The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies

By Tessa Arias
  |  
July 22nd, 2013

Have you ever wondered why chocolate chip cookies can be chewy, crisp, soft, flat, thick, cakey, greasy, bland, flavorful, moist, or crumbly? The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies is here to show you WHY! (Originally published in 2013). Download my FREE COOKIE CUSTOMIZATION GUIDE HERE.

Figure out how to make your cookies chewy, soft, cakey, or crispy!! Make the cookie of your dreams :) :)

The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies from HandletheHeat.com
In this post I’m going to share with you how various ingredients and techniques can affect the taste, texture, and appearance of your chocolate chip cookies. This will hopefully help you understand how chocolate chip cookie recipes work so you can make the PERFECT batch every time, whatever you consider to be perfect. This information will allow you to alter or create your own chocolate chip recipe that produces cookies just the way YOU like them. You’ll be an expert on the anatomy of the chocolate chip cookie.

I used the Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe as my control and made little changes and variations in techniques and ingredients to show you how they affect the cookie.

I halved and adapted the original Tollhouse recipe. I kept everything the same through each recipe test, changing one key thing to see its effect and photographing the results for you. Be sure to check out my free Cookie Customization Guide to truly perfect your cookies!

Cookie Tools and Ingredients Used:

OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop
Chicago Metallic sheet pans
Silpat baking mats or unbleached parchment paper
KitchenAid 5-quart Stand Mixer
Oven thermometer
-King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
-Fine sea salt
-Light brown sugar (except the granulated sugar recipe test)
-Large eggs
-Unsalted butter that was at a cool room temperature (except the melted butter recipe test)

Control Recipe

The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies from HandletheHeat.com

Ingredients:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces or 142 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces or 114 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, beating well to combine. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Scoop 1 1/2 tablespoon-sized balls and place onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Here is the control, an adapted version of the Nestle Tollhouse recipe. The full recipe I used to base all of the tweaks on is at the bottom of this post.

Baking Powder:

The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies from HandletheHeat.com
Removed baking soda from recipe and used 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. This produced results that were more cakey and puffed while baking.

Baking Powder AND Baking Soda:

The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies from HandletheHeat.com
Used 1/4 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. This produced results that were crisp at the edges, soft in the middle, with a good amount of spread. The combination of the two leaveners produced the best results in my opinion.

MORE Flour:

The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies from HandletheHeat.com
Increased the flour to 2 cups (250 grams) which created a more crumbly dough and very little spread. The cookies were small yet thick and relatively undercooked (ooey and gooey) in the middle.

MELTED Butter:

The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies from HandletheHeat.com
I replaced the room temperature butter with melted and cooled butter. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, I simply stirred the butter and sugars together then let sit for 5 minutes, until the sugar was better absorbed by the butter. This produced flatter cookies that had a shiny, crackled top reminiscent of brownies. They were also more crisp at the edges.

All Granulated Sugar:

The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies from HandletheHeat.com
I used 3/4 cup granulated sugar in this recipe which produced flat, white, chewy, and slightly crunchy cookies but with little flavor. Since baking soda (called for in the control recipe) requires an acid (such as brown sugar) to react, these cookies fell very flat as you can see by the way the chocolate chips protrude.

All Brown Sugar:

The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies from HandletheHeat.com
I used 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar in this recipe which produced thick, brown, and soft cookies with an intense butterscotch flavor. The original control recipe uses an even ratio of granulated and brown sugars. If you prefer your cookies to be flatter, chewier, or crisper, use more granulated sugar. If you prefer your cookies to be softer and thicker and have a pronounced butterscotch flavor, use more brown sugar.

24 hour CHILLED Dough:

The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies from HandletheHeat.com
I used the control recipe but chilled it in the fridge for about 24 hours before shaping and baking. This produced cookies that were slightly thicker, chewier, darker, and with a better depth of butterscotch flavor. If you have time, try chilling your next cookie dough for at least 24 hours, or up to 48 hours.

Final Comparison:

The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies from HandletheHeat.com

Click here for Part 2!
Part 2 tests out shortening, corn starch, cake flour, and more!

