One reason cookies spread: quick tip

Why oh why oh WHY did my beautiful sheet of chocolate chip cookies turn into a big, ugly blob as they baked?

Well, there are several reasons cookies spread.

A touch too much sugar, for one – sugar is hygroscopic; it absorbs liquid. When you’re preparing your dough, it may LOOK just fine (as the sugar is holding onto the liquid); but once it bakes, and the sugar releases that liquid it had been hoarding, watch out for those puddles!

Another less common reason is scooping cookie dough onto a hot baking sheet, or one that’s overly greased. The dough hits the hot/slick surface, and starts to spread immediately; the additional, planned-for spread in the oven is exacerbated by this head start.

Frank, our veteran chef and test kitchen baker, recently sent me photos from an experiment on cookie spread he’d just conducted.

Says Frank, “We’re working on different aspects of cookie baking, and thought you might enjoy these test results. The primary difference between these two trays [photos below] is the baking temperature.

IMG_0655

One reason cookies spread: oven temperature

“The failed tray baked at 350°F for 14 minutes.

IMG_0656

“For this practically perfect tray, we dropped the temperature to 300°F, and extended the baking time: 22 minutes for chewy, 30 minutes for crisp.

“This is a good example of showing temperature as ingredient.”

Why, exactly, does baking temperature affect cookie spread? And what can you do about it? Click To Tweet

Because the fat in cookies is a big part of their structure, prior to baking. Scoop the dough onto the baking sheet, and the fat is at least partially responsible for them holding their shape.

Once those cookies hit the oven, though, the fat starts to soften and melt. And the hotter the oven, the more quickly it melts. If the oven’s hot enough, the fat melts before the cookies set. And since their flour/liquid matrix hasn’t yet had a chance to harden, the cookies spread – becoming those dreaded cookie blobs.

This also might be one answer to a common question we hear on our baker’s hotline: “Grandma gave me the recipe herself; why don’t my cookies look like hers?”

The quirkiness of different ovens, especially those from different generations of bakers, notes Frank, is “one of the many dangers of believing that a handwritten heirloom recipe must be correct.”

Do you have a favorite cookie recipe that spreads too much? Try lowering the temperature, and baking the cookies longer; this trick just may give you the perfect treat you’re after.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Chilling can help quite a bit with spreading, this is just one reason it can happen and how to help with that. ~ MJ

    2. Joleen Dibben

      My problem is just the opposite! I’ve checked the oven temperature which is 350 degrees. Mine come out like little haystacks. All cookie recipes–not just chocolate chip. They are usually done a minute or two before the temperature the recipe states.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      For this problem, patting the dough a bit to flatten it will help your cookies avoid being haystacks. Barb@KAF

    4. melissa

      I always chill my choc. chip cookie dough several hrs. or over night before baking. This ensures a nice chunky cookie and not a flat as a pancake cookie. I also have a really nice recipe I like.

    5. Barbara

      I had asked for the original 6oz. recipe from Nestles (since it wasn’t just 1/2 of the recipe on the 12 oz. package of chocolate chips ) and they also sent recipes for chewy, crispy, cake type, etc. BUT the point I wanted to make was that the recipe they sent stated to ADD 2 Tablespoons of flour when omitting the nuts to prevent spreading… not printed on the package though.

    6. Lucinda

      I have tried chilling the dough. I have tried turning the oven down, baking longer and using parchment paper, I have even bought fresh ingredients like baking powder and soda and new flour. Nothing works. My mother in law and I used to make our holiday cookies together at her house, they were perfect. Since her passing I do it. My cookies are all flat! They taste good, but they are not party ready cookies.

    7. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like you might need to use a different recipe to achieve the result you’re looking for, as the one you’re using might be designed to produce a more flat result. We hope you’ll consider giving our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE(2253) so we can help you troubleshoot and come up with a plan for how to make cookies that are as delicious as your mother-in-law’s. Kye@KAF

    8. vivar

      Huh, I thought the reason they spread this time was because I baked them at too low a temp – 300 instead of 325. Is there any difference if using Mexican butter? I weighed it out to be sure it was the correct amount. Would there be a difference in the flour here?

    9. The Baker's Hotline

      While lowering the oven temperature for this specific cookie recipe (know as a “formula,” to test kitchen bakers,) helped control the spread, some other recipes may actually respond inversely and spread less when baked at hotter temperature. Baking temperature is just one of many factors that contribute to spread, so you may need to experiment with chilling, as well as baking time and temperature to achieve just the right amount of spreading and the final texture of your cookie. Kye@KAF

    10. Mary

      Chilling the dough prior to baking at a lower temperature helps, but also most bakers beat the butter, eggs, and sugars at too high a speed. When the is done, tons of air bubbles are incorporated, also causing cookies to spread. When mixing in the ingredients, do so on a low setting and just until the ingredients are well-blended, THEN scoop the batter onto an UNGREASED cookie sheet, THEN place in the fridge for 30 mins before baking.

    11. Susie

      when I made them last week I chilled the foundation not including flower soda,chips
      the cookies came out nice and thick, then I made them again same way and they came out flat as a pancake. So I think it was my baking soda I dont believe if was up to it’s potential. I dont really know I’m getting ready to make some choc.chip cookies
      hope they come out fluffy

    12. The Baker's Hotline

      Susie, if your cookies don’t come out with the texture or consistency you’re looking for, you can always give our Baker’s Hotline a call (855-371-BAKE) so we can troubleshoot with you. We’re here to help! Kye@KAF

  1. Robin Maynard

    I like my cookies more cake like so I use half shortening and half butter. Be sure to thoroughly chill the dough before baking. This creates little mounds of goodness that are both crunchy on the edges and soft in the middle. Be sure not to over bake.

    Reply
    1. Veronica Daniels

      Just another suggestion…instead of lard in place of half of the butter, I use the butter flavored Crisco and half butter. More buttery flavor!
      Thank you for the temperature tip, I will try that if my regular recipe fails in my new oven!

    2. Stan Paras

      I agree. To get a chewier cookie, I use all butter flavor Crisco. This is not as flavorful as butter but is a compromise to slow down the spreading during baking. I chill the dough for 3-6 hours, but no longer. I have found that chilling overnight causes the dough to get tough or dry out or something and they don’t bake right. My recipe calls for 375 degrees and I bake until the edges are slightly brown and the centers are still a little light (this is usually 12-13 min.). I leave them on the tray for one minute after they come out of the oven before transferring them to a cooling rack. They are pretty soft at this point but firm up to a nice chewy cookie with crispy edges as they cool. I also use bread flour instead of all purpose. It is higher protein and more hygroscopic so it helps the chewiness. I tried convect bake once and they came out all wrong.

    3. Linda Brown

      Ah, I was going to suggest the same thing! Using 1/2 butter and 1/2 shortening, works for me. When my granddaughter called saying her chocolate chip cookies were FLAT!, I suggested she try the half and half trick. It worked!

  2. Toni

    I put all my cookies dough on their pans at once, but bake them one at a time. I notice that the first batch always spreads, but the successive (which sit out longer) do not. Longer leavening time? Other explanations?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Toni,
      It could be the leavening, or the longer rest time for the flour to hydrate and build a little more structure. You could pretend to be PJ and try your own tests to see different results. ~ MJ

    2. Debbie

      I’ve been puzzling over this same problem for years. I thought it might be that the dough hadn’t had time to sit (basically what MJR said) so I began to refrigerate or freeze my dough instead of baking the cookies immediately. I still had the same problem with the first batch on many occasions. I had actually lowered the temperature from 375 to 350 as well and had the same problem.

      So I decided since the oven most likely had a chance to cool down between batches, with the oven door flapping open every 12 to 14 minutes I deduced that the temperature may be too high just after the pre-heat. I kept the oven door open about the same amount of time I would between batches just before I started the first one and amazingly the first batch came out fine.

      I can’t attest that this will work each time but it’s fun to try to figure out different conditions that affect the end results and I have learned so much from reading the King Arthur blog and the comments section.

    3. Angela

      If I did halloween, I would go as PJ and have sheets of cookies that have had different things done to them. She is marvelous as are all you bakers in the test kitchen!

