The Great Cookie Experiment

Have you ever wondered why cookies sometimes turn out flat? Too puffy? Why they are overly brown on the bottom but still gooey inside? What type of pan or liner you should use? Or am I the only one that obsesses about such things?

In the event that there is at least one of you out there who ponders these deep questions, I decided to undertake The Great Cookie Experiment. First up was testing butter temperatures since this may be one of the most critical pieces of cookie baking. In fact, I posted on The Facebook a week or so ago that I spent the entire morning making a bazillion batches of chocolate chip cookies to test out certain theories and that in the end, they all looked the same! Well, I am here to report that I need to withdraw that claim because upon closer inspection, I found that butter temperature did, actually, make a pretty significant difference in cookie outcome.

And I’m here to share the results with you. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as I get to the bottom of more scientific and totally important cookie conundrums (feel free to inquire about certain cookie problems in the comments and I’ll add them to my to-test list!).

First of all, for the following scientific report, there are a few givens:

1) We are using a recipe that calls for room temperature or softened butter. Even though some cookie recipes call for melted butter (in fact, my personal favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for melted butter), those recipes are void for these test results because they have been created based on melted butter as the base. My test was run for cookies calling for softened butter, which most do.

2) We are using the scoop and sweep flour method. The way flour is measured can significantly impact results! Read more about that fascinating topic here.

3) We are using a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe that I’ll provide at the end of this post.

4) Throughout this post, I’ll be using very technical terms for the butter temperature as follows:

Cool Room Temperature Butter: means you can push your finger gently into the butter to make an indentation but it’s not so soft that your finger easily slides through the entire stick. Make Sense?

Way Too Soft Butter: means your butter is, um, way too soft. It might even have tiny melty spots if you tried to soften too aggressively in the microwave (ahem, which I never do, right!). Your finger will easily slide through the stick of very mushy butter.

Melted Butter: means your butter is melted. Wow. These are difficult concepts, I know.

You can see in the picture below how the cookie batters already look quite different. This is right after the eggs and vanilla have been added and beaten into the batter. Please forgive the different bowl size. My life has only so many Pyrex bowls.
The Great Cookie Experiment

Now behold a bird’s eye view of the batter after the dry ingredients and chocolate chips have been added. Pretty easy to tell how the batters are different based on the butter, right?The Great Cookie Experiment

After the cookies are baked, the differences are pretty obvious (even though I failed to recognize them in my hasty FB post of yesterweek). The first cookie with cool room temperature butter is picture perfect. It baked evenly and held it’s shape, flattening beautifully without overspreading. The way too soft butter cookie doesn’t look too shabby but if you look closely, you’ll notice that it’s a bit doughier and slightly greasier than the cool room temp butter cookie, although it still held it’s shape pretty well. The melted butter cookie? Misshapen and just not up to par with the others in looks. In taste it wasn’t too far off, but like the way too soft butter cookie, it was greasier in texture and too underdone in the center even though the edges and bottom were browned (and just so you know, I eat all cookies equally so no cookies were harmed or thrown away due to superficial imperfections).
The Great Cookie Experiment

Here’s an up close and personal look at the melted butter cookie. Hardly round, and while you can’t see it, much flatter than the other cookies. Oh, and please disregard my chipped mini platter. Totally not worth photoshopping out. It’s kind of a peek into my real life: chipped platters, misshapen cookies and all. Welcome to my world!
The Great Cookie Experiment

The way too soft butter cookie…pretty good except for the underdone middle and slightly greasy taste/texture.The Great Cookie Experiment

And finally, the star. Cool, room temperature butter produced the prettiest cookie with the very best texture.The Great Cookie Experiment

So there you have it: the results of the 1st installment of The Great Cookie Experiment! I’ll be bringing you other details soon like what to line the pans with (parchment, silpat or lightly greased) along with a few other good tips. In the meantime, here’s the cookie recipe I used and again, feel free to leave any questions/feedback in the comments!

Happy Cookie Baking!