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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  1. #
    KJ — August 25, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Great post! Was wondering if you have tried not using butter but rather shortening or oils instead of butter? I love butter but my vegan friends do not. Some of my pals like to use crisco type stuff and swear by it. What you you think? Any photos?

  2. #
    Jill — August 24, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Thank you. I bet your house smelled awesome for days.

  3. #
    Kristin (Meals Outside the Box) — August 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Wow. Thanks so much for this. I have always wondered how many of the changes you made would effect the cookies. By the way, I have used shortening in peanut butter cookies and snickerdoodles. I found the recipes on King Arthur Flour’s website. My family now requests them that way. I use butter flavored shortening.

  4. #
    Lola — August 22, 2013 at 12:54 am

    this is excellent, just what i needed!! and it reminds me of the friends episode, I didnt realise phoebe was the only one who looked to nestle for inspiration on cookies.

  5. #
    Handmade Reviews — August 21, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    This is a super useful guide. Somehow my chocolate chip cookies always turn out a little different from everyone else’s. Now I know why!

  6. #
    Tessa — August 21, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Replacing the white sugar in the Nestle recipe with a small box of instant vanilla pudding will create puffier, softer cookies, that are more flavorful and STAY soft. So good.

  7. #
    Bailey — August 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Someone may have already shared this but or my “Bailey’s Chocolate Chip Cookies,” I use 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of shortening to get a lighter, fluffier cookie that isn’t as greasy!

  8. #
    Adriana mayorga — August 21, 2013 at 1:50 am

    Last year when I found out I was expecting I became obsessed with baked goods. That was my ultimate craving and we made it a goal to find the best chocolate chip cookie and after almost a year in researching and 5 experiments I can finally say we found it. I love all your details that can either change or make a cookie. We personally went with the recipe with added baking powder. The cookies are awesome and a thumbs up with my entire family ! Thank you so much for a recipe I can use again and something to pass onto my girls!

  9. #
    Joy — August 20, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    …Cookies made with butter usually are too soft and old tasting after a day or so vs if you use vegetable shortening which keeps them soft yet also crunchy and fresh…I just wish it was healthier.

  10. #
    Elise — August 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    You mentioned your favorite batch were the chilled ones. Both baking soda and baking powder recommend that you cook the cookies immediately after mixing, as the active ingredients in both have a quick reaction time. Baking powder has both single and double acting varieties. Perhaps you used double acting, as that can sit for a longer period of time? I know that you should never let items w/ baking soda sit for any length of time.

  11. #
    Wanda — August 20, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Hi! Love the tips, but my concern is that my chocolate chip cookies turn out hard when they get cold! 🙁 and I dont know what it is, I hope you can give me some suggestions,
    Thanks
    Wanda

  12. #
    LPDMOM — August 20, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Have you ever tried using half butter and half vegetable shortening (crisco in the can)? Just curious – that’s what my grandma did a LONG time ago!

  13. #
    CJ — August 19, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Wow! Thanks for all the work you put into this. I’d like to see the results with a sugar cookie recipe. I like thick, chewy cookies that slightly crack. Almost the consistency of a molasses cookie. I have only had them one time and have never been able to duplicate them. Thanks!

  14. #
    Dene — August 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

    As a high school culinary arts teacher I have used something very similar to this to introduce the functions of ingredients in baking. This is an excellent update to what I have used. Thanks so much!

  15. #
    Cindy Y — August 17, 2013 at 5:08 am

    Thank you for the information. Alton Brown on the Food Network did something like this. He made three batches. “The Chewy” one is what we like. I will have to try the cornstarch option.

  16. #
    Carol — August 16, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Can not wait to try these ideas! Thank you for doing the hard work!

  17. #
    dana — August 15, 2013 at 11:54 am

    hi,
    i want to try the butter recipe but am a bit confused of the process regarding using the hand mixer.
    after melting butter+sugar, how do i continue?
    hand mix the egg?
    than hand mix the flour mixture?
    or just stirring by hand?
    many thanx for this wonderful project (-:
    dana

  18. #
    D.Ionae — August 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    What a great post!! this is a great way to get home made cookies to turn out exactly how you want.. I will be using this to help me perfectt my home made cookies! thank you!