  3. Judy

    I find that when I make toll house cookies with shortening instead of butter, they don’t spread as much. When I use half shortening and half butter, they spread a lot. I generally chill the dough sometimes for days- but that doesn’t seem to make much difference.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Using butter will absolutely cause a cookie to spread more, and this spread can differ from brand to brand (butter varies in water, so more water will result in more spreading). If you still want some butter flavor, but less spreading, you can try using 2/3 shortening and 1/3 butter. Jon@KAF

    2. Sharon

      This is the exact answer that I have found works with the recipe that I use. AND – – they come out perfect.

    3. Jeanette

      I don’t like to use shortening but my favorite ginger cookies won’t work with all butter. I had to use a mixture. Butter melts at one temperature, shortening melts over a wider range of temps so cookies with shortening don’t spread as fast as ones with all butter. (different lengths of the fat molecules or something like that. There is also a difference between saturated and unsaturated fats because of the double carbon bonds in unsaturated fats. The double bonds put kinks in the fat chains so they don’t fit together as nicely. This is one of the reasons vegetable oil is liquid at room temp and animal fat isn’t. Lots of interesting organic chemistry here.)

  4. Joan Boyle

    How would altitude affect cookies spreading? I live and bake at 8,700′ in Colorado and my cookies always spread just like the sorry pictures you showed. For high altitude adjustment I always cut back on the sugar but perhaps I should cut back even more? I always scoop my dough onto cold parchment paper so I don’t think using a warm cookie sheet is the problem. Will baking at 300 degrees work at higher altitude? If you ever want to test high altitude baking, you are welcome to come visit my kitchen!

    Reply
    1. Paula Maloney

      Joan–we must be neighbors–I bake at the same altitude. I start with very cold ingredients (butter and eggs) and use the recipe on the package of Nestle’s chocolate chips for high altitude baking. Perfect cookies every time!

    2. Maggie

      Hi Joan. I live at 4500 ft in Utah and for me most cookies spread like crazy if I don’t adjust the recipe for our altitude. My rule of thumb is to reduce the sugar by 2Tbs per cup. Sometimes I add other modifications. Since you are nearly twice as high, you probably will need to incorporate other changes as well (chilled dough, lower oven temp, less leavening, slightly more flour) to get sea-level recipes to work. For me, reducing the sugar is the single greatest, most consistent improvement I make to reduce spreading. If you enjoy baking I highly recommend Susan Purdy’s baking book, “Pie In The Sky”. She does a great job of testing the same set of recipes at a wide variety of different altitudes.

  5. Betty Greene

    Many years ago I went to Virginia to visit my in laws and decided to make cookies and did not realize that they always used self rising flour which I had never used and then I also added the baking powder.
    Boy did those cookies spread.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Mixing causes friction which produces quite a bit of heat. Some is okay, but more could heat your dough to the point that it could spread more. Of course, the higher the speed, the more likely this will happen. Jon@KAF

    2. Michael

      That is the cause of my problem, flat and over spreading. Once I experimented with the mixing my problem was solve. So here is my solution. Mix everything as directed then when it is time to add the flour and the other dry stuff. Just mix it as little as possible. Just till the dry mixture is moist. Then bake and you will see this problem disappear. I found this through trial and error. Problem solved. Took years to figure it out as all my cookies looked the same. No one to show me the way to figure this out. Now they look the same but they all look excellent.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hmm, I can’t say for sure, but I am pretty positive that butter was the fat of choice for the test recipes. Of course, different fats will produce different spreading! Jon@KAF

  6. Deborah

    Just baked what I thought would be a perfect batch of flourless brownie cookies yesterday, only to have 4 trays of cookies spread to the edges of the trays! I lowered the oven temp, which helped a bit, then chilled the dough, which helped tremendously. The recipe called for cocoa powder, but did not specify sweetened/unsweetened. I used sweetened, which happened to be what was in my pantry. Now I believe that the extra sugar played a role as well.
    Thanks for the great tips!

    Reply
  7. Suzanne Eder

    I found when I changed my shortening from margarine to Crisco or at least half Crisco, the spreading stopped. Now I often use half Crisco and half butter.

    Reply
    1. Mary Seaman

      ME TOO – my friend always uses crisco for her cookies and they always look great. I always used butter and they spread like crazy. Now I use half and half and have pretty good results

  8. Pamela

    I moved from Vermont to the west a few years ago – sea level to 5000 feet. Baking anything from old recipes is frustrating at high altitude. I’ve tried adjusting one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes to no avail! More flour, a bit of water, less sugar etc etc … They used to spread like crazy now they are tall and light. Not as flavorful. Any suggestions you can offer? You probably don’t receive many inquiries about baking at high altitude or do you? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We do actually receive quite a few questions like this, Pamela. Unfortunately, we really don’t have any direct experience as we are quite low altitude. However, we do refer to the following guide for any high altitude alterations. Jon@KAF

    2. Linda

      Pamela, I moved from sea level to 5000 feet also. I started a blog to chronicle my challenges through the changes of high altitude baking. My most recent post was AMAZING chocolate chip cookies. You can check me out at veganbakinguphigh.wordpress.com . Hope this helps.

  9. Mom24_4evermom

    I’ll suggest another reason. I was so paranoid about over-flouring my doughs that I was actually putting too little flour in. Without enough flour my cookies were thin and flat like in the picture. There are so many ways to measure flour, I wish, wish, wish everyone would just go to weight measurements. In my case, spooning and sweeping resulted in too little flour.

    Reply
    1. MomT

      I agree – when I just dip my measuring cup into the flour, my cookies turn out fine. It took me a while to figure out that when I sifted the flour before measuring, my cookies also turned out like this picture.

    2. Kate

      I just wanted to agree with this. I’ve had so much more success in baking since I started weighing the flour.

  10. waikikirie

    Thanks PJ (and Frank!) Will be lowering the temp on my next batch of cookies. The top photo of cookies is what I call homemade/rustic. (Gotta call in something along with delicious) That’s how mine have been coming out…..BUT……there are never any left!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I like the “rustic and delicious” label for your cookies that spread! Thanks for sharing. Barb@KAF

  11. Mary J Nelson

    OMG! This is my cookies all over the place. I used to think I wasn’t adding enough flour (mismeasuring it or something)! That didn’t work either. Now I understand. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re welcome, Mary! Maybe your cookies won’t be so “all over the place” next time. Happy baking! Barb@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Absolutely, Lynda. If your butter is too warm, the cookies will spread more as the final dough is warmer as well. You can try chilling your dough to help prevent this. Jon@KAF

  12. Helen S. Fletcher

    One of the primary reasons cookies spread is butter. At the bakery we always used 1/4 shortening such as Crisco to 3/4 butter. Chill the cookies and then baked at 350°F. The other thing we learned was to put more add ins in. So we loaded them up with chips, dried fruit, nuts – anything to keep too much dough without any add ins in any one cookie. There’s a lot of talk nowadays about letting the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight. Have yet to try that. Just a few random thoughts.

    Reply
  13. Sharan Carlyle

    I used part almond flour in mine and they spread out. Do I need to adjust heat when baking with almond flour?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Your cookies may have spread because almond flour does not contain gluten and will not hold your cookies together in the same way all purpose flour does. I would not recommend substituting more than 1/4 of the flour for almond flour in your cookie recipe. Barb@KAF

  14. Becka

    We moved to South Carolina many years ago and I discovered that nearly all my cookie recipes no longer worked. When I tried a new recipe I would bake one or two cookies to see how they baked. If they spread too much I discovered that in nearly every case the cookies greatly improved if I added 2 Tablespoons of extra flour for each cup of flour called for in the recipe. Just as flour amounts for yeast breads are variable I have found this to be the case for cookies here in our humid climate.

    Reply
    1. Linda Jo

      Hi – this is exactly what I do (add 2 tbsp. extra flour) – Also, I always use butter, and milk-chocolate chips for a delicious slightly-sweeter cookie – thanks for sharing!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re right, Erin, that can be another reason cookies spread. Like most baking issues, there are many possible causes. Barb@KAF

  15. Deborah

    I wonder if the cookies “sitting in the wings ” waiting to bake might dry out a bit, i.e. have less moisture when they go into the warm oven. Also, a kitchen warm from lots of baking might hasten the drying.

    Reply
  16. Peg Lawrence

    Old baking powder or old baking soda will also make your cookies spread. I experienced it last year…tossed the old and bought new and the cookies were thick and soft once again.

    Reply
    1. Char Dobbins

      I spied this test for freshness somewhere years ago. It could have been from King Arthur.

