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. #
    Bethany — March 7, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you so much for doing this. I have had such bad luck with CC cookies and could never figure out why. I’m looking forward to trying some of the different variations for eating, um, research purposes!

  2. #
    Rainbeau — March 4, 2014 at 2:37 am

    Thank you so much for your clear, straightforward experiment. I try different versions all of the time, but I just enjoyed them & didn’t take good enough notes to duplicate my favorites. I enjoyed reading everyone’s responses. My favorite variation is to add chopped walnuts or pecans. I love dark brown sugar, melting & creaming the butter & sugars & cooling the dough. I always use dark chocolate, a few times with dried cherries added. I’ve never tried the cornstarch. How do you think that added cornstarch affects the outcome? Thank you for your care in responding to all of these fans’ questions!

  3. #
    jlf — February 13, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    This is sheer mad genius! Why hasn’t someone done this before!!

  4. #
    Shelly — February 1, 2014 at 10:51 am

    I’ve never liked the way my chocolate chip cookies have turned out, never!!!
    So glad you have the time to complete the testing, love it. Thank you for sharing!!!!

  5. #
    Alexis — January 31, 2014 at 1:41 am

    Let’s talk Gluten Free. I’m not a connoisseur of sweets so I don’t bake much but my daughter is strictly GF. Is the ratio of wheat flour to GF flour the same and do you recommend a specific brand that isn’t gritty?

  6. #
    Kathy Gobbel — January 29, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Have you tried lowering the temp 5 degrees to get a chewier cookie?

  7. #
    Arlene Hughes — January 27, 2014 at 8:18 am

    Wondering about if you add the corn starch do you delete any flour? I loved reading every one’s comment. Loved this cookie post. Thank you 🙂

    • #
      Tessa — January 27, 2014 at 10:07 pm

      No, the cornstarch is simply in addition to the flour. Thanks!!

  8. #
    Jen — January 27, 2014 at 7:14 am

    This is great. My go-to recipe has 3/4 c. Brown sugar and 3 T. White sugar and they’re SO good. But talking about the melted butter, Alton Brown from food network has a “chewy”, “puffy” & “crispy”. The chewy (my favorite) has melted butter, bread flour and is chilled. Yummy!

  9. #
    Dani M — January 26, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    I usually make a double batch & refrigerate it. I bake only half a dozen cookies at a time since there are only two of us. It keeps for awhile. I prefer fresh baked to cookie jar. Interesting post! Thank you 🙂

  10. #
    Mona — January 15, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Hi! I really loved your post…..but is it possible to make these cookies egg free. Any substitute for eggs, as my daughter is allergic to eggs.

  11. #
    Cindy — January 14, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Have you tried a control batch(es) with sugar substitutes.? My husband is diabetic so i need to use one he can have or I feel terribly guilty about making cookies..LOL

  12. #
    Rose — January 12, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Hi madam.. im from the philippines.. ive been doing chocolate oatmeal cookies ..and it seem whatever I do theres still lacking something.. do you think you can help me how to tweak your recipe… I would appreciate it dearly.. tnks

  13. #
    Connor — January 4, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    I recently replaced all the butter with crisco (vegetable shortening) this produced a chewier and softer cookie, they were also airier and taller than the normal recipie. I recommend, if you are looking for these results. Have fun baking! 🙂

  14. #
    Doris — January 2, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Thanks for your post! My mother in law made the best chocolate chip cookies, and they were crunchy and not chewy at all. They exploded with flavor in your mouth, and were so pleasantly crunchy. I have been trying to replicate them since she passed away, unsuccessfully so far. Which of ours is the crunchiest version? I am guessing melted butter…..they look he most like moms.
    Kudos!

  15. #
    Jen — December 20, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Love this! I linked to this post today. We used your guide to make our favorite kind of cookies, and I illustrated our favorite recipe for cooking with kids.

    http://wedontwriteonmeat.com/recipe-edgars-favorite-chocolate-chip-cookies

    Thanks for the great post!

  16. #
    Amy — December 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I am going to try 1/4 tsp BP and 1/4tsp BS and 1/2 brown sugar! I can’t wait.

    PS Do you sift the flour after you measure? I stink at measuring!

