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Why are my chocolate chip cookies so flat?

Ok, I've been a baker for YEARS. And a good one, so I'm told (LOL). But, clearly I am missing something basic. I make the Tollhouse recipe for chocolate chip cookies and while they taste really good, they are always pretty flat. We all still love them as they are crispy on the edges and chewy in the middle (the way I like them), but I would like them to be a little thicker. When my mom makes them, they come out thicker, the way I would like mine to come out (and interestingly, my mom wishes hers were more flat!). So, short of going to my mom's house and watching what she does, I'm at a loss.

They are going onto cold pans. I use a small ice cream scoop. The oven is accurate. I use all fresh ingredients. The butter is a cool room temp, so not too warm. I use a Kitchenaid lift mixer.

I'm guessing that it has to do with the creaming of the butter and sugar??? beating too long maybe? I probably put the mixer on med-high for a minute max. I look for the butter and sugar to be well incorporated. Help! (and thanks!)

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  1. i know you said you put them on cold pans, but do you chill the *dough* before baking?

    6 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      no I don't chill it. that would probably help too! I just never have, so wondered if I could still get thicker cookies without doing that (although I certainly don't mind doing that - just takes longer to get them out of the oven - haha!!).

      1. re: Scirocco

        you know what they say...good things come to those who wait. of course i'm as impatient as they come, so i understand your reluctance to chill the dough ;)

        seriously though, chill it, form the cookies, put them on the pan, and chill again before baking.

        other options:
        - use baking powder instead of baking soda. it will give you puffier cookies because the dough sets more quickly, BUT they won't brown as much.
        - replace the butter with shortening. cookies made with butter spread faster because it melts more quickly than shortening does.

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          Chilling the dough is definitely worth trying.

          However, I also make the Tollhouse recipe with half butter and half shortening (just like my mom always did) for this very reason - hate those flat-as-a-pancake cookies. So, you might try that too, particuarly if chilling alone doesn't. (FYI when I do half shortening I generally don't chill)

          1. re: cookie44

            i tend to chill most of my cookies... my choc chip i chill for 24-36 hours to allow the flavors to develop. i find though that chilling them, even for half an hour or so, enables me to produce a thick cookie that's chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside. give it a go!

            1. re: cookie44

              this is my first post. HA. I am really new, but read that with baking soda/power...you need to cook the recipe immediately. Yet, I read you can freeze cookie. I also want thick cookies that i can store/freeze. Do i need a recipe that doesn't use cookie powder though?

          2. re: Scirocco

            Cold dough won't spread as quickly. You could always make a double batch next time and freeze half as cookie-ready balls of dough to be baked off on those days you need just a small cookie fix!

        2. Wow. Me too. I am a pretty good cookie baker too -- I am told. :P

          I tried the Tollhouse cookie recipe about 1-2 year ago and the cookies completely spreaded out -- almost like pancake. They tasted really good and crispy and all, but they do not look like "cookies". I have never tried the recipe since.

          Another possibility for you (not for me) is if your mom use a dark cookie sheet and you use a shiny cookie sheet. A dark cookie sheet will heat up much faster than a shiny one, so in a sense, the cookies are baked at a lower temperature on a shiny reflective cookie sheet. Alternatively, she use a very thin cookie sheet and you use a super thick one. ... same logic.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            The original recipe said to chill at least overnight. That was left out of the recipe on the package. Shirley Corriher recommends chilling at least a day.

            1. re: gothamette

              Is that right, I didn't know. Thanks for the information. At the end, I believe the original poster found out that the baking sheet was her biggest problem. See below:


              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Yup, for me (the OP) my problem was 100% the pans! At least it was an easy fix! LOL

                1. re: Scirocco

                  How did you "fix it? :)

                  I remember you were thinking about giving the air insulated pan to your mom or something because she actually likes thin cookies. Did you actually do that?