      Test for freshness: Place in a small bowl.
      Baking Powder – 1T water with 1/4 tsp baking powder, stir.
      Baking Soda – 1 T vinegar with 1/4 tsp baking soda, stir.
      If you don’t see a reaction it’s time to buy new.

  17. Cheryl

    Thank You! I did notice that when I make cookies on a jelly roll pan and parchment this always happens to me! Large batches.
    I have a certain recipe that I use an airbake cookie sheet for because no greasing is needed.
    Even at the same oven temp as above, I don’t get the spreading. Could that be because of the air center keeping the cookie bottoms cooler?
    Great article.
    C.

    Reply
  18. Lucy

    If you are using an “heirloom” recipe, it often calls for shortening, which was lard or Crisco back in the day. I have found if you use butter instead of Crisco, extra flour will help keep the shape of the cookies . You might want to add a splash of water to hold them together, too, otherwise they may be too dry to hold together to get them on the cookie sheet.

    Reply
  19. Pam Kay

    This brought back fond memories of baking cookies with my childhood neighbor. The cookies spread across the entire sheet pan. Then realized the problem – I doubled all the ingredients except the flour!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That would certainly cause lots of spreading! I bet they still tasted okay though…Jon@KAF

  20. Dorothy Wheat

    Because my daughter is allergic to the barley in flour I started using organic flour. I find that it takes less of it than the regular flour in all of my baking. If I bake cookies and they haystack or flatten I usually add either more flour or liquid. By then it is too late to adjust the sugar or shortening.

    Reply
  21. Jane Digan

    you leave out some of the flour.
    That’s why its good to pre-measure all the ingredients. If you measure while you go you could miscount the flour.

    Reply
  22. Sherry-Lynne K

    Can replacing the granulated and brown sugar ingredients with Splenda versions of the same cause this problem, too?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Possibly, Sherry. We really don’t play around with Splenda and their ilk in our recipes but you should certainly expect a difference. Jon@KAF

  23. n

    I found the one thing that makes a huge difference is the quality of the butter I use. I have discovered that store brands seem to have a higher water content and any drop cookies I make spread way too much.I only use Land O Lakes butter in my drop cookies but use any other type in cut out cookes and any bars. I really resist using shortening as I do not like the texture. I will use it in cookies like Snickerdoodles but not really any others.

    Reply
    1. TLR

      I wonder the same thing about store brand butter. I’ve made butter almond crescents practically all my life, and never had them melt all over the pan EVER until just this year. I did try a new recipe which has the dough rest for one hour at room temp, not chilled. My old recipe chilled the dough for an hour. Though the cookies molded nicely into crescent shape, they melted into a puddle in the oven. I’ll bet butter is more watery now than it used to be. I’ll try my next batch with brand name butter.
      I really appreciate all the tips here, and will put them into practice!

  24. K. L.

    The only time I ever had any truly bad cookie spread is when I inadvertently sifted the flour then measured it. My cookies were so thin you could almost see through them. Sifting introduces air into the flour. My advice; Do Not sift when making cookies!

    Reply
  25. Sally Swanson

    One of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes calls for 1/2 Crisco & 1/2 butter. I chill the dough and never put on a hot cookie sheet. They turn out fine all the time. They are soft in the middle. I love all your hints and your readers opinions!

    Reply
  26. Holly

    I have found that with chocolate chip cookies, using one stick butter and one margarine, and adding 1/4 cup more flour to the recipe results in perfect cookies. But it took a lot of trial and error!!

    Reply
  27. Anne

    yesterday while visiting the store 10/25/14 someone was baking a swirl pumpkin bread. I cannot find it on line, yet she had a KA printed out recipe. Help!

    Reply
  28. Mary Beth

    I always use 1 stick of margarine and 1 stick of butter in my chocolate chip cookies. I also use a package of instant vanilla pudding. No spreading. The cookies are soft and chewy.

    Reply
  29. betsy appleby

    All these comments are great. I almost always let my cookie batter rest &chill,To let flour assorb the fats &sugars etc. Like idea of reducing oven temp.

    Reply
  30. Carol

    I had this problem today! I tried a cranberry recipe using the boxed apple crisp mix they sell in the supermarket. It was supposed to come out like shortbread. Am pretty sure it was too much sugar that made cookies spread. could not lower sugar though because sugar was in the crisp mix. I was very disappointed.
    I definitely want to underscore the idea that margarine causes cookies so spread. I used to have a cookie business, and in the beginning tried a large quantity recipe that suggested “butter or margarine”. big mistake, cookies were a mess! I think margarine must have too much water in it. so now use either all butter or butter and part shortening. made me smile to see this entry today since I had the spreading issue. Thanks for posting.

    Reply
  31. Jean M

    After I scoop the dough onto the baking tray I place the tray into the fridge for about 10 minutes to chill and then take the tray directly to the oven to bake. The chocolate chip cookies don’t flatten out any more. Works for me!!!!

    Reply
  32. Cheryl Buffum

    Thank You! This happens when I make cookies in a jelly roll pan using parchment paper for large batches.
    For some reason it does not happen as bad when I use an airbake cookie sheet at the same temp. Do you think it is because the airbake sheet has a layer of air so the temp is lower under the cookies.
    Great article!
    C.
    (I posted earlier but it did not show up, so if this is a double please excuse)

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You can always double the sheet pans in the oven, to avoid a dark bottom! Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  33. Norine

    I have had the same problem with greasy, thin, c chip cookies, until I tried what YOU sell that makes my cookies soft and chewy again. It seems to me that baking powder was once used in the older recipes, then I tried your cake enhancer. Unbelievable difference in the texture, and you dont need to turn down the oven temp. Just watch your time and the way they are browning, the darker, the crispier. Just follow the directions on the cake enhancer. Everyone wants to know my secrect, now I guess it’s out.

    Reply
  34. Karen

    It could also be the brand of butter. Some have higher fat. Some have more water. We bake a lot of cookies at Thanksgiving (25-30 different batches, 3-4k cookies) and we found that Land O’Lakes or Cabot are very similar and work for all of our recipes (no excessive spreading).

    Reply
  35. Norine

    I had the same problem with greasy, flat, c chip cookies, until I used something YOU sell that made such a difference in texture!! It seems to me that baking powder has been left out of all the current c chip cookie recipes. I tried your Cake Enhancer, as directed on the box, and WOW! They are now soft and chewy, without making any time or oven temp adjustments. Keep on eye on them when baking time is about to be up, as the darker they are, the crispier they are. Everyone always wants to know how I get them to turn out so good!

    Reply
  36. Carol

    Another contributing factor not mentioned is the butterfat content. I have found that using high ratio butterfat butter (such as Plugra) is fine for cakes, but for cookies it can cause this unintended result of spreading. Rather than use shortening (as some people have suggested) I prefer to use a lower butterfat butter such as a store brand. Chilling the dough for at least half an hour gives the flour time to absorb some of the liquids/fats and often makes the dough easier to handle.
    In addition, as a general rule, I save the mixer for cakes and cupcakes, but mix cookies by hand, old-school, with a metal bowl and a wooden spoon.

    Reply
    1. H.L

      I don’t like the idea of using shorting. Chilling the butter will actually work and mixing by hand?

    2. PJ Hamel, post author

      Depends somewhat on the recipe, but give chilling the butter a try. I don’t think mixing by hand will prevent spread; it might actually encourage it, due to less development of the flour’s gluten (thus less strength, and more spread). Good luck – PJH

  37. Joy

    Wow. After many failed attempts at coverting a loved ginger cookie recipe to a gluten free version for my son, this article caught my eye. Every pan turned out as one big greasy cookie! Now I’m eager to try these tips just in time for the holiday season. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Reply
    1. lillabit2001

      Joy,
      The phrase “one big greasy cookie” caught my eye, especially the word “greasy.” I’ve been baking gluten free for only about a year, but one of the things I’ve read is that gluten free flours don’t react with the fats in the same way that wheat flours do, so adjustments to the amount of fat need to be made for gluten free baking. So your problem with cookie spread may not be temperature, or types of fat, but might be the ratio of fat to gluten free flour. Just a thought–I’m no expert!

  38. blaine

    i have found if i use corn oil margarine the cookies spread and lay flat. if i use vegtable oil margarine like parkay the cookies stay soft and chewy and spread nicely but not flat. i usually do a 50/50 blend like one stick butter one stick parkay.

    Reply
  39. Herminia

    I always use butter in all my recipes instead of shortening, natural is always better, my cookies always come out perfect everytime. Could it be the shortening?

