’t conduct heat efficiently. This can negatively impact the texture of your cookies. These are my favorite half sheet pans to bake with. If you’re still having issues with uneven cookie baking, try baking just one pan at a time in the center rack of the oven.
Allow your pans to cool completely
Never place cookie dough on a pan that’s still hot from the oven. Always allow your baking sheets to cool completely between batches. You can speed this up by running your pan under cool water (wearing oven mitts!). Or, just invest in multiple quality baking pans so you can whip up batches quickly.
Never grease your baking pan
I always use parchment paper to bake cookies. I personally prefer it over silicone baking mats, but either will do. Just never use nonstick spray when baking cookies. And if you’re making multiple batches on the same pan, clean off any grease from the previous batch that might remain on the pan. Excess grease will result in excess spreading.
Check your leaveners
Did you add too much or expired baking powder and/or baking soda? Too much chemical leavener can cause the cookies to deflate, and expired leavener won’t work at all to raise the cookies. Also, baking soda specifically aids in spreading and browning. Learn more about the differences between baking soda and baking powder here.
Make sure all of your butter is incorporated and there are no pockets hidden at the base of your mixing bowl! If I’m not careful about scraping down the sides and bottom of my mixing bowl, even if I’m using one of those paddle attachments that scrapes as it goes, I usually end up with a few cookies from the bottom of the bowl that look like they exploded out one side in the oven. This is due to pockets of unincorporated butter!
How to rescue flat cookies
If your cookies turned into absolutely flat puddles of nothing while baking, well that’s impossible to rescue. Chop them up and mix them into ice cream.
If your cookies turned out just a little more flat than you’d like, simply grab a spatula or a spoon and press the edges into the center to thicken. Do this as soon as they come out of the oven while they’re still hot and moldable. You can also do this for any misshapen cookies to make them perfectly round.
My Favorite Thick Cookie Recipes
- Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Chai Sugar Cookies
- Soft Batch Double Chocolate Cookies
More Cookie Customization Tips
Check out my free guide to learn more about how to customize your cookies to make them thicker, chewier, cakier, or whatever your heart desires!
I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)
© Handle the Heat - handletheheat.com
Join the Handle the Heat Community
Instead of digging through cookbooks and magazines and searching the internet for amazing recipes, subscribe to Handle the Heat to receive new recipe posts delivered straight to your email inbox. You’ll get all the latest recipes, videos, kitchen tips and tricks AND my *free* Cookie Customization Guide (because I am the Cookie Queen)!