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    No, she gave them to me initially because she didn't like how they baked for other stuff (different reason - not flat cookies - but I can't remember what it was). We never realized the flat cookies were also part of the same issue! So, ya, I don't think she wants them back, although she should keep at least one for the purpose of choc chip cookies! LOL

                    For me, I had one dark pan that I rarely used for cookies (it's more of a jelly roll type pan - w/sides), but I made some on that and magically had my perfect choc chip cookie again! The insulated ones are fine for other stuff though so I kept them. :)

          2. I like my cookies thinner rather than thicker, so I try not to chill them and to put them in the oven as soon as they are done. GHG is right -- chilling them will make them bake up thicker. I also find that decreasing the amount of brown sugar slightly and increasing the granulated sugar has a similar effect. Since I like them flat, I use 1 cup of brown sugar and only 1/2 cup of granulated.

            1 Reply
            1. re: roxlet

              ? I have experienced it the other way around. White granulated sugar made my cookies crispier and flatter, while brown sugar made them chewier and thicker.

            2. It might be too little flour to the butter.

              1 Reply
              1. Are you using melted butter? If so, that's probably the reason...

                1 Reply
                1. re: Cherylptw

                  Nope, not melted. follow the recipe exactly. 2 sticks of butter, room temp. I think chilling might be the solution! :)

                2. I never chill my dough and mine come out like your Moms (it sounds like). I use a hand mixer-not my kitchen aid-what does your Mom use? I am thinking you are creaming the sugar/butter too long.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: xcptnl

                    my mom doesn't chill it either.

                    she uses the same kitchen Aid that I have (5qt lift version). I need to ask her how long she creams her butter and sugar. I use airbake "insulated" cookie sheets and I'm not sure what she uses....I can see some double blind studies are in order.... LOL

                    1. re: Scirocco

                      After I purchased my insulated cookie sheets, I found by trial and error which cookie recipes did well on them and which did not. Oatmeal cookies and chocolate chip cookies didn't do well; they spread too much. I use my well aged, dark baking sheets for these and reserve the insulated sheets for cookie doughs with a lot of body like shortbread and spritzers.

                      1. re: mandycat

                        Hey, that is same as my experience too. The air insulated cookie sheets, right? They did not work well. The selling point of those air insulated cookie sheets is that they do not burn cookies. The tradeoff is, as you may expect, the cookie sheets do not heat up fast and therefore give the cookie dough plenty time to spread -- a lot. This was my why originally suspected Scirocco used a different cookie sheets than her mom -- see above.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          very interesting. yes, I think my mom stopped using them. maybe I should give her one so she can have the "flat" cookies she likes and I can take one of her darker ones! LOL

                          so now THREE experiments - chilling, hand mixing and NOT using the insulated pans! my husband and i are getting fatter by the moment.... :)

                          1. re: Scirocco


                            Your mom stopped using "them", what is "them"? Insulated cookie sheets? Are you saying that you use insulated cookie sheets and your mom does not? Well, that completely explains it.

                            Dark cookie sheets (or any bakeware for that matter) absorb heat much faster, so cookie are essentially baked on a higher temperature sheet. The dough will set in faster and will not have time to spread. Those air insulated cookie sheets heat up really slowly, thus the word "insulated", which is why they claim they will not burn your cookies. Your cookies are baked on a cooler sheet.

                            If you type "insulated cookie sheet" and "spread" on google, you will find a lot of articles.

                            Also, do not store your insulated cookie sheets in freezer, it is bad for the sheets, according to several articles.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              oops, sorry! she stopped using the insulated cookie sheets a few years ago. (if it makes you feel any better, my husband has been trying to get me to stop using pronouns so much without explaining who "they" and "he" and "she" are!! - the sentences are always very clear in my head! haha)

                              and yes, that's what I meant. She stopped using the insulated cookie sheets, but I still use the insulated ones. In fact, she gave me her insulated ones! So, it may be as simple as that. and yes, the darker ones vs. insulated and heat transfer makes perfect sense. no, I don't store the cookie sheets in the freezer. They are in a cupboard in my kitchen.