    Reply
  40. gaahonore

    Thanks for the very helpful tip PJ! Since I have taken to chilling most of my cookie doughs over nite in the fridge I have not had this problem except when I want it too happen as with browning brittle.

    Reply
  41. Jen

    I had this problem and after some testing found that the reason was most likely the butter that I was using! There is a big difference, apparently, between quality butter (Cabot, Kate’s Homemade) and the generic stuff you can buy at warehouse stores. The warehouse store butter appears to have a higher water content, and can definitely affect the performance of the butter.

    Reply
  42. Laurie Curtis

    Made a batch of these spread out lovelies. I used the recipe on a “chips” bag. After the first batch, I chilled each tray before baking to no benefit. I’ve been carefully taught KAF flour measuring technique used for KAF recipes. But “chips” bag recipes are made for the general dip-level-pour populace. I think not enough flour caused my problem. I agree that weights in all recipes would help a LOT! Will test out my theory next time!

    Reply
  43. Robin

    A woman I worked with had no idea that soft margarine from a tub wasn’t the same as the solid sticks. The extra water content was making real problems for her. Once I explained and she switched, no more trouble with spreading cookies!

    Reply
  44. horserider

    Try refrigerating your dough for a few hours. That will make the butter in the batter harder so it will not melt as fast. The cookie batter will have time to cook before the butter melts away. Also when you put the balls of cold cookie dough on the cold pan make them taller like a tower, they will not spread as much and be much puffier. Works for me every time.

    Reply
  45. Sandy

    Years ago a friend advised me to add a bit more flour when mixing a traditional recipe with a KitchenAid stand mixer. I’ve found her advice works perfectly. I estimate about 1/4 cup does the trick with Toll House cookies, for example.

    Reply
  46. Bonnie

    So excited to see this post. I’m always having a spreading problem and so often I’ve just about given up on baking cookies at all. With the Holidays coming this was perfect timing and now can’t wait to try out these tips

    Reply
  47. Sabrina

    I find that changing the amount of butter/lard does have some results, but the best results that I received was when I started using more flour, not less/more butter. I also have a trick to getting more cake like moistness, and my cookies don’t get hard after they cool down. I have not changed my oven temp, but they only bake for 9:50 for a full pan of about 24 cookies. One trick I will share is-remove the cookies immediately after pulling them from the oven, and let them cool on wire wracks instead of the pan, that prevents them from over cooking on the pan. Also, to the problem of them spreading to much on a warm pan, the extra flour prevents that. Now, as to how much extra flour, that is up to the cook to decide how much is good. I use 3 cups per batch, but that also makes my cookies quite small. If I want them to be bigger, then I back of on the flour. To each their own!! Happy baking!!

    Reply
  48. Dailypainter

    UNBELIEVABLE!!!! I just made a few batches of oatmeal cookies, baked them at 300 for 30 minutes, they are the most perfect cookies I have ever made…UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!
    Thank you so much, you’re the best over there at King Arthur’s <3

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Congratulations on such a success!!! We’re so glad you found this post helpful and we hope it leads to many more perfected cookies! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  49. Trudy

    I used to have problems with chocolate chip cookies spreading too, until I quit using margarine and quit greasing the cookie sheets. For baking cookies now I use only good quality unsalted butter, usually organic, and a dry cookie sheet. The butter in the dough is sufficient to keep them from sticking, and they don’t flatten out.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Great work figuring that out Trudy and thank you so much for sharing! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  50. coupon

    My mom always made the dreaded ‘haystack’ cookies. When I started baking, I thought it was genetic flaw in our DNA. I learned, I was taught to cream the fat and flour together too long. After I stopped doing that, my cookies were just the way I wanted them to be. Pheww!

    Reply
    1. coupon

      I misspoke. What I meant to say is, puddle cookies (what we call them) are a result of not enough time creaming the fats and sugars together. When creamed too long, mine anyway, stayed tall were not soft or chewy and didn’t spread.

      There is the possibility the dough may have needed more flour or the trays were too warm when the dough was scooped out. I have since learned to put the trays into the freezer a few minutes before baking to help solidity the fats and let the leaveners get a head start before going into the oven.

  51. Susan

    When I mix up cookie dough I never use the mixer to mix in the flour. I use only unsalted butter in the recipe and parchment instead of greasing the sheet. I also bake them at 350″ instead of 375″ They turn out perfectly every time.

    Reply
  52. Phyllis

    I must tell you that my family loves chocolate chip cookies sunken and chewy, and to make sure they come out that way, we always melt the butter to mix, chill the dough and it always comes out perfect to “our way” of thinking. Love your site and excellent recipes.

    P

    Reply
  53. AJ

    When I measure flour by weight my cakes, cookies came out really well. I have read many articles where professional bakers advise measuring flour and sugar especially by weight rather than volume. I once had a chart made up of conversions but I lost it and was hoping maybe you know of where one can obtain such a chart? Example one cup of flour weighs less than 1 cup of brown sugar plus how packed is it? Does such a chart exist anywhere? The one I made I got bits and pieces from various web sites and am worried in my haste to get baking I may not be accurate! I love these posts great resource!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi AJ, you may want to check out our Ingredients Weight Chart: . This will give you the weight in ounces of many of the ingredients we use in our recipes. Barb@KAF

  54. Amy

    If baking powder makes cookies spread, why is it found in so many cut-out cookie recipes, including KAF’s sugar cookie recipe? I’m having the hardest time preventing spreading, but following all the tips I’ve read, although some contradict each other. I see recipes with anywhere from 1/2 tsp baking powder to 2 tsp baking powder, while others swear that it should never be used in cookie recipes. One person even suggest switching out about 1/4 of the flour with cornstarch. I’m lost. The only tips I have yet to try are not sifting at any point in the process (I never previously did before measuring) and weighing the ingredients vs measuring them.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Baking powder in small quantities also helps to create a bit of lightness and will leave small, even holes in cookies as a result. Unless our recipe specifically states to sift, we don’t. It can really change the amount of flour that you measure! The best way to measure accurately is with a scale, and you might want to give that a try. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  55. Allison

    I stopped letting my butter soften before baking and a large amount of my issues went away. I now put the butter into my mixer straight from the fridge and let the mixer smash it into a more perfect temperature, then continue with the recipe. I use cold eggs etc. as well. I know that I am breaking every rule out there but the mixer causes the temp of the ingredients to rise as they are being processed. I have a very warm kitchen all year. Too warm/soft of a dough before baking will cause spreading no matter what. I tend to refrigerate most of my doughs as well now, preferably overnight, and keep it cold while in the process of doing the baking. The cookies turn out better all the way around.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks for adding your handy tips here, Allison – and yes, refrigerating your cookie dough often enhances the flavor, as well as reduces spread. PJH

  56. Vanessa

    Old leavening agents are the primary culprits for making cookies spread. Check the expiration dates and purchase new. I’ve been baking for years (once owned a bakery) and this year forgot to check the dates – don’t you know, the first batch of oatmeal cranberry cookies spread out like a molten mass! Purchased fresh baking powder and soda and perfect cookies every time!

    Reply
  57. Sherine

    I’ve actually done extensive testing on that very subject, with the help on the KAF chat team, as I was fine tuning my Pepperidge farm thick and chunky chocolate chip walnut cookie clone. First, I use just melted butter. I know, melted, not cold? Yes. I use super cold almost frozen butter for pretty much everything that I bake, EXCEPT chocolate chip cookies. Because I found out that anything that adds air into the cookie dough will promote a flatter cookie as it cooks and the butter melts. So, barely melted butter. I don’t overwork my dough, nothing that will add air into the batter. Then, I use dark pans, lined with parchment. Dark because the cookies set faster on dark pans, thus spreading less, parchment because silicone makes them spread more as well. I use a cookie scoop as soon as the dough is made and toss the sheets in the fridge for min 30 min. If you want the recipe, I’ve posted it a while ago on the community forums. Voila, hope it helps.

