The perfectly cooked cookie is hard to come by. With all the different varieties of cookies and the myriad of textures and colors they exhibit, there’s no hard and fast way to determine “done-ness” that works across the board. However, if you know what signs to look for in your particular type of cookie, you can bake perfect cookies every time!
Sandy-Colored Drop Cookies
Oatmeal cookies, peanut butter cookies, and classic chocolate chip cookies are “done” when their edges are golden brown. If the edges become dark brown, they are likely to be overcooked.
Sugar cookies and other types typically made for decorating are best cooked until their sides are firm and the cookie itself does not look like it will spread anymore. To determine their firmness, you can gently nudge the side with a spatula.
For other lightly colored cookies where the edges don’t necessarily brown, such as pecan sandies, you should gently lift the cookie with a spatula and see if it has an even, golden brown bottom. This will indicate that it’s ready!
Since the done-ness of darker cookies like chocolate and gingerbread is difficult to determine by how much they’ve browned, the best way to check is by nudging the edge gently with a utensil. There should be very little give around the sides.
The perfect shortbread cookie should be set and firm in the middle and evenly browned on the bottom. Since these cookies tend to be crumbly and fragile, the best indicator is the center firmness, as lifting the cookie to check the bottom can easily cause it to break.
When brownies are ready, they will usually pull away from the pan at the edges slightly. If your recipe is more cake-like, you may also be able to test if they’re ready by inserting a toothpick into the center and seeing if it comes out clean. However, if your recipe is particularly fudgey, there’s no easy way to determine how “done” they are, and it’s best just to go by the recommended cooking time.
There are hundreds of different types of cookies out there and some of them are going to be harder than others to bake correctly. While these tactics work for the most common cookies, there are special exceptions that should be noted.
- French macarons: When perfectly cooked, French macarons should have a flat bottom, puffy feet, and a round, glossy crown. They can be very finicky, but it’s usually better to slightly overcook them than to undercook them.
- Crumb-topped cookie bars: Cookies topped with any kind of streusel or crumb-topping (even those made with brown sugar) will have a golden brown appearance when they’re done.
- Flour-less cookies: Cookies with no flour can’t be tested with the normal strategies. Instead, the best indicators of how done they are will usually be whether or not the edges have set yet.
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