Flat Cookies? Not in This House

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Dear Home Ec 101,
My cookies keep ending up flat, hard and chewy, what can I do? I have tried 5 different recipes and my cookies all come out the same, flat. I watch them in the oven and they puff all up and then it is like bubbles popping and they flatten out before they are done cooking. What can I do? I have tried melted butter, room temp butter, hard butter and also different bake times and I end up with the same result.
Heather says:
Cookie baking relies heavily on the temperature of the oven, the dough, and the cookie sheet itself. Here are a few tips for creating cookies with more loft. That’s the fancy schmancy way of saying cookies that are not flat as a pancake.


Bubble bubble toil and trouble
Bubble bubble toil and trouble
  • If your recipe calls for baking powder ensure it is still active.
  • Get a thermometer, sometimes the calibration of ovens can be off and even though the dial says 350°F it could be heating to 400°F or the reverse may be true.
  • Preheat your oven, it matters.
  • Use cold butter and only cream until mixed. The butter and sugar mixure should be consistent in texture (no lumps) but still grainy. Some recommend using a hand mixer over a stand, as the stand mixer is powerful enough to create heat through the friction of mixing the butter and sugar.
  • Use your eggs straight from the refrigerator, crack, beat quickly, and add to your batter. 
  • Store your chocolate chips in the freezer.
  • Work quickly, the longer the dough sits at room temperature the warmer it becomes.
  • Do not reuse the baking sheet unless it has cooled completely between batches.
  • Try chilling the dough for ten minutes in the fridge before baking.
  • Finally slightly undercooking your cookies will help keep them from falling. Allow them to sit on the cookie sheet for an extra minute before transferring to a rack.

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14 thoughts on “Flat Cookies? Not in This House”

  1. Sometimes the trick for cookies is not using butter — experiment with using shortening or margarine. I find that I get better results using half margarine and half butter for chocolate chip cookies.

  2. Joyce is right. A chef-friend used butter when he wanted crispy cookies and margarine for soft, chewy ones. I never go half and half. I’m a big softie.

  3. I was going to write in with the same question! Cookie recipes that I have made for years are not turning out the same despite my best efforts.

    So far the only things that have helped are to use shortening instead of butter or marg… or at least part shortening. If using margarine make sure it is the 100+ calories per tablespoon kind, not the 80-90 cal kind (even if the label does say ‘great for baking’). I don’t buy it anyway but have read that corn oil margarine will make cookies spread even more.

    Using parchment paper has helped a little. I have read but not yet tried: flouring the cookie sheets lightly to keep dough from spreading.

    Refrigerating the cookie dough did not help much in my opinion. Oven temp comes out fine. Baking powder tests out fine.

    I will have to try the hand mixer trick next. I do usually use a stand mixer for cookies.

    Lately I have tired of trying to figure it out and end up making bar cookies instead.

  4. I have noticed that when I bake cookies, I sometimes have the same problem and for me it’s usually related to how hard I handle the cookie sheet or how hard I shut the oven door. Similar to other baked goods, I’ve had my cookies “fall” on me when I don’t handle things gently enough. Maybe this is just me, but perhaps it will help!

  5. The other ladies are right.The problem is BUTTER! Use vegetable shortning, I used margarine for years with the same miserable results. When I switched to shortning, problem solved. There is also a difference caused by the difference between brown sugar and regular sugar but I forgot what. It was covered by Good Eats. Good Luck!

  6. Shortening definitely can change the texture / rise of the finished product, however there are a lot of people out there who avoid it altogether. I have mixed emotions on the ingredient and avoid it when possible.
    I do use shortening in my biscuits and when I can’t find an alternative recipe that looks promising. 😉

  7. Of course it’s legal. She took the shortening, cold dough, and minimal mechanical manipulation route. It is a combination of the above suggestions and a different recipe. 🙂

  8. Wow… I guess I will be making cookies til I figure it out. I am going to try hand mixing it first, I alway use my stand mixer. The oven is good, it is new and so is the baking powder. It also could be the baking sheet. I have my favorite and that is the only one I use.

    Could I quickly cool it in the freezer between batches?

    If that does not work, I will try the shortening. I need to get some to make biscuits anyways. It is not something I keep in my house. I am a butter lover, everything is better with butter:)

  9. Angela, If you put the hot baking sheet in the freezer, you likely will cause it to warp, which will be the end of it. A few minutes on the counter should work out until you can track down another of the same brand!


    The most important bits (according to my baking instructor at culinary school!):

    Chill the dough before baking it. Doesn’t matter if you scoop it and chill the ready to bake scoopfulls, or put the whole bowl in the fridge. Chilling it relaxes the glutens that have developed, as well as re-firming whatever fat you have used. This matters because you want the flour suspended in the fat, not to have absorbed the fat.

    Pre-heat the oven, and don’t open it longer than necessary to remove/replace the sheets between batches. Consistent temp is important. If you have a fan oven, learn to use it, the temp is more consistent, and you can use every shelf, depending on the size of your oven/recipe you may get them all baked in one go.

    Use the fat listed in your recipe. Margarine has more water in it than butter or shortening anda brand vary too; butter has more water than shortening. This variance can matter. Less important in home-sized recipes than in bakery sized recipe I work with. But still, there are plenty of recipes out there: you can find one developed for the fat you prefer.

    other things to do:

    Cool the baking pan before re-filling it for subsequent batches; so that the whole scoop of dough is a consistent temperature going in.

    Experiment with the shape of your scoop of dough, it may be that your scoops are too big, and the middle isn’t cooking through. flatten them a bit, or scoop smaller.

  10. I always have butter and eggs at room temperature to make soft, chewy cookies.

    Using baking soda AND baking powder also yields good and not flat cookies!

    Heather – wouldn’t it be bad for the chocolate chips to go from extremes- super cold to super hot? I feel like they would melt and crack from the moisture. Please elaborate 😉 Thanks!

  11. Wow, very nice tip! I always wondered how specialty stores got their cookies fluffy and full, and thus yummier. It's also great for people who buy from cookie dough fundraisers"?


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