  19. #
    Menucha — August 14, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Hey, I would love to try this out. What about using oil?

  20. #
    Holly — August 13, 2013 at 3:51 am

    Have you tried using margarine v. butter? We never have butter on hand and they always seems to turn out a little but different.

  21. #
    Jennifer — August 13, 2013 at 12:09 am

    I wasn’t able to read all the comments, so I apologize if this was already asked! I was wondering if you tried combining all of the different tests for one recipe? For example, using both baking soda and powder, part melted butter, part room temp, a little more flour, equal parts brown/white sugar, plus chilling the dough… Wonder how those cookies would turn out?!! I might have to try it bc I’m just too curious not too :). Thanks for sharing this!!

  22. #
    ChrisE — August 12, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Great post!! I am always searching for my perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe! I will definitely use this as a guide for fine tuning my results. I only wish I would have been in your house when you were making all of these batches to help with the taste testing!!!!

  23. #
    Anna — August 12, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Hey! To the one asking about High Altitude. I am from Breckenridge, CO which is at 9,600ft. My house is actually at about 10,000ft. I use the high altitude baking directions on the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Bag and it works perfectly! They are very tasty.

  24. #
    BrianN — August 10, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Wow – LOTS of comments on your experiment. Jeffrey Steingarten would be proud of your effort. 🙂

    Several things (that I see you’ve addressed somewhat already in previous posts):

    – I would have preferred that you also included weights for your volumes (along with the requisite “cups”, etc.)

    – I also would have liked for you to include the parenthetical notes for how your experiments differed from your control batch (so as to allow me to be lazy and not have to keep scrolling up and down).

    – I’d love to see you add “less sugar” and “less butter” to your experiments. My wife is always experimenting with “healthier” chocolate chip cookies and usually just ends up putting less sugar/butter in the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe…with varying levels of success.

    All the best.

    PS: I couldn’t figure out why you wanted our “Mail” above…should read “Email”, though. 🙂

  25. #
    Jose Arcadio Buendía — August 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Isn’t baking powder mostly baking soda? Maybe the issue is with the amount of leaven and the reactant instead.

  26. #
    Vivien — August 9, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    wow, nice post, i think i prefer
    – mix of baking powder + soda
    – mix of sugar
    – chilled dough

    which is essentially New York Times Chocolate Chips Cookie which i have tried in below post
    http://www.dishwithvivien.com/2012/10/recipe-3-chocolate-chips-cookie-recipes/

  27. #
    Mariposa — August 9, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Regarding the 2 types of flour… Bread flour and cake flour ‘cancel each other out’. Bread flour has more proteins that yield a chewier, tougher products (like bread). Cake flour yields a tender product (like cake). In fact, if you use 50% bread flour and 50% cake flour, you have 100% all-purpose flour.

    -Tips from the bakery 😉

  28. #
    iHERZfood — August 9, 2013 at 4:56 am

    this ist so cool!! thank you so much, really great!
    now I know how to do it right 😀

  29. #
    Nancy — August 8, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    With eight children and twelve grandchildren I have baked a lot of chocolate chip cookies. We use equal amounts of white and brown sugar. We also use equal amounts of vegetable shortening and butter. On humid days you need to add about an extra 1/4 c. to 1/2 c. flour per normal batch of cookies. We almost always quadruple the Nestle Toll House Cookie recipe.

    Happy baking.

  30. #
    James — August 8, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Great post! I prefer big, thick, chewy cookies. Mmm-mm.

  31. #
    Judy — August 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I think I like #3 I am going to try them. I will let you know . Thanks

  32. #
    Layale — August 8, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Thanks for this. I use half white sugar and half brown sugar, as well as both baking powder and baking soda. Why? Because that is how my ex did it, and he made awesome chocolate chip cookies, and mine seem to turn out good. But, I will have to make some of mine now to compare with all the ones you listed to see how they measure-up. I might end up changing my recipe.