Basic Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe {For The Great Cookie Experiment}

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, cool room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and both sugars together until well mixed. Add eggs and mix for 2-3 minutes, until the batter is light in color. Add salt, vanilla, baking soda and mix. Add flour and chocolate chips together and mix until combined.
  2. Drop cookie batter by rounded tablespoon onto parchment paper or silpat lined baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden around edges but still soft in the center.
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/the-great-cookie-experiment-butter-temperature/

Recipe Source: adapted from this recipe

122 Responses to The Great Cookie Experiment: Butter Temperature

  1. MomStarr says:

    Personally I am very glad to see you doing these experiments with cookies. I am very picky about my cookies. I have often wondered how to actually get what I call the perfect cookie. I despise cake like cookies or too crunchy cookies. I like the slightly crispy outside with the soft chewy inside. I don’t use white sugar. I use raw sugar or some other alternative. And that will obviously affect the texture of the cookie. So if you ever consider experimenting with different sugars i would love to see what you find.

  2. Marci says:

    What a great cause! How about cold dough vs room temp dough? I love this idea!

  3. heather says:

    I, too, am picky about ccc. They must be soft and chewy, I also use way more brown sugar at least a 2:1 ratio to white sugar. Dark brown organic sugar makes for a wonderfully brown cookie. Sooooo gooooood.

    I’ve also noticed the butter structure changing the texture, but when you make cookies smaller size, the different in the texture is negligible. So if butter is too soft, I reduce cookie size and watch baking time. Yummy everytime. Not a fan of melted butter cookie products, though.

  4. Den says:

    What about using butter right out of the frig? Sometimes I don’t have time to let it warm to room temperature….

    Also, do eggs need to be room temperature or can they be used right out of the frig too?

    Apparently I lack patience:)

    Thanks – looking forward to the rest of your cookie tests!

  5. Célia says:

    I just love this post! Can’t wait to read the one about how to line the pans! Then i’ll be making the most perfect chocolate chip cookie in Portugal! Love your blog and recipes!

  6. Mel,
    I can’t tell you how much I love posts like this! It’s so America’s test kitchen :-) speaking of…have you ever tried their recipe for ccc that calls for part melted browned butter and part room temp butter? I’ve had delicious results with that one too, but it is a little finicky for most people’s preferences.
    Thanks!
    Michelle Jones

  7. Jill says:

    This is so cool! I hardly EVER wait for butter to soften at room temp and always end up with #2 or #3. Honestly, I love all cookies equally, no matter how the butter is softened but this is so neat to look at these results!!

  8. Alyssa says:

    Awesome post! I love knowing the science behind baking and how certain things will affect my baking! Thank you!

  9. Kim in MD says:

    This is awesome, Mel! My favorite cookie recipe also uses melted chocolate, and I love it, but the cookie with the room temperature butter is one perfect, gorgeous cookie! I am always looking for “the perfect” recipe, so I am so excited for your future suggestions for baking the perfect cookie!

  10. Maria says:

    LOVE this post. Humorous voice behind the writing. Informative, too. And yes, I’ve had some of the same ponderings as you about making cookies. I really really love the pic of the state of the butter above each cookie; the visual helps me understand the effect. You are awesome, Mel!

  11. Brittany says:

    Love this post! It’s causing me to actually think about why my cookies can sometimes turn out different as opposed to just saying “huh, weird” and moving on. I have a recipe that uses shortening and it’s actually so delicious. Other than creating a slightly different flavor, what do you think about shortening vs. butter? Have you ever used shortening in choc chip cookies?

  12. Pam says:

    “and just so you know, I eat all cookies equally so no cookies were harmed or thrown away due to superficial imperfections…” Brilliant ;) I bought a butter crock based on your recommendation – that would fall under the “room temp butter” rather than “too soft butter” right? Anyway, love this post – thank you for taking the time to share your results!

  13. Jodie says:

    Thanks Mel for this post! I too am always wondering these things. I love how you are not afraid to show your chipped dish – it shows you are not afraid to show us your “real life.” I’m looking forward to seeing your post on what pan to use and what liners to use. I LOVE cookies that don’t brown on the bottom (especially sugar cookies) and have found the Silpat liner to give me that result with my air bake cookie sheets. Looking forward to other options that you think work great! Thanks for your wonderful blog!

  14. Pam says:

    PS – I bought 2 of those microwave bowls your hubby mentioned as gift ideas…such a hit! Tell him thank you :)

  15. It is always fun experimenting with ccc’s and being able to enjoy three batches after is the icing in the cake!

  16. Teresa R. says:

    Great post. I always wonder if the eggs have to be at room temperature and the importance of mixing the ingredients in a specific order.

  17. Oh man, would I have loved to be on the taste testing end of this experiment! Such interesting results!

  18. Diana C says:

    I pop the sheet with cookie dough spoonsfuls in the freezer for a couple of minutes before putting them into the oven. They turn out nicely, especially on a hot summer day.

