I've always loved baking, but it's chocolate chip cookies that truly have my heart. Over the years, I've tried literally dozens of recipes, and have learned from both my ample failures and successes. At this point, I've honed down the "perfect chocolate chip cookie" to a science. Below, I've shared 12 of my go-tip tips, and favorite recipes for the best imaginable chocolate chip cookie:
1. Find Your Perfect Recipe
It should go without saying that selecting the right recipe is the first step to great chocolate chip cookies: Do you prefer a soft center with rippled edges? An absurd amount of chocolate? A perfectly chewy bite? Be sure to compare recipes before you begin! (Our team's chocolate chip cookie competition is a good place to start.)
Personally, one of the markers I look out for is the ratio of brown sugar to white sugar. Brown sugar takes on a nuttier, more caramel flavor when baked because of the molasses, which I find lends to a greater depth of flavor. Since making Kate Davis' chocolate chip cookies, I also look for recipes that include brown butter (more on that below).
2. Consider a Combination of Milk and Dark Chocolate
I'm not sure which chocolate chip cookie recipe it was that first suggested using a mixture of dark and milk chocolate (rather than the blanket recommendation of semisweet chips or 60% dark), but as someone who considers herself to be a milk chocolate stan, I will take any opportunity to add it to a recipe. The dark chocolate offsets the sweetness beautifully, and I find that a mixture of 30/70 milk to dark does it for me, but you can tailor the proportions to find your own ideal ratio.
3. Bring Everything to Room Temperature
Many chocolate chip cookie recipes will call for butter at room temperature, which is easier to blend (unlike a pie dough, which often calls for cold butter, for a flakier crust). About an hour before you plan to bake, bring not only the butter but also your eggs out onto the counter, as I find they blend more seamlessly (I use a KitchenAid stand mixer) when both are at room temperature. (Readers outside of the US and Canada will find this step is already done for them! 😉)
4. Chop Your Chocolate
When it comes to convenience, chocolate chips can't be beat and will do in a pinch (particularly if you're using high-quality chips, like 60% Ghirardelli or Guittard). But if you do find yourself on a Saturday afternoon with unexpected free time, take the extra step to swap out the chips and chop a chocolate bar to make your own.
Chocolate chips can take on a waxy flavor profile, but chopped chocolate creates those gorgeous pools of chocolate (which I'm convinced has something to do with the way they're emulsified). It also gives you the power to determine how big you want your chocolate chunks to be. I prefer for mine to be imperfect and inconsistent, which lends the cookies that homemade quality, and creates variety in every bite.
5. Weigh Your Ingredients
I recently made a lemon curd pie that called for the frustratingly vague measurement of "juice from two lemons," but most serious chocolate chip cookie recipes will tell you the measurements in ounces and grams. Whenever possible, weigh your recipe to get the most precise cookies possible, as measuring cups vary more widely than you'd think and baking is a science! The more specific you are in following the recipe, in general, the better your results will be.
6. Be Precise With the Process
As important as it is to get the quantities right, it's equally important to really dissect and carefully follow the instructions. Something as simple as "add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and blend for 10 seconds" is worded that way for a reason—blending for any longer may result in a tougher, denser cookie. Look for code phrases like "until just incorporated" and "beat butter until light and fluffy" and Google their meaning if they're unfamiliar to you. For example, David Leite's chocolate chip cookie recipe recommends adding the chocolate chips in by hand, so I remove the dough from my KitchenAid mixer and fold them in with a spatula.
7. Brown Your Butter
Kate Davis' cult-favorite chocolate chip cookies likely reached that acclaim for their addition of browned butter. As Rick Martinez put it, "Think dulce de leche, but in melted butter form." Similar to the delicious toffee-y depth of flavor brown sugar provides, the nuttiness of brown butter adds another delicious layer to already delicious chocolate chip cookies—just be sure to let it cool for about ten minutes before you add it to your dough!
8. Scoop Before Resting
One of the common denominators between some of my favorite cookie recipes is that they recommend allowing the dough to rest in the fridge or freezer for eight to 48 hours. I like to use a two-inch cookie scooper (to ensure they're all the same size), and scoop them onto a baking sheet prior to putting them in the fridge. Take it from me: It's so much better to work with soft, malleable dough than wrestling with it on the other side of it chilling. Put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet (they can all be touching, since you can move them apart for baking—once chilled, you can put any you aren't baking into a large zipper bag).
9. Sprinkle Flaky Sea Salt on Top
Before baking, sprinkle some flaky sea salt on top (I prefer Maldon). Some recipes suggest doing this once the cookies have baked, but I find that it sticks better if I add it before placing it in the oven.
10. Take Them Out Juuuust Before You Think They're Ready
I like my cookies to have crispy edges, but still be a bit gooey on the inside. To avoid over-baked centers, take them out juuuust before you think they're done, when they're barely golden brown on the outside—remember, they'll continue to cook slightly once they're out of the oven.
11. Consider Banging Your Pan
I imagine many of you saw Sarah Kieffer's crinkled chocolate chip cookies take Instagram by storm in 2017, and a huge part of that was the technique she introduced so many of us to: pan banging. As soon as the cookies have puffed slightly in the center, she recommends deflating them by lifting the banking sheet and letting it "drop down against the oven rack, so the edges of the cookies set." This helps ensure that soft center and perfectly crinkled edges.
12. Don't Bake Them All
Perhaps the most important of all of these tips? Don't bake all of your cookies at the same time. Many recipes yield as many as 24 or 36 cookies and, unless you're baking them for a party any time soon (going to assume you're not), that's far too many for even the biggest sugar enthusiast. Instead, keep the extra scooped dough in your freezer so you can bake them off whenever a craving hits.
To that end, when I give friends chocolate chip cookies, I often give two bags: one with about six cookies "for now," and a second bag with up to a dozen frozen scoops "for later," with simplified baking instructions written on the bag, "Bake at 350° for 15 minutes.” It's a simple, thoughtful touch that goes a long way!
Here are a few of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes to get you started:
- David Leite's Chocolate Chip Cookie: I keep bread and cake flour in my pantry at all times for this cookie, which Leslie won our cookie competition with a few years ago!
- Sarah Keiffer's Giant Crinkled Chocolate Chip Cookies: The original pan-bangers yield a perfectly soft interior and crispy edges.
- Jacques Torres' Chocolate Chip Cookies: A foolproof, crowd-favorite classic.
- Tara O'Brady's Great Chocolate Chip Cookies: A new go-to I recently discovered.
- Claire Saffitz's Chocolate Chip Cookies, in her cookbook Dessert Person: A trusted classic with razor-precise technique (and Jess's go-to recipe).
- Kate Davis' Brown Butter and Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies: There's no competition when it comes to depth of flavor.