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We’ve Got the Secrets to Great Chocolate Chip Cookies

Want to know the secret to great chocolate chip cookies? Well, it's more like a dozen secrets, but these tiny tweaks will have you baking your best cookies ever.

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Customize your recipe to suit you

I’ve made baking the perfect chocolate chip cookie my ultimate kitchen mission. Though what I might consider ideal (a chewy cookie with a soft middle and tons of dark chocolate) might not be your definition of the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

The good news is that you can customize any chocolate chip cookie recipe to suit your tastes. By altering the proportions of sugar, flour, baking soda and butter, you can totally change the texture and taste of this basic cookie.

Don’t be afraid to mix up batch after batch experimenting with the ingredients and ratios. I’ve made plenty of batches in search for my perfect cookie and even the imperfect batches are delicious.

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Use good quality chocolate

Chocolate chips are the star of the show, so be sure that you’re choosing chocolate you really enjoy—not just one that’s on sale. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the best chocolate chips according to the Taste of Home Test Kitchen.

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Beat In Egg And Vanilla Extract.Taste of Home

Don’t skimp on the vanilla

While chocolate is the headliner of any chocolate chip cookie recipe, don’t underestimate what an important role vanilla extract plays. Vanilla gives these cookies more flavor and accentuates the taste of the chocolate. Make sure you’re reaching for the best vanilla extract so your cookies are the very best. You can also use vanilla bean paste (that’s my go-to!); use the same amount as you would extract.

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Toast the nuts

If you enjoy stirring chopped walnuts or pecans into your cookie dough, don’t add them straight from the package. Instead, toast them first. This step takes only a few minutes and pays dividends in flavor and texture.

Toasting nuts for just a few minutes—you can do this in a pan on the stove or in the oven—releases a bit of oil from the nut which develops the flavor, gives the ingredient a delicious aroma and provides added crunch.

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Directly Above Shot Of Chopped Chocolate On Cutting BoardRobert Kneschke/EyeEm/Getty Images

Try skipping the chips

A chocolate chip cookie without chocolate chips? It sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Instead of using chips in the recipe, I like to sub in some chopped-up chocolate as well. Why? The two types of chocolate give the cookies some variance in texture. The chopped chocolate bits melt into the cookie dough making little puddles of delicious cocoa flavor while the chips stay whole for bigger chunks of chocolate taste.

And if you really want to level-up, use one type of chip and a different type of chocolate bar for some great contrasting flavors.

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Experiment with mix-ins

Who said chocolate chip cookies could only have chocolate? This drop cookie is a wonderful canvas for all sorts of additions including flavored baking chips, nuts, dried fruit, sprinkles and so much else (monster cookies, anyone?).

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In A Large Bowl, Cream Butter And Sugar Until Light And FluffyTaste of Home

Cream the ingredients longer than you think

It wasn’t until I started working at Taste of Home that I learned the importance of creaming ingredients for an extended period to create better bakes.

Creaming butter and sugar together—the first step of any chocolate chip cookie recipe—incorporates air into the dough and helps to dissolve the sugar crystals. This helps to create a lighter, more tender cookie. For best results, cream the butter and sugar with a stand mixer or hand mixer for five to seven minutes.

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Don’t overmix

This is good advice for any cookie recipe (or cake or brownie or bar…). Once you add the flour, mix until just combined. If you mix and mix and mix the flour, the gluten starts to really develop in the mix. For bread, this stretchy protein is perfect. For cookies, though, you don’t want that chewy, tough texture.

So be sure to mix the flour until its all combined, but not a minute longer.

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Chill the dough

If your go-to cookie recipe tends to spread more than you like producing flat cookies, this is the easiest and best fix. All you have to do is chill the cookie dough!

Chilling cookie dough allows the fat inside the dough to firm up a bit which can help prevent the dreaded spread. It also let’s some of the moisture evaporate from the dough, producing more concentrated flavors. You can use this technique with all kinds of cookies—though chocolate chippers and shortbread really benefit from this step.

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Use a cookie scoop

When it comes to baking drop cookies of any kind, a good cookie scoop is going to be your best friend. This gadget helps you create perfectly portioned cookies and keeps your hands clean.

If you make cookies often, I recommend grabbing a small scoop and a large cookie scoop. You’ll want both handy. I like the larger scoop for these Big & Buttery Chocolate Chip Cookies and small ones for dainty cookies like tea cakes.

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Make the perfect shape

Even with a cookie scoop, chocolate chip cookies can sometimes come out of the oven looking a little misshapen. Of course, that’s not a big deal because they will still taste delicious.

But if you’re looking to give your cookies that perfect round shape, you need one tool: a biscuit cutter. By swirling the cooking around inside, you help smooth out any irregular edges. This is great if you’re planning to make homemade ice cream sandwiches, looking to package them up neatly or just trying to impress the new neighbors. This quick trick gives the cookies a bit of professional polish.

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Add a bonus ingredient

Your favorite chocolate cake recipe might call for coffee or espresso. That’s because coffee makes chocolate desserts taste even more chocolaty. So why not add a bit of espresso powder to your chocolate chip cookie recipe? A teaspoon of this ingredient will do a lot to amplify the chocolate without making your cookies taste like a coffee shop.

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Three Freshly Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies On A Wooden BackgroundAnthiaCumming/Getty Images

Sprinkle with salt

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, chances are you already know the power of a great salted caramel. The salt really accentuates the sweetness of the caramel.

Well, the same goes for chocolate chip cookies. These treats are sweet and a touch of salt is a great match for that. Just sprinkle on a bit of salt as soon as the cookies come out of the oven. Try Maldon salt here; the large, fragile flakes look gorgeous and are perfect for finishing.

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Forget portioning out cookies completely

When you’re short on time, the thought of scooping out dozens of cookies isn’t always so appealing. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the taste of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie.

Instead, I like to make cookie brittle, a creation from Shauna Sever’s Midwest Made cookbook. This recipe combines all the elements of chocolate chip cookies but foregoes all the scooping. Instead, the dough is pressed into a sheet pan, baked and then broken into bite-sized chunks. It is just as delicious as any cookie—and the recipe might have you skipping traditional cookies altogether! (I can attest it really is that good!)

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Bang the cookie sheet

If you are more of a crispy cookie fan, this is a technique you need to try. This pan-banging technique, popularized by Sarah Kieffer of The Vanilla Bean Blog, helps create flat, crispy cookies with that crunchy texture many folks are searching for.

You can use this technique with any drop cookie recipe (though I can confirm that Sarah’s original pan-bang cookies are delicious). To get this crispy, rippled effect, set yourself a timer. Halfway through your baking, bang your cookie sheet against the oven rack. You’ll see the cookies flatten and start to ripple a bit. Repeat this step every two minutes until the cookies are done. The results are worth it!

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Keep cookies soft

If you’re a fan of soft, chewy cookies, you know the disappointment that comes with opening up the cookie jar only to find that your latest batch is now crunchy. As disheartening as this can be, know that there is such an easy solution: a slice of bread.

My mom taught me that popping a slice of bread into an airtight container along with your too-crisp cookies will soften the cookies right up. The cookies will take in the moisture from the bread, making them chewy again. Just be sure to use plain white or wheat bread (you don’t want your sweet treats absorbing strong flavors from a slice of rye or pumpernickel).

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.