    AWESOME science experiment! 🙂

  17. #
    Luke — December 13, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Do you sift your flour? I don’t know whether to trust the ‘pre-sifted’ all-purpose type.

    My cookies sometimes come out too ‘cakie’ if I don’t sift – does that make sense to you?

  18. #
    haley pounders — December 10, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Lots of little sidenotes on my nestle recipe now, thanks!
    Going to try 1c brown sugar + 1/2 c sugar, chilled 24 hr, and 2 tsp cornstarch.

    Also, I noticed that my alternative chocolate chip cookie recipe from a flour package, that I use interchangeably with tollhouse, has only 1 egg but identical otherwise… must not matter as much as I thought. I used to panic when I only had 1 egg, now I guess I don’t have to half the recipe anymore.

  19. #
    munchy — December 8, 2013 at 9:20 am

    thanks a lot for the comparisons and pictures it really helps, they look great!

  20. #
    Laura — December 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Hey! I’m from Uruguay and here chocolate chip cookies are not a classic, the only “control” badge I have are some industrial ones from the supermarket that are really really crunchy and dry (hurts my gums), so I don’t know what’s normal and what’s not… in your opinion, which are the best? I’d like to bake some but don’t want a fiasco or a super hard badge no person will eat! Thanks in advanced! Really nice post

  21. #
    Linda — December 5, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    This is an awesome comparison. Now I’m hungry for cookies. Mmmm….cookies…

  22. #
    Deb Mulcahy — December 4, 2013 at 7:35 am

    I use cold butter, directly out of the fridge, and frozen chocolate chips. Also use equal amounts of white and brown sugar. Cookie dough is cold as it goes into oven, cookies don’t spread and they stay chewie.

  23. #
    Reb Schleg — November 30, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Your a “Kitchen Scientist”…always wanted to experiment but didn’t have time…glad you did it ! Keep it coming!

  24. #
    angela guinnip — November 30, 2013 at 2:16 am

    super glad I stumbled upon this. It explains a lot of things. I keep wondering why I haven’t been able to duplicate the recipe that my mom had many years ago. I think I have it figured out now. I think I will be making a lot more chocolate chip cookies and with results more to my liking. thank you.

  25. #
    asa — November 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Thank YOU!

    People make fun of me because I LOVE my chocolate chip cookies as dark brown as I can get them (so I tend to use dark brown sugar) and as crisp as I can get them without burning them. I don’t want them moist – at all. I prefer them not to be flat, but not chunky because of course, it’s too hard for them to be crisp all the way through then!

    In the old days I’d then microwave them (I don’t own & won’t use one now) for about 5 seconds which made the chips melt & the cookie remained crisp —-> A bit like heaven.

    If you have any suggestions on how to do things to produce a cookie that is overall dark & crisp without being burnt, I’d appreciate the tips!

    asa

  26. #
    Robin — November 29, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    I use the baking soda/baking powder recipe but I bake mine in a muffin tin. I have the 1oz scoop from Pampered Chef and it gives you a consistent chunkier sized cookie.

  27. #
    Carrie — November 28, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    oh my word! this is awesome. and I didn’t have to do it! that makes it even more awesome! thank you ever so much for your repeated hard work and for sharing it. did I mention, awesome? 😀

  28. #
    Donna — November 27, 2013 at 10:39 am

    My chocolate chip cookies are always considered the best by those who have had the opportunity to indulge in them. I am asked over and over to make them for various occasions. I use the original TollHouse recipe on the package, but my secret is to adjust the flour to which my hands render its perfect consistency (never a measured portion, so I cannot give you the exacts), resulting in the most soft, chewy cookie that never flattens out and is packed with flavor. My freezer is always stocked with bags of Nestle Chocolate Chips but never any cookies as they disappear faster than I can make them!

  29. #
    Joshua — November 27, 2013 at 8:20 am

    I love it. Thanks for the examples of each. I’m just wondering who got to eat all your experiments? I have had varied success with my chocolate chip cookies and I think this helps me to understand the differences. I have to say in the last couple months I made some of my best cookies ever. I don’t know what it is but it might be the high humidity.

