7 ways to make better cookies from scratch

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Is there anything better than a homemade cookie?

Ooh, wait. What about a homemade cookie, straight out of the oven, washed down with a glass of cold milk?

We’re getting hungry just thinking about it.

But here’s the thing: When it comes to cookies, they’re all pretty good, but they were not all created equally. A pre-packaged grocery store cookie just doesn’t hold a candle to something made from scratch.

As the author of this story, one year I spent a whole summer investigating and trying out a bunch of chocolate chip cookie recipes in hopes of discovering what really does make for the all-time BEST cookie. (Apparently I had a lot of time on my hands back then).

I thought now would be the perfect time to share seven tips I found along the way, if you’re looking to impress a family member, or you’re just like me -- overwhelmed by all the options online, wanting to narrow it down and find the best recipe the internet can offer. Here goes!

Make sure you have all the freshest ingredients.

This might seem obvious, but you can’t make the best-ever homemade cookies if your baking soda is several years old or your eggs are expired. Do yourself a favor: Next time you head to the store or order grocery delivery, put in for some fresh vanilla, brown sugar, chocolate chips; the whole nine yards -- and your future self will thank you.

Follow your recipe to a T.

When it comes to cooking, you can deviate a bit from your recipe and things will often still turn out just fine. If you’re a halfway competent cook, you probably know the little tweaks and twists to add to make something just right for you or your family.

Baking is a little different. It's more of a science. You can't just change the ratio on your dry ingredients and hope for the best, or your cookies might seriously flop.

This isn’t to say you can’t ever change or mess with a cookie recipe. I’d just encourage you to follow it exactly the first time or two, just to see what the recipe author was trying to achieve, before putting your own spin on it.

Your fat matters.

A cookie made with oil vs. butter is going to come out a lot different.

And butter temperature matters, too. (I’m also in favor of room-temperature eggs).

Back to the “fat” topic, in my opinion, the best cookies are made with either softened butter or butter that’s been browned and then cooled back to room temp before it’s added to the batter. It’s an extra step, but you’ll probably find it to be well worth the effort. This, btw, is exactly how I brown my butter. (Thank you, How Sweet Eats food blog!)

Consider refrigerating your dough before baking it.

There’s just something about this that makes your cookies turn out fluffy. I’m not going to pretend I know the science here or made up the tip on my own, but I do highly recommend it.

My secret ingredient? It’s cornstarch.

Again, I’m not sure exactly why -- and of course, people’s cookie tastes vary, but I always add about a teaspoon or two of cornstarch to my dry ingredients and it just WORKS. If you’re down with a thick cookie, give this a shot!

Hopefully I’m not contradicting myself on the whole “don’t mess with a recipe right away!” thing. I’ll link to my favorite recipe down below, so that you can use the cornstarch but not deviate from the author’s intentions.

Be patient.

The best cookies are made with love. Stir each time you add an ingredient (but don’t over-mix!), make sure your oven is properly pre-heated before sliding in your cookie sheet, space your cookies appropriately so that they cook properly and without running into each other, use an ice cream scoop to form pretty little chunks, and read your recipe thoroughly and completely.

These are all seemingly little things, but they’ll pay off if you’re really looking to up your cookie game.

Look for a recipe that will get you your perfect cookie.

The internet has about a gajillion recipes, and we can’t even decide if that’s an exaggeration. If you’re looking for a thin, crispy cookie, go find the perfect recipe for exactly that. If you’re more of a thick, fluffy cookie person, you can surely seek that out, as well. Here’s my go-to, in case you’re curious. THEY ARE PERFECT.

And I’ll leave you with some bonus ideas: Buy a Silpat and make sure you have plenty of milk on hand for serving. Double the batch if you’re having company over; that recipe linked above is fire. Enjoy!