  19. Katherine M says:

    I recently started making your Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from the best recipe section and I have deemed it the absolute best that I have ever made. Now I am quite confused by the outcome of this test. I think I will continue to make them with the melted butter mainly because it is so convenient not to have to plan ahead and easier to make in a pinch, but also I adore the taste and texture of the cookies following your recipe. Hmmmm.

  20. Laurel says:

    This is fantastic! I was going to email you about your opinion on the matter of a perfect ccc. I have a conundrum with butter too. What brand did you use? Using the recipe from “the best ccc” My mother produces gorgeous, delicious, perfect ccc. She uses costcos Kirkland butter and lives at a lower altitude. I use Kroger butter and live at a much much higher altitude. They’re terrible. I went and tried a “real, named brand expensive land o lakes” butter. Still terrible. I finally went to visit my mom and stocked up on lots and lots of Kirkland butter. My cookies are fantastic now too. Only, if I don’t have Kirkland butter I can’t make great cookies. What can I do? As much as I love going on vaca to visit the homestead it would be nice to just run to the local store and have butter on hand for cookies. Thank you so much! Your fantastic. My family would be a lot less happy without your blog. I cook from you daily. My husband always asks “is it a Mel dinner tonight” he loves your recipes!

  21. bluebaker says:

    I had always wondered if there was a big difference whether you used a mixer or just by hand with a big spoon. Does that affect the texture at all?

  22. Paula D says:

    So happy youre doing this!! I’ve also heard some to do about cookies tasting better with batter that was made 2 days prior. Something about the dry and liquid ingred completely combining I think??? Maybe try testing a batch and make a few cookies right away, at 24 hours and 48 hours. Thanks for all your work!!

  23. Adrienne Murray says:

    This is great!

    I second cold vs room temp cookie dough.

    Also, butter vs margarine vs shortening. I know a lot of people who replace the butter with shortening or who do half/half. (Butter flavored shortening). It would be great to see the comparison there!

  24. NinaN says:

    But I love my cookies to be a little underdone in the middle :)

  25. Sandee says:

    Love this! What about brands of flour? I’ve heard that King Arthur flour is the best for baking but I usually just have at

  26. Sandee says:

    Love this! What about brands of flour? I’ve heard that King Arthur flour is the best for baking but I usually just have store brand on hand. Also, I go back and forth between real vanilla and imitation. I can’t really tell a difference, but I don’t make them close together either to really be able to judge.

  27. Shannon says:

    When I lived in Denver I almost quit making cookies because for some reason I couldn’t get them right at high altitude even though I could bake cakes and bread successfully. I wonder if Laurel’s problem is the altitude. It’s amazing how many things effect the outcome of cookies! Thanks for all the research!

  28. heather says:

    I have strong feelings about butter used in baking, lol. I always always use unsalted organic. The flavor is unbelievable, so much stronger, sweeter than regular (nonorganic) butter. It is an absolute must for butter or shortbread cookies. I even use it in muffins, either melted to replace oil or just softened and then creamed with sugar/wet ingredients.

    I also love King Arthur (organic also). Once I tried it, I haven’t used anything else.

  29. Lindsey says:

    I know it can be time consuming, but chilling the dough definitely helps a cookie hold it’s shape, even if it’s made with melted butter. Have you tried any recipes with cornstarch? I’m also interested to see if you do any experiments with different types of flour and how the results will vary. One of my favorite CCC recipes calls for bread flour and cornstarch, I love the texture it gives the cookie!

    Happy experimenting!

  30. This is awesome! Thanks, Mel!! I’ve definitely used butter that was too soft before because some of my cookies haven’t turned out…now I know what to blame it on!

  31. Jill says:

    Thank you for this experiment! I am looking forward to all of your responses to all of these great questions! I have a different question. What do you know about the insolated cookie sheets? My cookies seem to turn out flat and run together on the pan. I often use the unsalted margarine or unsalted butter. Do these pans require long baking time or a different oven temperature or is it the butter or margarine that is making them turn out flat like your melted butter cookies. Oh, I also chill the dough overnight so it is firm when I make the cookie balls. I look forward to anyones’s advice! Thanks!

  32. Connie says:

    Great post! This may have just answered many of my cookie baking dilemnas. and I LOVE the chipped dish! That means you’re an honest person that we can trust. I like brand new, perfect, matching everything as much as the next gal, but let’s face it, that just ain’t real!! :)

  33. Lacey says:

    Thank you for doing this! It will give me motivation to be patient and let the butter come up to the right temp, instead of microwaving it!

