Even if you have a recipe that's always worked for you, humidity, room temperature, or even switching ingredient brands can alter how your cookies behave in the oven. Here, our test kitchen cooks share the reasons our cookies sometimes misbehave.
Room Temperature Butter
If it's too soft, it will melt faster in the oven and ultimately spread out. Next time, allow the butter to soften at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes or until it gives slightly when pressed with a spoon.
Excess Sugar and Fat
Measuring is key in baking. If your cookie contains excess sugar or fat, it will spread while baking. If your first batch of cookies spreads, try adding a few tablespoons of flour to help thicken the remaining dough.
Mixing Butter & Sugar
Creaming is the act of mixing butter and sugar to incorporate air bubbles into the butter, creating a light and fluffy cookie. If your butter is under mixed, it won't have the air pockets to hold it's shape. If it's over-mixed, the air pockets decrease in size and are unable to hold their shape in the oven—causing your cookies to spread. It's best to cream butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes.
Dough is Too Warm
Storing your dough in the fridge helps to harden the fat and prevent your cookies from spreading. Allow it to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Greased Cookie Sheets
Most cookie doughs have enough fat in them to prevent them from sticking to the pan. Adding grease to the pan can cause them to spread even more. However, if you're concerned about cookies sticking to the sheet, try the baking spray that contains flour.
Warm Cookie Sheets
If you're batch baking your cookies, make sure you're placing cookie dough on cooled cookie sheets. If the cookie sheets are too warm, they can cause the cookies to spread.
Oven temperature is crucial to perfectly baked cookies. If your oven temperature is too low, it can cause your cookies to spread, yielding thin, tough cookies.
The Test Cookie
If you're worried about your cookies spreading, don't be afraid to do a test cookie. Just bake one at first. This helps to ensure that your cookies will turn out just the way you want them.