                              1. re: Scirocco

                                Great. I just want to make sure you do not stick the cookie sheets into the freezer because people have suggested you to chill your cookies in the refrigerator/freezer and I thought you may do so along with the cookie sheets. It is fine for normal cookie sheets, but not for the insulated ones.

                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            I just this morning looked back at this thread so a belated answer to your question: Yes, the air insulated cookie sheets. I'll add that for certain recipes the insulated sheets work better than darker sheets. My Scottish shortbread cookie recipe calls for a baking time of 45 minutes to an hour; on my older sheets the shortbread was charcoal on the bottom before it reached that nice crumbly texture.

                            To make up for my tardiness, here's my recipe for chocolate butter spritzer cookies, which also do well on the insulated sheets. I serve these with ice cream; they're rich and flavorful without being too sweet.

                            Heat oven to 375.

                            Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup softened unsalted butter, 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon almond extract and beat until fluffy. Don't substitute vanilla extract; the almond flavor is key.

                            Gradually add 1 and a half cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa until completely combined.

                            Using a cookie press, place cookies on insulated sheet one inch apart (these hardly spread at all.) Bake 11 minutes, cool one minute on sheet then remove to rack.

                            1. re: mandycat

                              thanks for the recipe! I love spritz cookies (I usually make them at Christmas) and you're right that they do work well on the insulated sheets. I didn't have a recipe for the chocolate version (I love chocolate!), so that will be great. Will also pass along to my mom to try. guess I'll have to give her back one at least one of her insulated sheets - haha.

                              I do my scottish shortbread pressed into a light colored pan and it works well on that. I don't shape them into individual bars or cookies, so perhaps that's why mine don't get too dark as they are in one big piece? I usually cut them into smaller pieces RIGHT after they come out of the oven (but leave them in the pan) and that works well for me.

                    2. The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup each, granulated and brown sugar. All other procedures being followed correctly, you can reduce each of those to 1/2 cup and achieve a firmer dough that will resist flowing all over your cookie sheet.
                      Also, immediately after creaming your sugar and butter and adding the sugar, vanilla and eggs, refrigerate it until it's temperature drops below 40 degrees (F) before completing the mixing process, then chill the dough for at least two hours before loading onto cookie sheet. Be sure to have the oven ready for loading as soon as the dough is loaded onto the cookie sheet so they can go directly into the oven without warming up at room temperature.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: todao

                        Man-that sounds too complicated. I use the exact recipe from the bag of the semisweet chips and have had no issues with spreading. I do not think cooking should be this complicted.

                      2. I had the same problem so I started experimenting. It had nothing to do with cooling the dough. It was the butter. I only use Walmarts butter for them and they turn out perfect everytime.

                        1. I follow the Toll House recipe, but use shortening instead of butter (my mom's method) and always hand mix... literally, I put my hands in the dough to incorporate the flour. Mine don't turn out flat if I do those two things. I also take my cookies out of the oven on the early-ish side of the recommended baking time and let them sit for several minutes before removing from the pan.

                          Good luck baking your perfect cookie!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: dustchick

                            Tollhouse cookies are supposed to be flat, that's the beauty of them (to me, anyway). If you sub Crisco they will plump up nicely,since that's your desire. Or try a different recipe....

                            1. re: coll

                              well, it's funny, because everyone I make them for loves them as they are! In fact, prefer them flat. But, I would still like to experiment with chilling the dough and see if that makes them just a little bit thicker, which is all I'm looking for. I also wonder if the KitchenAid is beating them into submission a little too much. Back in the day, I used to mix by hand, but that was a LONG time ago, so I can't remember how the end result compared.

                              So, two experiments perhaps....using the KitchenAid and chilling the dough.....and mixing my hand, no chilling. I guess my husband will just have to suffer through all the taste testing....LOL!!!

                              1. re: coll

                                oh, and forgot to say that I don't really want to sub for the butter as I love the butter taste.