  34. Jess says:

    Your favorite cookie recipe is also my favorite :) however, I do chill my dough afterwards and I think that affects the way the melted butter cookies bake. They’re not as greasy that way and bake up chewy. I also weigh my ingredients instead of using standard measuring cups and spoons.

  35. Tahnycooks says:

    This is so handy! Great info! Thanks for doing this experiment! I’m sure your family enjoy it too! ;)

  36. Heather says:

    Thanks for posting this! The last time I made chocolate chip cookies, I accidently melted the butter halfway. Now I know why my cookies always turn out different. Thanks again!!

  37. Amanda Yoder says:

    I had no idea the butter temp could matter! Thanks for sharing. Although I think the melted butter looks the best!

  38. Rumina says:

    Great post! Looking forward to the future posts, in particular about what you line your pans with. I always use my cooking stones for cookies, I notice you don’t use your stone for baking cookies and wondered why you don’t. Thanks!

  39. Kristen Bishop says:

    I was horrible at making chocolate chip cookies. I stopped making them for about a decade. They always tasted good, but they looked horrible and after having a roommate in college that consistently made the perfect looking chocolate chip cookies, I decided that I should just stick to other cookies that turned out fine and looked good. That is until my I was talking to my sister and lamenting my lack of chocolate chip cookie cooking skills and she mentioned http://theperfectchocolatechipcookie.com/instruct.php. It troubleshoots looks of cookies, with great pictures of the perfect cookie compared to various problem cookies. My stint of avoiding chocolate chip cookies is gone and my husband will be forever grateful. Check it out, it was super helpful.

  40. Kim Montes says:

    How long did you leave the butter out to become cool room temp…usually my cookies look like melted butter because i soften under the oven vent while it’s pre-heating…lol
    Also agree with egg temp and flour type…does it matter? You rock for doing these experiments!

  41. I do not like this study because you have now made all of my high altitude excuses for flat cookies useless! That has been my go to for years…’Well, I live at altitude.’

    It does make sense after seeing these results that one of my favorite recipes that calls for melted butter is refrigerated overnight before they are baked.

    I think I must test this theory too in our altitude. Not because I’m really so curious…I just want an excuse to eat a whole bunch of cookies!

  42. LisaAnn says:

    You are not alone in your obsession! I, too, wonder about how to get the best results when cooking/baking, and how different ingredients and techniques affect the outcome. I had just heard about softening butter for only about a half hour and then baking and was trying it out, but didn’t have a comparison since I only made one batch. Yeah, I’m that girl that would think it’s a great idea to make cookies and then change my mind, leaving the butter out overnight…or, going to make cookies and then realizing that I forgot to take the butter out to soften. It’s one or the other scenario, every. single. time. There’s even times when it’s a combination: forget to take it out, take it out, then don’t feel like it anymore and it sits out over night. I think it’s awesome that you took the time to do this experiment and have a visual! Love your site, recipes…and your sense of humor! :)

  43. Janelle says:

    What about cold (I’m too lazy even to microwave–straight-from-the-fridge) butter?

  44. Whitney says:

    What is your experience with baking stones? I use those exclusively in all of my baking (cookies, brownies, bread, etc.) and rarely have a problem. In your opinion, how do they compare to lined baking sheets?

  45. Jenn in AZ says:

    This means I’m going to have to be more patient and not microwave my butter. My son always said he could tell when I was in a hurry to make the cookies. I guess he wasn’t just saying that.

  46. Annette in PA says:

    When I saw this post, I couldn’t wait to read it because my ccc always turn out different every time. I am pretty sure you have just solved my problem. I am always changing how much I warm up my butter each time. In all honesty though I would have to say that I don’t care for ccc unless they are the super flat ones. On the other hand, my husband likes them fluffy. So, I will forever melt the butter all the way so I can have the cookies all to myself.

  47. Crystal says:

    Question. I usually use room temp butter which to me would run between cool room temp and way to soft butter. I know it would depend on the day but how long do you leave butter out to justify cool room temp?

  48. Very interesting. I’m also curious to see what difference using cold butter makes. Sometimes I’m lazy and just put cubed up cold butter into the mixer and beat it until it’s smooth and then continue on with the recipe.

  49. Kristen says:

    Love this idea! What about different ratios of brown vs. white sugar??