  30. #
    Brent — November 18, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    What a great comparative study, and great page overall!! 🙂 Thank you, I was trying to figure out what kind of difference I would have switching out the baking soda for baking powder and here you have it!
    Thank you for your time putting this together, bookmarked! 🙂

  31. #
    Vicki — November 13, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Which one is best if you like them really crunchy? I like them softer, the husband likes them really crunchy.

  32. #
    Ellen — November 5, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    The comment about cookies turning out different in one state vs. another has me wondering about the effect of electric vs. gas ovens. I know that the gas gives off moisture during combustion, so I have found that electric is better for breads, while gas is better for roasting meats.

    A future experiment?

    • #
      Tessa — November 6, 2013 at 9:36 am

      Good point! If only I had two different ovens at my disposal! My oven is an electric one. Maybe one day I can find a friend with a gas oven to test this theory out with cookies.

  33. #
    Amy — November 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    pinned it!! thanks 😉

  34. #
    S.B. — November 2, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Excellent experiment and documentation. Thank you.

    The brown sugar one looks very good to me and extra puffy too. I will try it without the baking powder since the soda / extra brown sugar effect seems to do the trick.

  35. #
    Elora — October 31, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Oh ho! I’m saving this page! Whoohoo! Now I have something to consult every time I make them! Now I have to go show mom. Thanks so much!

  36. #
    Jon Suelto — October 24, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    This is really THE ultimate chocolate chip cookie research! This should be published as an academic paper!

  37. #
    T. Franklin — October 23, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    So my cookies are crumbly, but I used Crisco butter shortening for it and followed the directions on the back of the chocolate chip bag. nestle of course. but they crumbled. help

  38. #
    Rust — October 23, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    this is one of the best posts EVER. anywhere. thank you! 🙂

  39. #
    Marissa tijerina — October 23, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    CHocolate chip cookies
    1000000000

  40. #
    lisa — October 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    I love cookies (especially chocolate chip) and I am in LOVE with this post!! Definitely trying the more flour and the more brown sugar options. I’m curious, instead of butter have you ever tried the recipe with Crisco?

  41. #
    Jennifer — October 17, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    I usually use dark brown sugar, and use more of that than the white sugar. Is there a reason you don’t use dark brown sugar?

  42. #
    Jeff — October 14, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Hi Tessa, A friend liked your page on FB and it caught my attention. I’ve been baking cookies on and off for about 30 years now. I got back into it about 15 years ago to share with my co-workers and make people at work smile. Somehow in the process I think I made cookie addicts out of a large portion of the people I made them for. I started off religiously following the Nestle Toll House Recipe on the back of the package of the chips. Then I decided I really wasn’t happy with it so I started experimenting. I’ll share a few of my test results.

    1. Double the chips. I never had enough chips in my cookies. So I just doubled the number of chips in my cookies. The upside was people LOVED them. The down side was that you ended up with cookies with giant clumps of chips in them. I still use the Nestle chips, but they saved me when I found the mini chips. Now the cookies have double the chips but no more clumps of melted chips in them.

    2. I thought how about a “slightly” healthier cookie? I switched from Betty Crocker All Purpose Bleached Flour to Betty Crocker Whole Wheat Flour. The color of the dough and the cookies turned a little darker. The flavor did not change at all. The texture of the cookies became slightly courser when eating them.

    3. My learned lesson about butter. I was always in a rush to get things done and didn’t wait for the butter to soften. When I took the butter straight from the fridge to the bowl, I ended up with cookies that looked like the “more flour” cookies in your image. When I let the butter soften I am now getting a mix of “both” to “melted butter”…

    It’s always funny when people ask me for my cookie recipe and I tell them just follow the recipe on the bag, and double the chips. I use pure vanilla and un-salted butter and the wheat flour. Now I only use the mini-chips though. They still can’t believe I am following the recipe.

  43. #
    Karen — October 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Cool! Back in 8th grade, I messed with chocolate chip cookies for my science fair project. I did things such as doubling or removing ingredients. I remember that double eggs was preferred over the control recipe! Double vanilla was pretty good too, but so was removing the vanilla. Double brown sugar was baaaad!

