Time for the next installment of The Great Cookie Experiment! (Part 1 on butter temperature here; part 2 on chilling the dough here.)

Today, we’ll keep it short and sweet and address the question:

What should I line my baking sheets with?

Great question! Let’s set some ground rules before we begin. First, I did not experiment with baking pan type, only what to put on the pan. I exclusively use the rimmed 12X18-inch baking sheets for all my cookies (I buy them at Sam’s Club in a 2-pack and they are inexpensive and awesome). Secondly, for this experiment, I used my Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe but I think the results could be applied to almost any drop-type cookie (similar in texture to a chocolate chip cookie).

I tested out three “lining” options: a silpat liner, parchment paper and cooking spray.
baking sheets1

The results? Well, the baked cookies, on top, don’t look terribly different from each other. Upon closer inspection (and I mean a really closer inspection) I noticed that the cookies baked on the greased cookie sheet didn’t seem to flatten quite as much but the difference is so minimal that most people probably wouldn’t notice unless they dug out a ruler and measured in millimeters (I may or may not have done just that and then felt like a complete neurotic dork). Overall, the shape, browning on top, and inner texture of all the cookies were pretty similar.
cookies1

The bottoms of the cookies are a slightly different matter. I baked all the cookies for the exact same time (11 1/2 minutes in a 350 degree oven). The parchment baked cookies had noticeably less browning on the bottom. The greased baking sheet produced much more crispiness and browning around the edges of the cookies (you can see it in the upper left rounded edge of the cookie from the greased baking sheet). While the cookies were warm, it didn’t seem to matter quite as much (I went ahead and sampled a variety of each batch…for testing purposes of course). But after they had cooled, the parchment baked cookies stayed softer and less crispy on the bottom. The cookies baked on greased baking sheets were almost crumbly on the edges and the silpat baked cookies were firm on the bottom but still soft in the center.bottoms of cookies

In summary, after baking all the cookies for the same amount of time, I preferred the baked and cooled cookie that was baked on parchment-lined baking sheets; however, baking the other cookies (on silpat-lined or greased cookie sheets) for a bit less time may help the bottoms of the cookies not brown quite as much. Overall, it doesn’t seem to really  matter what you line your baking sheets with as long as you keep an eye on baking time but if I had to insist on a preference, I would avoid the greased baking sheets if you want to minimize crunchy cookie bottoms.

A note about convenience and what I use, I’m not ready to give up my silpat liners quite yet. I actually bake cookies on them 99% of the time, although from now on, I think I’ll decrease the baking time just a bit. Although silpat liners have to be washed and dried, I like the convenience of being able to reuse them over and over. I’ve had mine for over five years (2 of them) and they still look and work fabulously (incidentally, I bought them on Amazon long, long ago; not sure if they still have them there). As for parchment? Well, I couldn’t live without it either. I pull it out to bake cookies on when I’m using all four of my baking sheets and don’t have enough silpat liners to go around. Plus, cleanup is obviously a breeze (toss!) although not quite as “green” as the silpat liners. I also use it to line my baking pans for cakes (cut to size) and for a variety of other kitchen projects (wrapping up quick breads with twine to give away, baking pizzas on the pizza stone, etc.). I almost exclusively buy my parchment paper from King Arthur Flour (not affiliated with them; just love their parchment). I reuse the parchment several times before throwing away unless it is excessively greasy or dirty.

Pretty simple experiment this time!

What else would you like to see tested out with The Great Cookie Experiment?

67 Responses to The Great Cookie Experiment: Baking Pans and Liners!

  1. Charlotte Moore says:

    I love parchment paper. Once I started using it I will try to never be without it. I never thought about the difference in the texture of the bottom of the cookies though. I have enjoyed your cookie series.

  2. Heather says:

    I love seeing all your cookie experiment results! Have you done a sweetener experiment? All white sugar, all brown sugar, organic sugar, etc. I have baked with different combos, but because of being out of something, so I couldn’t compare and taste test. Would love to see that…

    Thanks! Love your shares!