  33. #
    Larry Elliott — August 7, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Interesting experiment you did with cookie recipe to get the various results. I find everyone differs with what they expect out of a choc chip cookie because there are dunkers of cookies who expect very different results. As a previous owner of a very successful cookie business It took me several months to get the right combination of ingredients and technique to get the results I wanted and I never had a complaint. The cookies were thick (not too) and very, very,chocolate in every bite. I preferred Hershey’s chocolate chips because there superior and they offer semi-sweet and special dark as an unbeatable combo. I always chilled my cookie dough before baking and used parchment paper. My convection oven cookies came out better than my conventional oven because the browning was different. The texture was the same though. I used baking powder and baking soda and extra Lg eggs also. A very important tip is you have to know if your baking powder and baking soda is good. Testing with vinegar and water works. I would go up against Debbie Field’s cookies anyday! I had the customers who told me so!

  34. #
    Ada ~ More Food, Please — August 7, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Wow, what an amazing project! I always wondered exactly how much of a difference adding/removing/adjusting certain ingredients would affect a particular food item, and this answered it for me 🙂 I really like how thorough you were with the details of each group.

    I’m willing to eat any type of chocolate cookie, but my favorite would definitely be soft and chewy ones!

  35. #
    Jennifer — August 7, 2013 at 7:55 am

    This is wonderful!!
    In your future experiments, will you try various baking sheets? I’ve noticed a difference between my light and dark ones.
    Also, what difference to you think a home oven makes versus a professional oven? There is a bakery down the street from me that has wonderfully thick cookies. They also sell the dough, so I’m going to buy it to compare their dough in my oven versus their dough in their oven.
    Thanks!!!!
    Jennifer

  36. #
    Ruth — August 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I follow the recipe on the Nestle package, but since I love brown sugar, I always use DARK brown sugar (3/4 cup) along with the white. I also remove the cookies from the oven JUST before they look done, then let them finish cooking on the pan for a for about 2 minutes before I remove them to the rack. If I wait til they’re baked, they’re always too dry. I’m going to try the cornstarch.

  37. #
    Gail — August 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    About how long do you cream the sugars and butter? I have the big Kitchenaid mixer also and I think I may be overcreaming mine. They come out of the oven beautiful, but fall flat as they cool, they also seem to spread too much. This only seems to be happening since I got the big mixer. Thanks so much!

  38. #
    max — August 6, 2013 at 6:37 am

    would love to see tests on what the cookies look like when you “over add” ingredients (similar to your spike of additional flour) — so what do cookies look like when there is too much sugar? too much eggs? too much shortening? too much soda?…

  39. #
    Catherine — August 5, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    This is absolutely fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

  40. #
    Greg R — August 5, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Ironically (given the domain name), the “other” dimension of heating temperature vs. time isn’t tested here. My wife and I have found that a slightly lower temp and longer baking time, followed (after all are cooked) by a stay in the turned-off-but-still-warm oven, does a much better job of carmelizing the sugar. Not the best approach for those who like soft cookies, but for us crispy-lovers, it’s outstanding.

    (In appearance they look similar to the “all brown sugar” and “chilled 24hr” ones, just somewhat browner.)

  41. #
    p.j. — August 5, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    wow i am so glad to posted this i have made all of the above cookies but i could not figure out why each time they wee different Thank you for solving what was a puzzle to me !!

  42. #
    Craig — August 5, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this! My kids and I make chocolate chip cookies often, using a recipe from the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book. We’ve occasionally experimented with changing the proportions of some of the ingredients, but what you present here is far more extensive and systematic than what we’ve done.

    Btw, in reference to the question from another commenter above, “How do we duplicate Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookies at home?” — the recipe in the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book makes very good cookies, but while they are similar to the cookies sold in Mrs Fields stores, they are definitely not quite the same. I don’t know what accounts for the difference, but after reading this post, I wonder if more brown sugar and baking powder might have something to do with it… time to experiment!

  43. #
    Crystal — August 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Growing up, I always loved my Grandmother’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. When I was older, I asked her for her recipe. Turns out it was the Tollhouse recipe, but she uses 4T butter and 4T margarine instead of the unsalted butter. They turn out completely crispy…and delicious! Although there are still times when I prefer a more chewy cookie, so this guide will definitely come in handy! 🙂

  44. #
    David Hammond — August 5, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Thanks so much for this! My family is a big fan of chocolate chip cookies, and while mom is great at making them, I’m sure she’ll enjoy this. I personally am not a fan of the cookies themselves, but I do love the cookie dough! Which recipe has the best tasting dough in your opinion?

