Why are my Chocolate Chip Cookies Flat?

Wondering why your chocolate chip cookies sometimes end up flat as saucers?! The Never Cook Naked guys offer tips and tricks to help stop your cookies from spreading in the oven.

A Fix For Flat Cookies

Dear Never Cook Naked Guys: Why do my chocolate chip cookies always spread too much? I heard somewhere that using more shortening and less butter would fix this problem.—Flattened But Still Baking

Dear Flattened: Blame Laura Petrie. Actually, blame everyone in the ’60s. Back then, home cooks wanted convenience, so they quit lifting their biceps-building stand mixers in and out of the pantry and instead bought nifty little hand mixers they could keep in a drawer. But those puny, weakling gadgets can’t handle butter that’s anything but semi-liquid. Thus, cookie recipes began to be written for “room temperature butter.”

Problem is, room temperature butter can’t trap air. And the entire point of beating butter is to ensure that its fat molecules encapsulate as much air as possible, which lends structure to the dough and in turn makes, arguably, a perfectly shaped cookie. In order to do that, the butter needs to be cool enough to retain its own shape. If the fat gets warm, it loses any semblance of structure and spreads all over the place.

So rather than tampering with the ratio of fats in your recipe, perhaps you simply need to buy a back-breaking stand mixer and see to it that your butter is properly chilled. All that said, there are a few other reasons that cookies sometimes tend to spread and become flat:

The baking sheet was still warm from the previous batch. Always cool baking sheets to room temperature before plopping more cookie dough on them.

You used a silicone baking mat. There’s simply no resistance to stop things from going every which way on silicone, just like ice rinks. Try baking a batch of cookies with parchment paper instead.

Your baking sheet is insulated. This diffuses heat and leads to cookies spreading in all directions.

Your oven’s calibration is off. Yes, ovens can go out of whack, just like pianos. Buy an oven thermometer and hang it from an oven rack to make certain your appliance’s reading is more accurate than the thinking was back in the ‘60s.

Our very clever, very clothed Never Cook Naked columnists are at your disposal, able to troubleshoot everything from questionable table etiquette to tricky cooking techniques (as well as, natch, proper cooking attire). Curious to learn more solutions to culinary conundrums? Just ask!

Swirl

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Comments

  1. I live at a higher elevation. I have to add a few tablespoons of flour to all cookie recipes developed at lower elevations. Otherwise, they all turn into flat pucks.

  2. I’ve found that using butter that is just barely able to be dented without a lot of force works to keep my cookies puffed. If I wait too long, not good.

    Also don’t beat the cookies too long when you use that firm butter. You just want to get everything mixed together.

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