  44. #
    Julia — October 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Hi!You should try using cream of tartar..it leaves the cookies w/ those fabulous crackles across the top.(It is an ingredient of baking powder)..I use
    1C white sugar
    1C brown sugar
    1C butter
    2eggs
    1tsp vanilla
    1tsp baking soda
    1tsp cream of tartar
    1/2tsp salt (I use salted butter)
    3C flour..bake 9 min @350

  45. #
    Diana — October 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    I make the variation with both baking powder and baking soda AND put the dough in the fridge for 24 hours. The best ever!! AND I never bake on humid or rainy days (the weather affects my baking as we live in a 100+ year old farm house that “breathes” – no central A/C to control humidity)

  46. #
    Kim — October 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    If I only have salted butter do I omit the 1/2 tsp that it calls for in the recipe?

  47. #
    Dan Leeder — October 6, 2013 at 8:42 am

    My cookies always come out like the top row #2 from left. Now I know why. It seems to me that the best cookie might be made with brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, then frozen and thawed before cooking. How about one made with all Splenda? How would that work?

  48. #
    Joan — October 6, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Thank you so much for the cookie guide. This comes at a perfect time because lately my chocolate chip cookies have been coming out flat. The kids said the cookies don’t look good but they taste great. I have been making cookies for over 40yrs and this is the first time this has happened, now I know what to do. Thanks again.

  49. #
    Nora — October 6, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Have you considered trying gluten free flour recipes? I am still learning and have always baked with bread and cake flours with my cookies, but now I have to stay away from those flours. Any advice would be appreciated!

  50. #
    Mary — September 26, 2013 at 5:45 am

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! <333 I was finally able to whip up the perfect batch of cookies with this guide! They were soft and gooey and thick and had a beautiful spread to it. Thanks so much!!! 😀

  51. #
    Jenny Portem — September 25, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Now these cookies just made the cookie monster in me raving-mad hungry! I’ll try the dough chilled in 24 hours with baking soda and granulated brown sugar. Thanks so much for sharing this! Seeing how the cookies look like when different methods are used make it easier to choose the best method for our personal taste 😀

  52. #
    Deborah — September 21, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Great experiment, can’t wait to see more.

  53. #
    Tina — September 20, 2013 at 1:03 am

    Made these cookies and they were not great! They didn’t flatten out like the one in the picture.

  54. #
    Christina (Sisters Running the kitchen) — September 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

    in your opinoin…what is the best combo?

  55. #
    Name — September 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    @rumorasit: Look more carefully. It’s the same recipe, except it was halved and nuts weren’t added. Math.

  56. #
    Juli — September 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I have the fondest memories of making Nestle’ Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies with my Gramma. We thought we had it to a tee. But something is different nowadays. We didn’t want a thick or crispy, we liked a softer, more spread cookie. The only way I can get this now is leaving out the baking soda until I mix the flour in. If I put the soda in flour and set aside as directed, then they’ll get big and crunchy. Have any suggestions why?

  57. #
    Adelina Priddis — September 2, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    I just saw someone post this on facebook without giving you credit…I left the link to here, but thought you might like to know. It’s on the Solution for Every Day Problem page

  58. #
    mary — August 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    my chocolate chip cookies are always hard after they cool completely, that i wind up throwing them out. Also my peanut butter cookies taste more like flour than peatnut butter, HELP!

  59. #
    Karoline — August 27, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Thank you so much for this! I looooove baking, but pretty much stopped two years ago when I had to go gluten free (paleo) for health reasons (stupid autoimmune issue). I’ve recently started experimenting with alternate ingredients, and I find posts like this (and your sequel) REALLY USEFUL. Learning the principles of each ingredient will definitely make reinventing the wheel a lot easier. (And before someone suggests it, I find most gluten free flour blends kind of gross, so just no.)

    I look forward to any other experiment posts that you do!! And you’ve definitely inspired me to do some experimenting of my own. Thank you!!

  60. #
    Er — August 26, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    I just made chocolate chip cookies over the weekend and messed up the order – I mixed the eggs into the sugars, before adding the butter! It took forEVER to get the butter mixed into the egg+sugars, actually it was pretty full of butter-lumps when I started sifting in the flour mixture.

    The result? Flat, crispy, kinda greasy-textured cookies. Still totally edible though!

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