  3. heather says:

    I switched to as many organic ingredients as possible (eggs, sugars, butter, flour vanilla, choc chips), and there is a difference in taste: Organic simply tastes better. You cannot beat organic butter (I get Amish butter whenever possible), the flavor is beyond amazing. Once you try it, you won’t go back to conventional butter, I guarantee it. Also the texture of the baked goods is softer somehow. Cookies and muffins are sooooooo good when using quality ingredients.

  4. Julie says:

    Love this series! What about an experiment between cookies mixed by hand vs. ones mixed in a mixer?

  5. Laurie B says:

    I use the exact same baking sheets bought at Sam’s. But I use them plain and ungreased. I put nothing at all on them, just drop the dough on and bake. I let them cool on the pans for 2 minutes when they come out of the oven, then scoop them off with a spatula and place them on a rack to finish cooling. They never stick and the pans clean up easily. I love those pans for that reason, no matter what I bake on them cleanup is easy!

  6. Sandy W says:

    Thanks for doing all of the testing. I wish I could, but, the Atkins diet won’t let me! I use parchment for so many things and the clean up is a breeze.

  7. Pam says:

    Might I suggest some day investing in air bake cookie sheets… I LOVE them! I won’t make cookies on anything else. It causes the cookies to evenly brown all the way through, so unless you ROYALLY burn the cookies (which, lets admit, we all do on occasion) the bottoms are no browner than the tops. Which, technically, when you burn them, they are still no browner on the bottom than the top…

    That being said, I think you should experiment with organic ingredients vs. non. OR milk chocolate vs. semi sweet (I prefer a mix of both). OR Cornstarch added or not (adding corn starch supposedly makes it chewier and less crispy – how much you add depends on the source – you could toy with adding 2 tsp/cup vs. 2 Tbs/cup vs. none)

  8. Christine says:

    I love your series on cookie experiments!

    If you’re looking to do another one, I’d be curious to know if the brand of chocolate chips makes a difference.

    Thanks again for all your great recipes! :)

  9. Michelle M. says:

    How about brown sugars? I prefer to keep dark on hand but several recipes ask for light. Does Great Value vanilla versus expensive interest you?

  10. Love this comparison! I’ve often wondered the same thing but I was to lazy to try this :)

  11. Great information! I like my silpat, but do agree I have to under bake my cookies a bit when using it to get the texture I prefer.

  12. Kayli says:

    Someone else mentioned it, but I was going to say that I found it interesting that you didn’t test NOTHING out– meaning, no liner or grease or anything. That’s what I always do. But, you know, a good chocolate chip cookie is pretty much going to be good any way you bake it!

  13. Alix says:

    Demarle the maker of the silpat has a special perforated baking sheet that they do recommend using. It is intended to use for the silpat and your cookies will brown less on the bottom.

  14. Marcia S. says:

    Thanks Mel! This is good to know, I prefer parchment and only use my silpat if I run out.

  15. I love these posts! So fun to see the differences!

  16. Renee says:

    I love those pans! When I started using them, I gave away all my air bake sheets. I also use the parchment. I get a lot of stuff like that from a website called webstaurant.com. They are a great site. I buy deli containers from there that are microwaveable and freezer safe. They are great to store leftovers or soup in the winter, chicken stock, etc. They come in a sleeve for really cheap. They also have precut parchment paper that is also cheap. Shipping isn’t bad and you can pay from your amazon account which is nice and easy. I would highly recommend checking out their site. It is a baker’s dream.

  17. I love all these experiments. So cool. I usually use my Pampered Chef stones. I don’t need parchment, grease or silpats and they turn out awesome! Thanks for these nice comparisons.

  18. Camille says:

    Loving the cookie experiments! I have used and loved parchment paper for years – it really is a great thing. For those looking for an inexpensive source, I buy mine from the bakery at our local grocery store, which is cheap, accessible, and I don’t have to pay shipping. It’s what they use in the bakery, so they come as a full sheet-pan size that need to be cut in half, but it’s a great deal.

  19. Can I just tell you that I’m so happy to see a silpat that looks well used like mine. Fun tip, I have tile countertops and I actually lay out my silpat to roll out doughs. It helps me survive the endless frustration of tile grout.

