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salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies with 10 guaranteed tips prevent cookie spreading text overlay

I’ve been there.

  • Are your cookies flat greasy puddles?
  • Did you just waste an hour of your time?
  • Is your cookie recipe a complete flop?

After years of baking cookies– and writing a cookie cookbook— I know exactly what a failed batch of over-spread cookies is like. It’s frustrating, unappetizing, and a waste of money.

Let me help.

I’m sharing my 10 guaranteed tips to prevent flat cookies.

stack of 2 monster cookies

10 Guaranteed Tips for Thicker Cookies

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

How to Save Your Flat Cookies!

Here is the trick I always use when my cookies begin to over-spread as they’re baking. I’ve actually never shared this with you before, so I’m excited to spill the beans. 🙂

  • Use a spoon. When you notice your cookies over-spreading, remove your baking sheet from the oven. Use a spoon to push the edges back towards the center of the cookie. A spoon can literally reshape your over-spreading cookies. Place back in the oven. Repeat during bake time if necessary, then repeat one more time when the cookies have finished baking.

Works every time.

Caramel cookie after baking with a spoon shaping the edges

What are your guaranteed cookie tips?

Pictured today are my salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies and soft-baked monster cookies recipe.

salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies on a red plate

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi Sally! I made your brown butter cookies yesterday and they are delicious! Thank you for sharing such a recipe. I did chill my dough before hand but they still turned out a little flat. I read through all your tips. I was wondering what your thoughts are on baking stones. I usually use my baking stone for cookies. This time I baked half of my batch on the stone and half on the cookie sheet. Thank you! I love your site.

    1. Hi Leigh, Thank you for trying this recipe and we are glad you enjoyed it! We’ve honesty never had luck with baking stones with cookies and we don’t usually recommend them with our recipes. Here are all of our tips to prevent cookies from spreading. If your cookies are still spreading, you can add an extra 2 Tablespoons of flour to the cookie dough which should help.

  2. I’ve tried everything, new brand of butter, new baking soda & my cookies still go flat. I live in Mexico where all the brown sugar is like sand. Could this possibly the reason they’re flattening? I froze the dough for 1 hour, used parchment paper, used an oven therometer. Just can’t figure it out. Suggestions please!

    1. Hi Debra, it’s always so frustrating when cookies over-spread. The brown sugar you are using may be the culprit and you can certainly continue using it, the cookie dough may just need more dry ingredients to bulk it up. I recommend adding another 1/4 cup (30g) of flour will certainly help.

  3. Hi Sally! I’m writing to you from Italy (so sorry for my English) to tell you that I have tried many of your cookie recipes in the last few months. However, I realized that in the last recipe for cookies with white chocolate chips, crunberries and salted pistachios, the cookies remained too high and raw in the center despite having cooked them a few minutes longer than the indicated time. Could it be that this is due to the dough being too cold? How can I recognize when a cookie is well cooked even in the center? Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Tommaso, thank you for trying our recipes! These white chocolate cranberry pistachio cookies are meant to have soft, but not raw centers. Be sure you’re using room temperature butter and cream the butter with the sugars. You definitely want to chill the dough for these!

  4. Sally, I just have to tell you that you’ve made me famous… Because I follow your soft chocolate chip recipe tips exactly and as long as I remember to check at 11 minutes all is just perfect! I have found that if I make the cookies before I refrigerate they are less likely to roll over as I put them in the oven and I don’t have to wait a full hour with them segmented. I also liked your Snickerdoodle’s! You’re just amazing at explaining every detail so I understand WHY I’m going to all this trouble and it makes it fun. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. College coeds across the country await your cookies eagerly!

    (Ps I use a friend’s homemade rum-based double vanilla and it’s even better with this subtle flavor!)

  5. Thanks for the great tips, Sally! I’ll definitely use them next time I bake cookies.

  6. The question that led me to your site was not addressed. How do I keep rolled and cut cookies from spreading. I chill the dough overnight and again after I cut and place on the cookie sheet. Any help is appreciated. Thanks

    1. Hi Barb, there are quite a few factors that could be contributing to your spreading cookies. It’s possible the butter is a bit too soft, or that there is not enough flour to soak up the wet ingredients. Chilling the dough and the cut shapes, as you mention, should help as well. See our Best Sugar Cookies recipe for more tips on cut-out cookies.

  7. Thank you for all your tips. I have improved my baking a lot with your tips and recipes.
    I have a question about a problem regarding Biscotti. Do you have an idea why my Biscotti always form cracks on the top and sides? it is a problem I continually have and makes it hard to cut them without pieces breaking off. I have even tried using a combined egg white and milk coatings but it still happens. I do not know if I am doing something wrong. I would really appreciate your help. Thank you.

    1. My biscotti slabs (before slicing) usually crack too and I haven’t ever found it to be a problem. They don’t completely crack and fall apart, but just crack enough to let some air out– this is mostly because the eggs in the dough need room to expand and vent. Sorry I can’t help. If you find a solution, let me know!

  8. Hi!
    my cookie dough seems to be too a little too sticky to handle/ roll. im making really large cookies hence a cookie scoop wouldnt help to shape it into balls as well. if i were to use my hands, is it okay if the cookie dough are shaped like cylindrical in shape as opposed to balls? (i.e. like flat mountains)
    i have left them to chill in the freezer for a while before mounting it slightly higher, as opposed to re-rolling them into balls.

    1. Hi cc, it depends on the recipe you’re using, but chilling dough can help solidify the dough and make it easier to roll instead of being so sticky. If your dough is shaped like little mountains, the cookies may spread too much while baking, since they’re already in a spread out shape.

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