    Reply
  58. Carol Roeben

    I use all butter, room temp, add some cooled, brewed coffee, beat well, and then increase the flour by 1/4 cup, mix well and roll them into balls using my hands and bake at 350 and they are perfect each time. I use the recipe on the package with these changes. I have melted the butter and that works fine too. Learned a long time ago that butter needs more flour but it took time to get it down to where we liked the result. I NEVER measure the chips and the nuts–awful aren’t I? I just take 3 or 4 handsful from the container and dump them in. The same goes for the nuts, empty some onto the cutting board and chop up and dump into the batter. I usually don’t have time to cool the dough so don’t do that either. Guess I probably wouldn’t make a good student in a cooking class.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If the school graded based on taste instead of preciseness of technique, you might be an A+ student, Carol! Sounds like you make a mighty tasty (coffee) chocolate chip cookie! Happy baking! –Kye@KAF

  59. Jayne Earhart

    I believe the density of the flour also matters. I used to try & save money by buying cheaper flours, and my cookies always spread. Now that I use King Arthur flour, no more spreading 🙂

    Reply
  60. Michele Mandrioli

    I get the best results if I put the whole tray of cookies in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes before baking. This cools them more efficiently than chlling the whole bowl of dough because there is more surface area exposed.

    Reply
  61. Dee

    I have found that if I use large eggs instead of medium, I will have a cookie that spreads too much. If large eggs are all I have, I increase the amt. of flour I use to offset the extra moisture/liquid of the large eggs.

    Reply
  62. Mary-Jane H

    I have had this problem too, especially with oatmeal cookies. I have found using parchment paper on baking sheets helped solve it.

    Reply
  63. Sdavisalaska

    Low temperatures, and frozen dough are what consistently work best for me.
    Good article.
    The way that I was taught, was that spread was the result of too much fat, but I measure by grams, and discovered after time, that whipping too much air while creaming can also result in spread.
    Just my 2 cents.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for your two cents, Sdacisalaska! Part of the joy of baking is sharing your tried and tested (and sometimes failed) approaches with other who are passionate about baking. We’ve happy to hear you’ve found a technique that gives you the cookie texture you are looking for. Happy baking! –Kye@KAF

  64. Carel

    According to the cookie spread test food scientist and dietitian Ann Reardon did on her web site, it is the incorporation of air when beating the butter into the sugar that causes spreading. You should not beat the sugar and butter till light and fluffy, but just beat about a minute till just incorporated. I never have excessive spreading and I use only butter, never margarine, and I make a lot of cookies.
    Ann’s web address is howtocookthat.net, check it out.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Carel,
      Thanks for sharing this with the KAF cookie-making community. The length of time that the sugar and butter are creamed together makes a big difference in the amount of spreading action that happens in the oven. We’ve found that less creaming time results in less spreading as well. Happy baking to you! –Kye@KAF

  65. member-Sam

    Can anyone give me a fantastic fail-proof classic chocolate chip cookie recipe? I love the soft chewy kind

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Fail proof and chewy? Here’s your recipe: http://bit.ly/18GShLC It’s our favorite for getting a soft, tender cookie. For extra softness, chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes before scooping and turn down the baking temperature to 300 degrees and extend the baking time by 5 minutes. We hope this is the fantastic, knock-out recipe you’ve been searching for. Happy baking! –Kye@KAF

  66. harry

    Love the graphic… would LOVE to see more tests on what the cookies might look like if any one of the ingredients is either in too small a quantity or has too much of an ingredient…. in other words, this is what a cookie looks like if you have too much flour; or too much baking soda, or too little eggs…

    Reply
    1. Dottiw

      I know for a fact that using only half the flour called for leads to a cookie sheet covered by one solid, very flat “cookie!”

    2. MaryJane Robbins

      hahahha, I did that with brownies once, they were still tasty, just uuuugly. 😉 ~ MJ

  67. Lora

    About 40 years ago my cooking group did an experiment with the standard Nestle’s Tollhouse Cookie recipe. Using all butter made them spread, using 1/2 and 1/2 butter and Crisco kept the shape.

    Reply
  68. Matthew Groff

    Hello everyone,

    When my mom and I bake chocolate chip cookies we use different type of margarine or butter. We sometimes have our cookies spread out on us and get really crispy and other times they are soft and chewy! I did not know that using butter or margarine could have an affect on how the cookies turn out! Mom usually uses Blue Bonnet, Land o Lakes, or one of the other brands if they are on sale! She usually lets the margarine or butter set out to “soften” a little before we bake our cookies, like most of the directions say to do.

    The one thing I have not yet tried and want to try is fresh butter, either from a local farm or homemade! I have heard once you use fresh butter you will never go back to store bought again! I just wonder what difference it would make in baking, either in taste or performance?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Matthew,
      Fresh butter–whether it is homemade or from your local farmer–usually has a creamier mouth-feel and a slightly sweet, buttery flavor. This flavor profile will usually come through in your final baked goods as well and make them richer, more moist and just more delicious (hence the “you’ll never go back” saying). As for how it will behave in baking, it is hard to say because homemade butter varies quite a bit in its moisture content and levels of fat. These characteristics are determined by the butter-making process, including if all the buttermilk rinsed out, what type of milk is used, what type of salt is added (or not), and how long it was left to sit before churning. All of these things will affect the flavor as well. The most important thing to know if if the butter still has any of the buttermilk in it–if so, you may consider reducing some of the other liquids in your recipe. We hope you give it a try! Happy baking. –Kye@KAF

  69. Janet Mercuri

    I make the original recipe using Crisco instead of butter as those made with butter spread. I also add the original 1 tsp. water then beat the heck out of the dough before adding the flour. I still don’t think they taste like they used to. My oven is 17 years old so it isn’t my oven. My husband (the chocolate chip cookie king), sister and girlfriend agree. I understand farmers are changing the molecular structure of wheat so it grows quicker thereby yielding more crops. It’s all about the money. I do know about 1 in 30 people now have to be gluten-free because of this. They also get an “off” taste after a day or two in a well-sealed glass jar so I freeze the formed coolies on a baking sheet then toss them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer. Then I can bake just a few at a time.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Cookies made with all-butter do tend to spread a bit more as they release their moisture during baking. However, it sounds like you’ve figured out a technique for getting fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies that don’t spread in mere minutes. Bravo.

      As for your comment about GMO flour, you will be happy to hear that all of the wheat flour King Arthur sells is 100% GMO-free. So give those cookies another go without having to worry about having to go gluten-free! Happy cookie baking! –Kye@KAF

  70. Madkitchenscience

    As a seasoned pastry chef and instructor here are my comments:
    Flour: Almost no one measures flour correctly. Some pack it down, shake it down, dip the measuring cup into the compacted flour bin. Each cup should weigh 4.4 oz. In each baking class I have a couple of people measure 1 cup of flour the way they do it at home. Then I correctly measure each of their flours separately. Since most people don’t have scales, I show them how by lightly whisking (fluffing) the flour then gently spooning into cup–not shaking, nor tapping it, then level. There is anywhere from 1/4–1/2 cup more flour in their measurements than mine. So if a recipe calls for 2 cups of flour and it’s incorrectly measured you can see how much more flour people may be putting in a recipe.

    Butter: Different brands have different ratios of butterfat, the less expensive the brand usually it has more whey (milk liquid) left in. This causes extra moisture. High fat content butter such as KerryGold, Plugra are more expensive but highly effective and more rich.

    Oven temps: How many people actually know if their ovens are calibrated? My cheap apt oven runs almost 30 hotter than my Wolf ovens at the cooking school which are spot on.

    Baking Sheets: The best baking sheets are heavy gauge aluminum rimmed professional at about $8 each. They hold the parchment in place (best for cooking baking) they don’t bend with the heat of the oven and bake extremely evenly. Air bake, teflon, and other brands that don’t have rims you can’t use parchment because it slides off when moving it and with parchment you just lift it off and re-use several times over on another cookie sheet.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing your professional opinion with the KAF blog community! We are part of the “fluff and sprinkle” club when it comes to measuring flour as well; however, our recipes are based on one cup of flour weighing 4 1/4 ounces, so you’ve really got to go easy with the packing. We hope you are able to find the perfect chocolate cookie recipe and share it with your students so people everywhere can experience a quality, homemade cookie fresh from the oven. Happy baking! –Kye@KAF

  71. Ellen

    My Mom always made her chocolate chip cookies with 1/2 butter & 1/2 Crisco. The reason was that butter was expensive, who knew that it also made for better cookies? Go Mom!