  20. Sue says:

    Mel, I always line my cookie sheets with tinfoil! You should try it and see what you think!

  21. Stephanie says:

    I love your cookie experiment series! I second some of the other suggestions, using different types of sweeteners and testing organic vs non-organic ingredients.

  22. Kelli says:

    What a fun experiment, and what a great excuse to have to eat lots of cookies! I would be interested to see if simply measuring out ingredients such as flour and sugar vs. precisely weighing them makes a difference. Also curious like mentioned above if mixing by hand vs. machine makes a difference. And one last one, baking with convection vs. regular.

  23. Laurie B says:

    Just wanted to correct Renee… the site she gave is a parked domain. The actual link is webstaurantstore.com
    Thanks!

  24. Sandle says:

    I’m loving your series on chocolate chip cookies as I seem to be on a never ending quest for the perfect cookie! I almost exclusively use my silpat liners and the same baking sheets from Sam’s with great results! I would love to see a comparison of fats used. Things such as butter, Butter flavored Crisco, and coconut oil. Living at high altitude makes baking challenging and one of things I have discovered is that using one source of fat over another has a profound effect on the end product.

  25. Mary Jane says:

    My problem with parchment is that sometimes, when I’m not paying attention, I accidentally put wax paper on my cookie sheets, instead. Not fun for anyone…

    Thanks for the post!

  26. Claire says:

    You wash your silpats?? I don’t have Silpat brand, but I have some less expensive ones from Amazon & Aldi that I LOVE. But that’s the beauty of them – not washing! Of course you don’t have to wash the pans, but the liners I just wipe off with a clean dishcloth or paper towel, roll them up, & put them away!

  27. susanna says:

    I love your website so much! Thanks especially for this cookie experiment. I would like to see results of testing how long to cream butter and sugar etc. Now I have been making cookies for years but I don’t actually know how long I am supposed to cream butter and sugar or what its supposed to look like. I just do it how I have been doing it but now am wondering if there is a difference in the cookie.

  28. steph says:

    I would love to see comparisons of sweeteners (as someone else mentioned) and also fat comparisons (also suggested already). Butter vs. coconut oil vs. shortening…As I would like to have my cookies as healthy as possible, of course :)

  29. Megan says:

    I’ve been using these reusable parchment paper liners for a couple of years now. They’re cheaper than regular parchment paper over time and they fold up to store easily. I’d be curious to see how they compare in your baking experiment.
    http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Supply-Inch-Parchment-Paper/dp/B00004RKFR/ref=pd_sim_sbs_k_1

  30. Debi says:

    These posts are so funny Mel ! These are things I think we all think but just don’t ever do. That’s why we have you !!!

    I also agree with other commenters on using all organic ingredients. If you can’t afford all organic, I highly recommend organic dairy if nothing else. There’s too much rBGH and antibiotics and pus, etc that can now be found in our dairy (which includes the butter in this recipe).

    Keep up the fun posts Mel!

  31. Stephanie says:

    I also don’t grease my sheets when making choc chip cookies, but I still usually prefer to place parchment on them for easier clean-up.

    I’d love to see an experiment with substituting applesauce for some/all of the butter/oil in a cookie.

  32. Christine says:

    I’m with the commenter who said she bakes her cookies on ungreased sheets. I do the same, so I’d love to see a comparison between that and your other methods. Another commenter mentioned how long to cream the butter and sugar? Personally, I cream the heck out of it, like 4 minutes worth. I think it makes a difference, but that could be another experiment for you.

  33. Kristen says:

    White sugar vs. brown sugar!

  34. Krista says:

    I started using parchment paper a few years ago and I never looked back!

  35. Laurie B says:

    I’ve been working on customizing my recipe for years. My goal was to make a cookie that stayed soft and chewy for as long as possible after baking. I use both brown and white sugars, and I don’t cream the butter at all, I melt it with the brown sugar in the microwave. I also have a couple of secret ingredients most recipes don’t use. :)

  36. Lacee says:

    How about butter vs. margarine? Or all-purpose vs. bleached flour?