  45. #
    Grace Cheang — August 5, 2013 at 1:32 am

    How do you achieve those cookies that are all totally crispy, like the famous amos kind?

  46. #
    Zak Dolan — August 4, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Here’s my question… how do we duplicate Mrs. Field’s chocolate chip cookies at home?

  47. #
    Stephanie Baker — August 4, 2013 at 6:05 am

    The melted butter picture looks most like ours. When my Grandma passed away my cousin and I realized we hadn’t written down her chocolate chip cookie recipe so he and I sat down and wrote down exactly what we remembered her doing. She didn’t ever use a mixer, (she used a big spoon, and I still use the same one) and she always melted her butter. She also SIFTED her flour, which I find makes a big difference…and causes me to leave off the two extra tablespoons of flour. We also figured out that to get the right texture…a little crispy near the edges and puffy and chewy in the middle…that we needed to use a little more brown sugar than white, so I just increased the brown sugar by a quarter cup, and decreased the white by the same amount. Now every time I make those cookies it’s like I’m a kid again and my sweet little Grandma is still with me!

  48. #
    Susan — August 4, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Great blog post ! Have you ever tried replacing butter for shortening ? Delicious!!! Would love to know your thoughts on this. My friend makes the “control recipe ” you listed … But uses shortening instead of butter , and makes the cookies little tiny bite sized … She made 600 cookies for my sons grad party … They were ALL gone ,,,,!!!!!

  49. #
    Denise — August 4, 2013 at 4:53 am

    Thanks so much for sharing! Now I know why my cookies turn out the way they do!

  50. #
    Jen — August 3, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Question: how do I cut the sugar by 1/3 and still get a chewy cookie?

  51. #
    Samantha B — August 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Do you know if the type of pan used makes any difference? I’ve always suspected that non-stick pans make the cookies turn out differently.

    My boyfriend is also wondering if you know what effect changing the egg size has?

  52. #
    WhyNotV2 — August 3, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Great article, thanks for taking the time to bake all those cookies. If you are going to do a Part II as I saw mentioned in one post with respect to flour types, might I suggest other sweeteners as well. Baking Truvia, Baking Splenda and Brown Sugar Splenda come to mind and when used, require half the amount of product (1/2 cup of the above = 1 cup of sugar or brown sugar). Thanks 🙂

  53. #
    Winnie Peter — August 3, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I have always used the Nestlé toll house cookie recipe but replaced the butter with shortening. Everyone has always loved my cookies.

  54. #
    Stevie — August 3, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    My mother always made the BEST chocolate chip cookies! She used the Nestle recipe, except she substituted Crisco for butter. It makes a cookie with a wonderful texture and fantastic flavor.

  55. #
    rumorasit — August 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm
  56. #
    Melanie — August 3, 2013 at 11:11 am

    If u add corn starch it will make a super soft, chewy cookie the batter will look almost like ice cream. But I won’t make any kind off cook one without adding 1 1/2 tbs of corn starch.

  57. #
    BeaGomez — August 3, 2013 at 9:13 am

    NYT Jacques Torres recipe is the best, esp. if you love salt.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/dining/091crex.html?_r=0

  58. #
    Amy Peden — August 3, 2013 at 9:10 am

    We have a divided household. I like them a little crisp but hubby likes soft baked. Once we were out of butter so I used some soft butter in a tub stuff instead of butter, along with half shortening. They turned out to be close to soft baked. He was happy. Me, not so much. I look forward to trying these out and seeing what happens!

  59. #
    Laura Pitts — August 3, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Awesome info! Would love to see the results with butter vs margarine.

  60. #
    Jo Donna Carter — August 3, 2013 at 7:57 am

    I like the control, I have tried to chill the dough but mine always seems to
    be real crumbly. What am I doing wrong?
    Thanks,
    Jo Donna

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