    Reply
  72. Jennifer

    Thank you all for the great information! My cookies don’t spread out that much and are overall fine, but I have been trying to figure out how to make a really thick bakery style chocolate chip cookie. I have tried various recipes saying that they yield large and thick cookies, but they always turn out just a regular thickness. I have tried refrigerating the dough overnight, and baking at a lower temperature (325). I bake on parchment paper on cool cookie sheets. I haven’t tried 1/2 shortening or extra flour yet. What about using bread flour instead of regular unbleached flour? Will that help? Or maybe start with half bread flour? I use all KA flours and love them! Any advice for really thick cookies?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Since you’ve already tried the chill trick, switching to some bread flour might be the next best step. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  73. mom244evermom

    For me, I was so paranoid about using too much flour, I was using too little. Once I increased my flour, my cookies stopped spreading and being so thin.

    Reply
  74. Philip

    For the absolute perfect chocolate chip cookie that solves all these conundrums, just use the recipe on the back of King Arthur Flour’s 3-lb bag of Callebaut Chocolate Chips (no I don’t work for the company :o)

    Amazing!

    Reply
  75. Anita

    Twenty years ago I was shocked to find out that a babysitter used an electric mixer to make chocolate chip cookies! Perhaps some new recipes call for using a mixer, but my belief is that cookies should be made by hand, just as the original recipes intended. Otherwise, you can get unexpected or poor results. I also agree that many people aren’t measuring the flour correctly- some don’t even level off-and the same goes for substituting or mis-measuring all of the other ingredients. Re the person who moved to SC, I wonder if she was using a ‘soft’ wheat flour which is prevalent in the South.
    This post and all of the comments have been fascinating and very informative, especially regarding how basic ingredients like flour and butter/shortening have changed. I think KA is a wonderful resource and I hope that more and more young kids will grow up with basic cooking knowledge as an essential life skill!

    Reply
  76. humbakerboy

    I had a question about substitutions in cookie recipes. I’ve been experimenting with dairy free butter sticks, this particular brand is meant to be a 1:1 swap in baking applications and it has the same firmness that real butter does. Which lead me to believe I could keep the same temperature, but the cookies spread and burnt at the edges in well under the time that the recipe had allotted. Is this a substitution error or would you recommend chilling the dough first and giving it another try?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      You could try chilling first and that would probably help. I’ve never baked with this product, but I suspect it’s higher fat, given the absence of milk solids. Thus it’s lacking the protein of dairy; and since you’re substituting fat (which helps things spread) for protein (which helps them keep their shape), it would make sense your cookies would spread more. You might also try cutting back on the dairy sticks just a tiny bit – like maybe 15%. That might help, too. Good luck – PJH

    2. Linda

      I use dairy-free butter sticks. I don’t have a problem with them if I get everything else correct. I cook at altitude so I use extra flour, but it didn’t stop spreading issues. I found out by accident when I had just a few cookies worth of dough left in my bowl that using a scoop is best. I rolled the last few cookies by hand and placed them onto a cooled sheet and they spread. The batch I put in previously was scooped and no spread. I guess butter substitutes melt faster and the short time they were in my hand must have warmed the butter to cause them to spread. By the way, I put the bowl of dough in the fridge between batches so it wasn’t that the dough warmed up.

  77. pg

    I solved the spreading cookie problem by using half Crisco/half butter for the cookies that tend to be a problem, AND I always bake a test cookie first. This way the recipe can be adjusted before scooping out all the cookies. I make about 130 dozen cookies at the holidays for gifts, and this saves me a lot of aggravation!

    Reply
  78. "Pua"

    Someone once told me that over-beating the sugar and butter (making it too airy) can make cookies spread too much. Since recipes generally are vague on exactly how much creaming a mixture takes, this over (or under) beating could make a difference. I have also heard that if the butter is too soft, it can also cause problems. Determining what is too soft is also problematic. I do applaud KAF for providing recipes in ounces as well as standard cup measurements. I find that weighing the ingredients does provide a better chance for consistency.

    Reply
  79. Adrienne

    …always always always it’s well worth it to do a ‘test cookie’ where you bake 2 cookies (middle of sheet, outside edge of sheet) and see how they turn out. It’ll tell you if you need to adjust oven temp or chill the dough a little more.

    Reply
  80. Glory

    i haven’t had the patience to read all the comments, but I though I’d throw in my 2 cents. One, the quality of the ingedients matter. Butters have different content of fat/water. I always use the same brand of butter which gives me consistent results. I always, always, always use KAF, period. For shaped cookies I reduce the amount of baking powder from very little to none. I like the cookies to retain the shape of the cutter for decoration. Two, I always refrigerate the dought before cutting the shapes and again before they go in the oven. I use light metal cookie sheets of good quality. If the metal gets too hot they cook too fast.

    Reply
  81. Linda

    Enjoyed the article and comments. I use some butter but mostly Crisco and bread flour, and I’m in the high altitude as well so I’ve cut the fat and sugar and increased the flour for my recipes. I’ve made my recipes so many times, I judge by the texture of the dough, not the measure of the flour, it varies from day to day. I roll and freeze, or at least in the fridge for a day (or a week) first, and get nice fluffy cookies most of the time.

    One thing I’ve noticed is (I’m really lazy) when I make 3 batches at a time in my KitchenAid, I tend to get less satisfactory results than when I make just one batch. (That’s really hard to do when I’m making 30 dozen 4″ cookies… takes FOREVER.) I’ve also noticed that not creaming the butter and sugar as much as we’re taught to produces better results. Heck, sometimes I just throw in all ingredients and half the flour, mix that up and then add more flour until the consistency is correct. That way I’m not overbeating, especially with bread flour, it’s easy to get too much gluten action going on.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Really good feedback, Linda. Recipes in quantity definitely change both ingredient and method, I’m glad you’ve shared this. ~ MJ

  82. Jo Dee

    The only time this happened to me, I had measured my flour incorrectly (not enough) grabbed the 3/4 cup instead of the 1 cup.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      oh, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve done that! Well, luckily I’d only have a few nickels, but you know what I mean! ~ MJ

  83. Margo Lynn

    Another reason handwritten recipes might have a different temperature recorded is the difference in oven temperatures. Friends always used a thermometer in their oven because they said over time the knobs could become less reliable. The variance in ovens could mean your grandmother’s 350(F) is your oven’s 300(F).

    Reply
  84. Annie Yurkewycz

    When I moved, my oven became an old, small wall mount oven from the 70s. All of my cookies started to spread like this. I checked a lot of these suggestions with no success. I ended up buying a new cookie sheet. I had been using the oversized airbake sheets, but they took up all the space in the oven, wall to wall. Switching to a smaller, heavy gauge aluminum pan that allowed better air flow fixed my issues! I never thought of uneven air flow as causing problems. I still want a new oven, but for now I’m just glad I can bake without disasters!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing your own cure for spreading cookies, Annie! I’ve moved many times over the years and with each “new” oven I encountered I had to adjust to its quirks and unique demands. Glad you were able to discover the trick to your cookie baking in your new old oven! Barb@KAF

  85. Sandy

    I get consistently better results adding a few extra tablespoons of flour to the recipe when I’m using my stand mixer to make cookies from a recipe developed when butter and sugar were usually creamed by hand.

    Reply
  86. Barbara

    THANK YOU!!!!!!! I think I have finally found the answer. I have been very annoyed with the look of my drop cookies for some time. I remembered the blog about this and looked it up, AFTER making a batch of Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies. Since I needed another batch for my quilt guild meeting, I thought I would try the lower temperature and that was the whole key. These looked much better! I am also going to try the bread flour as was suggested in one of the responses and will try freezing the dough balls, made using the scoop method.

    Reply
  87. Merci Norwood

    Thank you so much for this information. I, too, have always found that my cookies spread, particularly if I use all butter. I thought it was the butter that was the problem and have been using part butter, part margarine or vegetable shortening in order to take care of the problem. But now I think I will try the lower temperature. Thank you for all the information you publish in your Sunday recipe roundup…. It has become something I look forward to every Sunday!

    Reply
  88. Deb

    My friend used to add a small package of instant vanilla pudding to her toll house cookie recipe . Always turned out perfectly mounded and the flavor was unchanged . I’m going to have to go back to that little trick .

    Reply
  89. Kurt

    I actually have the opposite problem. I use a cookie scoop for chocolate chip cookies and they make nice round balls, but after baking, they are still nice round balls. They taste just fine though. I use splenda for the sugar, but brown sugar as directed. I always wondered if it was the splenda that doesn’t allow them to spread out.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kurt, if you find your frozen cookie balls don’t spread, it might be helpful to let them thaw a bit and press them down lightly before baking. Barb@KAF

  90. Sue Conrad

    My chocolate-chip cookie recipe calls for 6 tbsp. butter and 1/3 cup butter-flavor Crisco. Also, the directions state to add the dry ingredients gradually which I believe allows the wet ingredients to absorb the dry. The final step to cookie nirvana is the use of a scoop to ensure cookies of the same size!!