                                1. re: Scirocco

                                  I know what you mean! I know there's a recipe floating around here that seemed very similar but some slight variations, from a famous chef. Let me see if I can find it.

                                  OK that was easy, and his big secret was letting them sit for 36 hours, and using a blend of flours, so maybe that might help http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/651586

                            2. The best solution I've found (in addition to chilling the dough) is to just use a bit more flour. You can use butter or shortening but bitter definitely makes for a tastier cookie.
                              With the bit of extra flour, they still come out nicely crispy, but a tad thicker.

                              1. you could try cooler butter. when you can make a slight indentation in it with your finger, it's just right.

                                1. Some years back, CI had a piece about how to make Chocolate Chip cookies with craggy, ragged tops. You break a chilled ball of dough and smush the halves together side by side, with the ragged sides up. Just an idea for those who like thicker cookies.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    I think I remember reading that....I have been a subscriber since day one...still have all the issues too! I guess I'm not really looking for a better recipe right now, just an explanation of why mine are reacting that way. I like learning about the science behind it (hence why I like CI so much!). :)

                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      Here's the CI one:

                                      Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

                                      Makes 1 1/2 dozen 3-inch cookies. Published January 1, 1996.

                                      These truly chewy chocolate chip cookies are delicious served warm from the oven or cooled. To ensure a chewy texture, leave the cookies on the cookie sheet to cool. You can substitute white, milk chocolate, or peanut butter chips for the semi- or bittersweet chips called for in the recipe. In addition to chips, you can flavor the dough with one cup of nuts, raisins, or shredded coconut.

                                      2 1/8 cups bleached all-purpose flour (about 10 1/2 ounces)

                                      1/2 teaspoon table salt

                                      1/2 teaspoon baking soda
                                      12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
                                      1 cup brown sugar (light or dark), 7 ounces

                                      1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
                                      1 large egg
                                      1 large egg yolk
                                      2 teaspoons vanilla extract
                                      1 - 2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (semi or bittersweet)
                                      1. 1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
                                      2. 2. Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.
                                      3. 3. Following illustrations below, form scant 1/4 cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball using fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves ninety degrees and, with jagged surfaces exposed, join halves together at their base, again forming a single cookie, being careful not to smooth dough’s uneven surface. Place formed dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined 20-by-14-inch lipless cookie sheets, about nine dough balls per sheet. Smaller cookie sheets can be used, but fewer cookies can be baked at one time and baking time may need to be adjusted. (Dough can be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month—shaped or not.)
                                      4. 4. Bake, reversing cookie sheets’ positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes (start checking at 13 minutes). (Frozen dough requires an extra 1 to 2 minutes baking time.) Cool cookies on cookie sheets. Serve or store in airtight container.

                                      And here are steps:
                                      Shaping Thick Chocolate Chip Cookies

                                      1. Creating a jagged surface on each dough ball gives the finished cookies an attractive appearance. Start by rolling a scant 1/4 cup of dough into a smooth ball.

                                      2. Holding the dough ball in the fingertips of both hands, pull the dough apart into two equal halves.

                                      3. Each half will have a jagged surface where it was ripped from the other. Rotate each piece 90 degrees so that the jagged edge faces up.

                                      4. Jam the halves back together into one ball so that the top surface remains jagged.

                                      1. re: cheereeo

                                        i just made these cookies this past weekend and i have to say that they are, hands down, the best (and not-flat!) cookies i've ever made. i've sifted through recipe after recipe and this one tops them all. i did chill the dough for a bit before baking them off which might have helped their soft, thick texture. and i used 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chunks (standard, run-of-the-mill toll house brand). definitely a keeper!

                                        1. re: jmullen1251

                                          I love CI. Been getting their magazine from day 1. I'll have to try these sometime. Thanks for "review"! :)

                                    2. I would agree that the insulated cookie sheets are the very likely culprit. I never ever chill my Toll House dough, and I don't have this problem.