  37. Sara says:

    Love all these experiments, learning so much. I’d be interested in just how much of a difference rotating and turning cookie sheets halfway really makes, versus not moving them at all. And my mother-in-law insists the only way to bake is one sheet at a time, she believes the heat doesn’t circulate well enough with two sheets in the oven. I’d never get through all my dough one sheet at a time, but she says it makes the best cookies. Never had the patience to try!

  38. Michele says:

    Cookie sheets!! I would love to know which cookie sheets were the best. Jelly roll pan? Insulated cookie sheets? Shiny silver or darker sheets? I was always told to bake my cookies on a cookie sheet that was completely flat so that the heat could come up over the cookie sheet and go directly towards the cookie with nothing in the way.

  39. Winnie says:

    I enjoyed your post! I love cookie baking and use both a silpat and parchment. Most often I use parchment as I get really perfectly baked cookies. I use the silpat when I make lace cookies or “sticky” type of cookies, makes getting them off easier, and clean up is easy. I can’t remember the last time I just greased a pan. I will try that again and compare. Thank you!!

  40. Laurie B says:

    I bake one pan at a time, but I don’t rotate them at all. While one is baking, I scoop out the next one.

  41. Melanie M says:

    I love these cookie experiments! Except every time you post one I feel the need to make chocolate chip cookies for some reason… How about whether or not it really matters if you combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl before adding them to the mixer? I’m amazed at how many elements go into the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie!

  42. I prefer parchment. I have silpats, but don’t really care to use them for cookies. I reuse my parchment several times, and just store it between the cookie sheets. After about 3 uses, I toss it. Love your experiments! r

  43. I’ve always wondered how good those silpat are since everyone seems to have them. I’m glad parchment paper was the winner!

    I think temperature would be a good thing to test… 350, 375, and 400 degrees.

  44. sound beacher says:

    Love these posts on cookies. I want to see a test about how to store the delicious cookies. My sister in law likes them soft and puts a piece of bread in the air tight container. Do you like sealed rubber maid or zip lock bags. Does air tight make them go soft, how can you keep the cookie crisp, etc, etc.

  45. Rebecca says:

    How about the “eggs at room temperature” idea. Some recipes ask for that, but who really pulls out the eggs hours before and lets them get to the right temp? Not me. Or how about how the flour is measured; by weight or with cup? Scooped or powdered?

  46. Barbara Argabright says:

    Is there a difference in parchment paper? King Arthur sells 100 sheets for 19.95 and another blogger sells the half sheets 200 for 12.00.

  47. I’ve always preferred using parchment for cookies so fun to see the results of your experiment. I was cheering for parchment to win. :)

  48. Kim in MD says:

    I love food science and i I LOVE this series! I use the same pans that you do, with great success with both Silpat liners and parchment paper. I agree with you, and I prefer to use the parchment paper when I bake cookies. If you do another Great Cookie Debate post, I would be curious to see how using different sugars effects the cookies.

  49. Laura says:

    I would love to see you test out the following:
    Margarine sticks versus real butter.

    I usually use margarine that I buy at Maceys (a Utah grocery store). But when I’m in a pinch, I’ve bought the cheaper brand at Walmart (imperial). The cookies definitely had a difference, the ones with the Walmart brand margarine flattened out more. But I’m curious if its because its margarine, or if butter really changes things.

    I should probably just bake-test these on my own….it wouldn’t be an issue to have lots of yummy cookies around! :)

  50. Jenn says:

    Love your blog! Love all your recipes and cute little posts. I know when I bake my cookies I bake them at 375 for 9 minutes – no longer. I always have perfect, soft (for days), lightly browned cookies. Maybe you should try the temp/time variation to see if that makes a difference at all!

  51. Lindsay G says:

    Mel, this was fun to read! Good to know that we should reduce the baking time with the silpat. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with mine, mostly cause I hate cleaning the grease off. How do you clean yours? I think mine says don’t use soap, but I don’t want a rancid grease smell or taste coming from them, so I wash them with hot water and soap and then dry immediately. Is that what you do?