    Reply
  91. CallieReizarf

    One time i forgot to add baking soda and the recipe for the oatmeal cookies didn’t call for baking powder. I made to cookies a few and they weren’t the same but my husband loved them…..what does baking soda do

    Reply
  92. Joe Kastner

    My wife received a delicious sugar cut-out cookie recipe. The first few times the cookies were delicious. This last time she doubled the recipe and the cookies came out flat and doughie. Is this an anomaly or typical when doubling a recipe?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Joe,
      It sounds like a consequence from the doubling. Try the single batch again, it might be one of those quirky recipes that just doesn’t double well. ~MJ

  93. Deborah

    Hi,
    I’ve been trying to use my Grandmother’s brown sugar cookie recipe that used butter. But, with diary allergies now, we use soy free Earth Balance sticks. We’ve been baking them at 350 degrees.

    Our cookies spread and tend to look a tad bit oily. They still taste great though 🙂

    Would changing the butter to the dairy free Earth Balance be the cause? Would you suggest trying to bake them at 325? Any suggestions?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Deborah, cookies spread more or less partly in response to the type of fat added because different fats melt at different temperatures. I wouldn’t recommend using a cooler baking temperature because this can cause the fat to melt before the cookie is set up. It may be helpful to chill the cookie dough before baking for at least 30 minutes, and you could also try to decrease the amount of sugar by 1/4 to see if this helps. Sugar attracts moisture, but doesn’t absorb it, so reducing the sugar makes more liquid available for the flour to absorb, which will give you cookies more structure. Barb@KAF

  94. Deborah

    Hi Barb, (follow up to Grandma’s brown sugar cookie recipe discussion)
    Thanks for your response. We always chill the dough before rolling them out…

    But, the recipe calls for 1 pound of brown sugar. So, (to be sure I understand) would you suggest then trying 3/4 pound of brown sugar? Would light or dark brown sugar make a difference?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, if you are considering a reduction of sugar for this recipe, 3/4 pound is the right amount to experiment with. The final cookie made with light brown sugar will be milder in flavor and lighter in color. Using dark brown sugar will make a darker cookie with slightly more molasses flavor. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  95. Elsa Dueno

    Honestly didn’t read ALL these comments but after reading quite a few of them I wanted to share what I’ve heard from a professional baker who just makes cookies. When I asked her this question she said “cut back on the egg”. What I find in recipes is they never tell you what size eggs to use. I have made this recipe for years and one year they just came out flat. The reason was I used extra large eggs vs a regular size egg. AHHH so I went back to using regular size eggs and they are perfect again.

    Reply
  96. Lauren

    I have been baking for over 40 years. I always used Crisco shortening and margarine in my cookies as we never used butter in my house! Although I still use shortening I now use butter in all my baked goods. My biggest problem when baking cookies is that every recipe I try comes out flat. I have tried every method I can think of to correct this problem from using 1/2 shortening to 1/2 butter, rolling the dough into balls and then freezing the dough before baking, etc. I always make sure that my cookie sheets are lined with parchment paper and are completely cool before adding the dough. Any suggestions as to what I can do to solve this problem? The cookies taste great but I’m tired if them baking up so flat!!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I am wondering if you have tried using a stronger flour. Our all-purpose flour is higher in protein than other brands. Try using our bread flour or make a blend! Also, be sure your oven is properly pre-heated. Elisabeth@KAF

  97. Mark

    I had a stroke and am paralyzed on the left side, but that doesn’t stop me from doing something I enjoy doing, “baking” for Christmas I bake cookies, (over 120 doz) for neighbors and friends. I always use butter and because baking so many all the ingredients are fresh and after the first batch is baked then you can adjust time/temp if need be. This past Christmas I made close to a 100 doz mini cupcakes, (6 different varieties) all made with butter. The only time I use solid shortening is to get a crisp or extremely fluffy item.

    Reply
  98. Linda Wong Garl

    I’ve always used 100 % butter…the rest of the “stuff” isn’t good for you!!
    My goodies always turn out great…I just mix dough to bare minimum…don’t overdo…
    My cookies always turn out perfect and I am an every occasion COOKIE BAKER!!!!

    Reply
  99. Virginia Jolly

    I love the Betty Crocker original recipe for Chocolate Crinkles ( http://bit.ly/1TRnOzc ): it is my signature cookie to my family. I also have trouble with my cookies being flat. They are not so flat as the spreading chocolate chip cookies (mine look like the recipe on the Betty Crocker site), but when they bake in the oven, they rise up to pretty dome shapes and then fall. I love those dome shapes, and I wondered if the same principal applies here as in the cookies above?

    Or does it have something to do with the baking powder or perhaps the timing: is there a limit to the time baking powder can keep a risen shape? I have so many questions!

    Ultimately my question is how can I get those cute little dome shapes–at least retain some of the shape–when baking the Chocolate Crinkles recipe from Betty Crocker?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Virginia, part of the reason cookies flatten out after you take them out of the oven is that they release steam. Adding a bit more flour to the recipe may help give the cookie a stiffer structure, which can maintain the rise, even with the loss of steam. If your cookies look like the picture, then these cookies probably aren’t meant to be domed. You might have better luck looking for a cookie recipe that is meant to maintain the domed shape. Barb@KAF

  100. Shalryn

    I must be a terrible baker. I’m reading these comments about how people altered temperatures, fat types, measuring methods and so on. When my cookies decided to spread like crazy, I made them smaller and put them farther apart on the cookie sheet. Yes, I know. Lazy. It was all I could think of at the time. I’ve since worked on the recipe to solve the problem, when I had more time.

    I loved the comments about altitude. The thing I hated most was the difference in boiling eggs. I moved from high-alt to sea level. The first time I boiled eggs, they could have been used as slingshot ammunition to kill somebody. Altitude counts whether you move up or down!

    Reply
  101. KB Lewis

    I wonder if using ghee instead of regular butter might solve the variable of water content in the butter? Any ideas from other readers or KAF folk or PJ?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It might because of the reduced water content. Usually you need less of it in baked goods because it’s more concentrated. If you give it a try, let us know how it turns out. Bryanna@KAF

  102. Liz

    Now it makes sense!

    So many cookie recipes call for softened, or room temperature butter (and eggs).

    So if the ingredients are room temperature, that explains why my last batch of cookies were flat. I thought it was the baking soda (which I replaced) but haven’t made a batch since. The next time I’ll try chilling the dough and seeing what happens.

    And, by the way, I think all of our ovens vary a lot. I finally got an oven thermometer and there are definitely hot spots in my oven so now I know to rotate, rotate, rotate.

    Reply
  103. TW

    I’ve enjoyed reading all of these helpful tips and I’m going to try to combine several to get back to my puffy, soft, but crisp outer shell cookies. I think my usual 1/2 crisco to using all butter was the problem. But I wanted to share that I used the slightly flatter cookie warm from the oven with a spoon of vanilla ice cream and put one of its cookie buddies on top. A flatter cookie makes an excellent ice cream sandwich!

    Reply
  104. Leta

    Thanks for the information, especially the comparison photos. I am baking sugar cookies (with really high sugar content & real butter) and the first batch melted lace thin at 325F convection. After reading this blog entry, I lowered the temp for later batches to 260-275F with success. You saved my son’s birthday treat for school!

    Reply
  105. Barbara

    Just wanted to add my two cents to cookie baking. About a year ago after owning an oven that has convection cycles I tried using convection bake for cookies. What a wonderful difference in all my cookies. Embarrassed to say I have had oven for 12 years before trying this cycle. I also use a mixer up to point of adding flour, then just barely mix. Always come out perfect, also only use room temp butter and eggs.

    Reply
    1. Mindy

      I just commented that my mother doesn’t use a mixer at all, but your idea of not using it after the flour is added is very good. I’m going to try my convection oven today! I’ve been too chicken to try it!

  106. Mindy

    My mom is the queen of home-baked goods. Me, not so much, though I do love to cook. She mentioned a lot of people now use power mixers to mix the cookie dough whereas she still mixes with a wooden spoon. Her cookies never spread; they are perfectly “puffed”, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.