                                      1. Alton Brown did an analysis of chocolate chip cookies and found that using baking soda and a higher ratio of white sugar to brown sugar produced flat chocolate chip cookies. Using brown sugar and melting the butter produced a chewier, thicker cookie.

                                        Read the complete transcript of the show, which describes how slight differences in ingredients produce a thin or puffy or chewy cookie:

                                        Watch the complete show on YouTube, titled "Three Chips for Sister Marsha":

                                        More info here:

                                        2 Replies
                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                            His chewy cookie recipe is my go-to for chocolate chip.

                                          2. It could be a number of things, as pointed out above, but I find Tollhouse cookies to be flat. I'd vote for trying another recipe. I haven't make Tollhouse in years because they're just not as good as others. Try the CI recipe posted above. They're easy, come together quickly. For an even better one, try the NY times chocolate chip cookie recipe. Using shortening will give you a puffier cookie but you lose the nice butter taste and you get the slimey mouthfeel.

                                            If you have your heart set on the Tollhouse recipe, try either reducing the sugar or increasing flour slightly. One more thing that makes a difference is the cookie sheet, even with the same batch of dough. When I use my stainless steel cookie sheets, they come out flatter. When I use the cheaper nonstick cookies (counterintuitive), they come out taller. I always use a silpat or parchment so the nonstick surface is unimportant.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: chowser

                                              Nah, I'm not married to the Tollhouse one, it's just easy because it's on the back of the package of chips. With this post, I was mainly trying to figure out why these, in particular, were coming out flat vs. when my mom makes them. But, I agree that a new recipe may be in order too!

                                            2. OP here with my Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment results! I did three pans...

                                              First one was straight out of the mixing bowl onto a dark pan. Those came out much thicker! Exactly what I was looking for.

                                              The other two tries were both with chilled dough. One on the dark pan and one on the AirBake pan. Both of those were minimally thicker than my "flat cookies" with the slight nod to the darker pan being slightly thicker than the ones on the AirBake.

                                              Conclusion is that straight out of the mixing bowl onto the dark pan yielded exactly what I was looking for in my explanation of why mine were flat and my mom's were thicker.

                                              Thanks everyone! :)

                                              3 Replies
                                                1. re: Scirocco

                                                  I too have had problems with flat cookies for years! Made them yesterday using the dark pans, no chilling and this recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/best-cho... and they came out perfect! This entire thread has been very informative!

                                                2. I definitely did not read ALL of these posts, so maybe someone already suggested this-- but make a ton of dough, shape it all into slightly flattened, potion-sized balls, freeze the balls and bake only as many as you need. When you bake them start at a higher temp (375-450) for 5-10 minutes, then lower the temp (325-350) until the cookie edges are just set. This is how all of the bakeries in which I've worked have made thick, chewy cookies and it's how I make them at home. Also. at higher temperatures there is some risk of burning the bottoms of your cookies so use a silpat.

                                                  1. IT WAS THE PANS. I baked a batch of chocolate cookies yesterday, flat. I used my insulated pans. Found this posting after I baked them and decided to try again with my regular cookie sheets, not insulated and they are not flat. Thanks!!

                                                    1. I used to have this problem and then I purchased the AirBake Ultra by T-Fal Insulated Nonstick 16 x 14-Inch Cookie Sheet and I haven't had the problem since. Yesterday I made some toll house chocolate chip cookies using butter that I left out for a day and an old cookie sheet and they were flat. So I have concluded that I have been successful using "real" butter soften to room temperature naturally (sitting on the kitchen counter for 1-2 hours), and baking with an insulated baking sheet. Makes all the difference in the world!!!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: mwalkerette

                                                        You can also stack two cookie sheets on top of each other for the same effect.