    It was fun to read everyone’s comments. I am a semi-sweet lover and my husband likes milk, so we always do half and half and we are both satisfied! B

    But I agree with whoever said that it would be fun to know about hand mixing vs a stand mixer. I guess I kind of consider hand mixing to mean that I could use my hand mixer to beat the butter and sugar, etc. but maybe it would be nice to know about hand mixer vs by hand (wooden spoon etc) vs a stand mixer.

    Thanks for all the fun results! I’m loving these posts!

  52. Emily says:

    I recently started using parchment paper, and I love it, but I’m hoping to get a silpat for Christmas. I occasionally bake cookies on ungreased baking sheets as well.
    Maybe you could do an experiment based on the type of flour used? all-purpose, self-rising, cake flour, etc?

  53. Alicia Q. says:

    I was about to bake some cookies yesterday (the dough was already made hanging out in the fridge) when I came upon his post. Hallelujah! I was going to spray the pan because a lot of people commented that the recipe was sticky, but instead used parchment paper. Thanks for saving the day- you always have a way for doing that!

    • Mel says:

      For all those that asked, I do wash my silpat liners because I bake cookies and rolls on them (and I don’t like my rolls tasting like cookies and vice versa). I rinse them in hot soapy water, dry them and store them. Been working like a charm for 10 years now!

  54. My sister bought me Silpats as a Christmas gift several years ago, and I love them for all types of baking. I’ve had my eye on parchment sheets from King Arthur Flour for years, too, because they’re flat, perfectly fit a sheet pan, and you don’t have to fight the sheets cut off from a roll. I’d love to get them for my daughter, who is expecting a baby in December – lots of cookie baking in her future. My only problem is how to store them. If I bought 100 at a time, I’m wondering if they could be rolled up and stored inside a long cylinder. Any suggestions, Mel?

  55. Holly says:

    I wash my silpats too. I would be curious to have you test the same cookie on greased vs. ungreased. I generally do not grease the cookie sheet for chocolate chip cookies.
    I made your cookies tonight to take to work tomorrow. I can guarantee they will be a big hit!

  56. Kellie says:

    Love this series, thanks for doing it…I would be happy to be a taste tester for you too, haha. Have you tried cooking times with different sized and/or flavored chips, i.e mini vs. regular vs. chunks and white vs. milk vs. dark. Don’t know how much it would change things…might be fun to try!

  57. Kellie says:

    Oh, just thought of another experiment. I always mix all my ingredients together at the same time (yes, I am lazy ;)) vs. mixing wet ingredients and adding dry…wonder if it makes a difference.

  58. Angela says:

    I second the cookie storage challenge. I always have a hard time at Christmas because I don’t want to bake too early and have the cookies get soft or hard. Then I’m frazzled trying to do everything at the last minute!

  59. […] While it is still quite warm, carefully set the balloon down onto a piece of paper or a cookie sheet, making sure it is level. This will create a flat bottom for the […]

  60. […] While it is still quite warm, carefully set the balloon down onto a piece of paper or a cookie sheet, making sure it is level. This will create a flat bottom for the […]

  61. Tiffany says:

    Thank you for this series! I am actually baking several different types of cookies as we speak and this came in very handy at just the right time! I sadly just ruined a batch of dough for browned butter snickerdoodles by being impatient about letting the butter cool back to room temperature!! So…I guess I actually found this blog a bit too late :) But I will try again and hopefully get it right! Thank you again! I enjoyed all three of you posts so far.

  62. Chrystal says:

    I just found your blog and have really been enjoying reading your past posts. There are lots of recipes that i am excited to try. I would like you to experiment with baking in a convection oven verses a traditional oven.

  63. Muriel Humphries says:

    So glad you can do the experimenting, and tell us the results. I’d really like to know if most or all cookies can be baked on a 10 x 15 pan, and cut into squares. I would like to do this, but hesitate to try this. Thanks.

  64. Airsoft News says:

    I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!
    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later.

    Cheers

  65. Hunter says:

    How can i get a cookie that is more moist. I want a cookie that is like a boughten cookie. Just like the chips ahoy. :-P

  66. Jean-Marie says:

    Please do a baking experiment using the perforated baking sheets with the Silplat. It’s supposed to make a big difference. Thank you!

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