    Reply
  107. Dave Breuer

    We have a generations-old ginger snap recipe that yields chewy, cracked-top cookies – until Crisco reformulated to delete trans fats. Now the cookies spread out into flat puddles and are crispy instead of chewy. Can this recipe be saved? Would a high-ratio shortening be an answer? (One batch calls for one cup of Crisco, a fairly significant ingredient). Anything you can suggest would be most appreciated!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you can get your hands on high-ratio shortening, that would be a great option to choose. Otherwise, be sure you’re using all shortening instead of combination of shortening and butter, and consider adding additional flour next time to make a stiffer dough. Also, if the recipe calls for brown sugar, try using regular sugar to reduce the amount of moisture in the cookie. Additionally, chill the scooped cookies for at least 30 minutes before they go into the oven. This should help give you the chewy cookies you’re looking for. If not, compare it to our recipe for Gingersnaps and maybe give it a try. Kye@KAF

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      If you can get your hands on high-ratio shortening, that would be a great option to choose. Otherwise, be sure you’re using all shortening instead of combination of shortening and butter, and consider adding additional flour next time to make a stiffer dough. Also, if the recipe calls for brown sugar, try using regular sugar to reduce the amount of moisture in the cookie. Additionally, chill the scooped cookies for at least 30 minutes before they go into the oven. This should help give you the chewy cookies you’re looking for. If not, compare it to our recipe for Gingersnaps and maybe give it a try. Kye@KAF

  108. Efrain Vargas

    Hello, I have a problem with my cookies spreading too. I never had this problem only with this recipe, Mocha brownie sandwich cookies. I made them twice and the first time they were airy and flat the second time just flat and chewy not edible. I threw them away. What went wrong? Recipe calls for baking chocolate and bittersweet chocolate and milk chocolate and cocoa powder. Maybe too much chocolate? I thought perhaps using baking soda vs baking powder was the problem.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Efrain, there are a number of other factors (other than temperature) that might lead your cookies to spread. The more sugar used in a recipe, the more cookies tend to spread; and higher moisture ingredients like brown sugar (instead of white) or butter (instead of shortening) can also lead to a chewier, flatter cookie. Hopefully your recipe is written with the correct leavening agent in mind, so we wouldn’t recommend changing that unless you are also changing other ingredients (like the type of cocoa and/or melted chocolate called for in the recipe as this would also change the overall PH balance of your dough). It’s difficult to know which factor is to blame without being more familiar with your recipe and process, so it may take some experimentation for you to get them right. Our blog articles on Cookie Chemistry (http://bit.ly/2fFs8Yk and http://bit.ly/2gzud77) can help guide you, and the bakers on our hotline are here to help if you’d like to troubleshoot further: 855-371-BAKE. Best of luck! Mollie@KAF

  109. Kathy

    I started baking my cookies and they were coming out flat, I realized that the baking soda and baking powder was not good. What can I do with cookie dough that is already made, can I add it to the dough, will this work?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It’s difficult to evenly incorporate small amounts of leavener (baking soda or baking powder) to prepared dough since it will require quite a lot of extra mixing, which in turn can make your cookies tough. Instead, use the prepared dough you have to make cookie bars. The support of the side of the pans will help give the cookies structure, and they’ll still taste delicious. Try using an 8″ or 9″ square pan for best results. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  110. Tammy

    I’ve baked the same cookies as Christmas gifts for at least the last 10 years. Over the past several years I have had issues with spritz cookies not holding their shape like they should as well as Mexican wedding cookies flattening slighty and spreading slightly at the edges. Could it be unbleached flour causing the problem? I’ve always used butter. Sometimes salted, sometimes unsalted. Your input would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds less like flour, Tammy, and more like some of the issues mentioned here. Perhaps your oven doesn’t calibrate quite as well as it used to and the cookies are baking a little too hot? Checking your oven’s temp against the automatic reading should help rule this factor in or out pretty quickly. Are you using Grade AA butter or European style butter or does that change from batch to batch? As you can read in our companion blog article, this can also make a difference. Last, but not least, we’d consider how warm the butter and the overall dough are before baking. Refrigerating your shaped cookies for 30 minutes before baking can also help cookies to hold their shape a little better if this is a problem. Hope this helps get you headed in the right direction! Feel free to give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE if we can help troubleshoot further. Mollie@KAF

  111. Karen

    Can you explain why this article promotes lowering the baking temperature, where every other article I have read online promotes raising the temperature, so that the cookies will set before the facts can melt out? I do appreciate your photographic comparisons, and will do some experimenting myself, I was just wondering if you have insight into your conclusions versus the conclusions of other professional bakers? Alternatively, some recommend using a coarser sugar grain (for the same reason, that it will take longer to melt than finer-grained sugars), but some recommend using finer sugars. Why the discrepancies? Just personal experience? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This is interesting, Karen. You can really look at it two ways: a slow bake keeps the fat from melting and allows the cookie to set. A fast bake sets the cookie quickly, before the fat melts. We can also see why coarse sugar might keep cookies from spreading more than fine sugar, but it’s not something we’ve experimented with too much ourselves. Thanks for bringing these other perspectives to our attention–we’ll definitely keep them in mind for future blog tips and articles. Mollie@KAF

  112. Lee Siegel

    I’ve lived at an elevation of 4860 feet for 13 years and until I found this information my cookies looked like somebody threw, well you know. Now what a nice looking cookie. It was all I needed to adjust from an ugly cookie to a very nice one. Thanks to the author of this above information

    Reply
  113. Angela B

    I recently moved to the UK and my cookies fall flat here, but they didn’t in america. I don’t know if it’s the flour, because that’s the only ingredient that doesn’t look the same in the store, but when I research it says that Plain Flour here and All Purpose Flour (America) is the same, although one website told me that the American All Purpose has a higher protein content and that may make the difference? The ovens are smaller here, so I think i’ll try the lower temp, longer cook time. Can anyone speak to the protein issue?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Angela, while we can’t speak directly to the comparison with flour in the UK, it does sound like the result of a lower protein flour. Lower protein means less liquid will be absorbed and less ability to hold structure, thus resulting in flatter cookies. Try adding a touch more flour and see if that helps. Mollie@KAF

  114. Erin

    I just made cookie dough to be refrigerated for two days. The dough was slightly dry, so how will the cookies turn out when I bake them? The cookie dough has melted butter and brown sugar, which I know is very hygroscopic, so it will retain more moisture while baking, but aside from that, what should I be expecting?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’d expect them to spread much less than they might normally, Erin, baking up chewier and puffier, rather than flatter and crisper. For more detail, you might be interested in reading through our blog article all about Cookie Chemistry. We’d also just suggest sticking a small test batch in the oven to see just what happens – and voila, your baker’s treat! Mollie@KAF

  115. Kristin

    My problem is my cookies dont spread! They turn into little domes. Patting them down doesnt help. Nothing seems to.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kristin, one of the most common reasons why cookies don’t spread is because there’s too much flour in the dough. Try holding back about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour, and consider increasing the brown sugar by a few tablespoons. This will add slightly more moisture and help the cookies spread. Be sure you’re also using room temperature ingredients, especially butter, to promote the best spread and texture. We hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  116. Linda

    Do you have any other suggestions when baking with gluten free flour? One of the perks of gluten is that it does indeed help hold the structure of baked goods in place! I’ve successfully converted many favorite recipes from gluten inclusive to gluten free, but with a few, spreading is still an issue. I use parchment paper consistently and will be careful to chill pans and dough very thoroughly and will experiment with lowering oven temperature. I already have found lengthening baking time to be necessary. Any other tips? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We checked with some of our most practiced bakers in the test kitchen to see if we could get you some reliable advice, Linda. The first suggestion they shared was using Measure for Measure in place of the wheat flour in a regular cookie recipe. The recipe conversion to gluten-free can be difficult with some cookies because of low hydration. Gluten-free flour and starches often cannot “hold” as much fat as wheat flour, so you can try reducing the butter or oil by a few tablespoons, or conversely increasing the amount of the flour blend by 1-2 tablespoons. Last tip comes from Sue, a test kitchen pro: “Another ‘trick’ is to add a small amount of water. Adding water will help hydrate any gums in the gluten-free flour blends, so it inhibits spread but also makes the cookie more cakey—rather than crunchy.” We hope this helps, and happy GF baking! Kye@KAF

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