                                                      2. ADD FLOUR. Don't worry about chilling, or how you put the butter in, or if the pan is warm, or any of that. Some say that using baking powder instead of soda, adding acid (vinegar), using cake flour, using shortening instead of butter, will keep the cookies thicker. That's all true, but if you just made a big dough, you are running out of time, and you need to fix the cookies because the first batch came out flat -- JUST ADD FLOUR. If they're seriously flat, add a whole cup. You can start with less, and test the next batch. My advice is to add flour until the point that you CAN'T STIR IT WITH A SPOON BECAUSE ITS NOW LIKE A DOUGH, NOT A BATTER. You'll turn the dough out and actually knead it to mix the flour in. Now even at room temperature you can shape the dough into balls. Keep the balls small, about a tablespoon, feeling small in between your palms. Now be careful to take them out AS SOON AS THE EDGES ARE BROWN and holding their shape. Cookies should seem very tender and fragile when they come out. Immediately put them on a cooling rack. Now you will have thicker cookies, not overcooked, and they should be tender and chewy on the inside with a crunch to the edges. Hopefully this helps you. I have cried for years over flat cookies before I simply added serious flour. Flour is notoriously hard to measure accurately. Some people use a scale, but not all recipes give weights. I also like the 3 ways of making chocolate chip cookies linked in one of the other comments.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: lydsyl

                                                          Lydsy - you star! Thank you so much for this advice. :-)

                                                          1. re: kimmit

                                                            You can use the same amount of flour but use a lower protein flour or cake flour. A lower protein flour "soaks up less moisture, and the leftover moisture turns into steam which provides puff which makes cookies rise."

                                                            Baking soda creates thin cookies, so to make thicker cookies use more baking powder and less baking soda.

                                                            Increase the amount of brown sugar (white sugar makes cookies thin) or use all brown sugar.

                                                            Chill the dough. Cold batter spreads more slowly.

                                                            Make the unbaked cookie mounds smaller, or use a smaller scoop. This actually makes the cookies puff up higher also.

                                                            Use insulated cookie sheets to avoid thin cookies because they conduct heat more slowly and the cookies won't spread as quickly. Black cookie sheets make thin cookies because they conduct heat more quickly than regular cookie sheets or insulated sheets.

                                                            Thin cookies are the result of baking chemistry, as are thicker cookies or crisp cookies or chewy cookies. It's not just a matter of flour but the flour proteins, type of sugar, leaveners and their acidity, fat, and the heat conductivity of the cookie all operating together synergistically.

                                                            All this is from Alton Brown, and to learn more:

                                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                                              actually, in my case (I am the OP), the insulated cookie sheets WERE my problem. They heat so slowly that the cookies spread too much as they baked. On the dark sheet, they baked UP much faster and then out. Problem solved! :)

                                                              1. re: Scirocco

                                                                Nothing like wonderful homemade cookies. Glad that your simple tweak solved the problem!

                                                        2. After suffering from "flat" choclate chip cookies for years...I thought it was just me. Tried a 50/50 blend of butter and Crisco...problem solved. They still have the great flavor you'd expect using all butter. Thanks to all!

                                                          1. "Seeking the perfect chocolate chip cookie" - Sunset magazine 1995

                                                            • Thick, Soft, and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

                                                            • Thin, Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies

                                                            • Thin, Crisp, and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

                                                            • Thick, Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

                                                            Article and recipes available to read online for free in the Internet archive (Archive.org) (give it a minute or two to load):


                                                            1. I've noticed cookie recipes I had been using for many years and nothing else changing in the way I make them, I started getting flat cookies. When I switched to a butter with 9-11 grams of saturated fat, I had no problem. Chilling the dough, especially in the summer when it is more humid definitely is very helpful. But now I can only find butter with 7 grams of saturated fat. So adding more flour or using cake flour instead should compensate for the extra water in butter.

                                                              1. thi has been awesome advice ... but i do chill my dough and sometimes still flat ugg what should i do

                                                                1. You need to use bread flour instead of all purpose flour and chill the dough for at least 2 hours. That allows the glutens to activate better and your dough maintains it's volume.