How To Stop Cookies From Spreading

Cookies are such a delight to make from scratch and are the best little treat.

Even though cookies require minimal effort and few ingredients, you still need a few tricks up your sleeve to make a perfect cookie.

I have made my fair share of cookies and my fair share of mistakes! I’ve had cookies that spread so much in the oven that they become one big cookie!

I have also made cookies that haven’t spread at all and come out as little cakes.

I love a thick cookie so I am always very disappointed when my cookies come out flat.

Let’s take a look at why cookies spread and how to stop cookies from spreading in the oven.

Why are my cookies flat?

Butter too soft

 

Butter is an essential ingredient in most things we bake, and when it comes to cookies, butter makes or breaks them.

When you make cookies, you can use butter in all forms; cold, room temperature or melted.

I use cold butter straight out of the fridge as that’s the best form of butter to use when making NYC cookies.

I have found that melting butter and mixing it in with your cookie dough results in a very very flat cookie. 

Butter melts in the oven (shocker, I know…), so if you have already melted your butter before it goes in the oven, once your cookies are baking, the butter will melt and spread even more.

As you cookies are baking, the melted butter will start to expand and flatten out your cookie.

The method of melting your butter will result in a toffee like, very chewy and crisp to the bite cookie.

Some people like that and that’s fine, but that’s not my cup of tea. 

Generally, the best type of butter is one that is room temperature. What does room temperature mean?

Room temperature butter is one that is squeezably soft when to press into it but doesn’t leave any butter residue on your finger.

Wrong oven temperature

 

The temperature that you bake your cookies at can also affect how flat your cookies come out of the oven. Cookies are usually baked at around 180C/356F.

It might seem high for a cookie, but the whole idea is that it cooks faster so it maintains its shape more and the inside stays nice and gooey.

I have tried baking my cookies between 160C-170C/230F-338F and they came out flatter than the flattest pancake.

Unless you want the flattest cookies ever, baking them at a lower temperature just doesn’t work.

Since the oven temperature is lower, the cookies need to cook for much longer, so the butter has all that time to completely melt and spread out the cookie.

Not only does baking cookies at a lower temperature make them flat, it also ruins the texture.

The cookies will come out hard around the edges, very crisp and chewy in the middle with no gooeyness. They are basically a biscuit at that point!

If you and your oven are having trust issues, then it’s time to invest in an oven thermometer

You can’t always trust that your oven is the temperature it says it is, so using an oven thermometer is the most accurate way to know the temp of your oven.

Overmixing the batter

Cookies aren’t cakes. You don’t need to beat the cookie dough until it’s doubled in size like you would with a cake. 

If you’ve overmixed your cookie dough, then your cookies are likely to come out flat in the oven.

This is because you’ve put too much air in the batter and in the oven they’ve puffed up and collapsed. 

When making cookies, you want to mix the batter to the point where it’s just combined.

This shouldn’t take long at all if you are using a mixer – only about 30 seconds.

You didn’t chill the cookie dough

 

I used to bake my cookies as soon as I shaped them.

When I would take them out of the oven they could come out ridiculously flat and crispy.

As soon as I switched to a recipe that chills the cookie dough, I never turned back!

Chilling the cookie dough for at least an hour before you bake them will help maintain a better shape in the oven and won’t spread out as much.

You can go one step further and freeze your cookie dough. This is a trick I use all the time for my cookies.

I shape my cookies, pop them in the freezer and whenever I’m having a midnight craving I turn the oven on and bake a cookie straight from frozen. 

Not only is this super convenient and you don’t end up throwing your cookies ‘cause they’ve gone stale, they also hold their shape so well in the oven and the middle stays nice and gooey.

If you haven’t tried freezing your cookies, try this recipe and you won’t be disappointed.

Not enough flour

To make the perfect cookie, you need to get your ingredient ratios right.

If you’ve misjudged the amount of flour added to your cookie dough, the batter will end up being too wet and will spread out in the oven.

If your cookie dough feels too wet and doesn’t hold it’s shape well, just add little more flour until you get the right consistency.

Too much white sugar

Next time you make cookies, pay attention to the amount of white sugar you are adding. White sugar, just like butter, causes cookies to spread out in the oven. 

So, if you add too much white sugar, your cookies will no doubt come out very flat from the oven! 

For the best cookie results, half caster sugar (superfine sugar) and soft light brown sugar is the perfect ratio.

Not only does brown sugar give cookies a chewy, caramelised texture, it also helps the cookie maintain its shape better in the oven.

How to stop cookies from spreading

 

  • Use room temperature or cold butter straight out of the fridge. Cold butter helps maintain a better cookie structure. 
  • Pre heat your oven at a high temperature.
  • Chill your cookie dough in the fridge for at least an hour before baking. 
  • Go one step further and freeze your cookie dough balls.
  • Don’t over mix your dough. Combine until you don’t see any specks of flour left.
  • Measure your ingredients correctly. Kitchen scales are the most accurate way of measuring ingredients.
  • Use a mixture of both white sugar and brown sugar.
cookies on a plate

Now that we all know how to stop cookies from spreading in the oven we will never have flat cookies again!

You only need to change a few things to get the ultimate cookie that is gooey on the inside, crisp on the outside and is chunky and thick.

Happy baking!

 

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