  50. Bronya says:

    Awesome insights…..thank you for taking the time to do this!

  51. Mel says:

    Ok, I have several responses to some of your questions. For those wondering about future tests (different flours, sugar ratios, baking pans, resting/chilling time, etc.), I’ve added those to my experiment list. Here’s to 500 more batches of chocolate chip cookies in my near future! For those of you asking questions related to this post, here you go:

    Several asked about shortening and without sounding like a snob, except for a few really, really old recipes on my site and the classic snickerdoodle, I don’t use shortening in chocolate chip cookies (and most others) because a) the pure, beautiful taste of butter just can’t be beat, b) I don’t like the greasy texture shortening imparts and c) I’ve never had trouble making a chocolate chip cookie that doesn’t spread with butter which is often why people turn to shortening.

    Now, on to the cool room temperature butter. Many of you asked how long to get it perfectly that way. As you can understand that completely depends on the temperature of your kitchen but generally on a day when my kitchen is around 70 degrees (not 85 degrees like it is now – eek!), I leave the butter out for 45 minutes to an hour and it’s just about perfect.

    Katherine – remember that this post is dedicated to cookies that start out with softened butter. My perfect cookie recipe was tested and tried (by America’s Test Kitchen) using melted butter so it doesn’t apply at all to this post. Melted butter in that recipe will be completely different than using melted butter in the recipe in this post (you can see how the amounts of both recipes differ based on how they were developed). So the melted butter Perfect Chocolate Chip cookies are still my faves but because so many other cookie recipes call for softened butter, I wanted to experiment.

    As for brand of butter, I’m not exclusive, but usually buy Sam’s Club brand, Land O’ Lakes or Crystal Farms but I’ve been known to grab the generic too. And although it will make many of you faint, I never use unsalted butter. It just doesn’t make enough difference to me in taste/texture/whatever to keep it on hand.

    Is that it? If I missed something, let me know!

  52. Jackie says:

    I have been eyeing this recipe for awhile, wondering about all her tips, particularly the cornstarch. What do you think? http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/05/13/chewy-chocolate-chunk-cookies/

  53. Is it wrong that I thought about dipping that last cookie into the melted butter?

  54. Lorie says:

    Here’s a test I’d love to see:

    I don’t like to mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Here’s what I always do:

    After creaming the butter/sugars and mixing in eggs/vanilla, I mix the salt/baking soda/powder into the creamed mixture. After it’s thoroughly mixed, I add the flour. This always works for me, but I’ve always wondered if they would turn out better adding the dry ingredients the “traditional” way. Never wondered enough to make me want to dirty an extra bowl though. Like I said, I’m lazy.

  55. Thank you for making this small experiment. I am confused in a kitchen from time to time and butter’s temperature used to confuse me as well :)

  56. This is so interesting! I’ve always used room temperature butter when making cookies, so I like seeing the actual difference. Thanks for sharing!

  57. This is a great post! I’ve always been curious about the effect of using the different temp butters and then refrigerating the dough. As in, if you made cookies with melted butter, but then refrigerated the dough for several hours, would they taste the same as batter than had been prepared with cool, room temp butter and also refrigerated?

  58. Mary says:

    I appreciate all the cookie baking instructions (right down to the scoop & sweep method!) I’ve always had problems with my cookies. I just bought some silicone baking mats to try. I NEED to make a perfect cookie… It can’t be that difficult, can it? Also, I am curious to know that when removing cookies from the oven, how long should they sit in the pan before removing them to the cooling rack? Thanks Mel, we’re missing you in these parts!

  59. Sheila says:

    I made your Perfect Chocolate Chip cookies tonight for the first time. Just as I finished making the dough exactly according to your instructions, my husband wanted me to go for a run with him. So the cookie dough set on my counter for 75 minutes until I got back from a run. I then baked them in the toaster oven because today’s temperature was 90 degrees. They turned out wonderful and were delicious. I’m looking forward to reading your continuing posts concerning cookie making. I continually refer to your bread making advice and tutorials. They have helped me tremendously in bread making. Your French Bread rolls are now a family favorite in this household.

  60. Danielle says:

    I love this post and I’m sending it to all the bakers and cookie lovers I know! Thank you for breaking this all down for us. I look forward to many more experiments (and cookies!) in the future! : )

  61. Lyndsay says:

    Mel, I’m wondering if you ever bake your cookies on stoneware? I sell Pampered Chef and I often get asked the question if cookies turn out flatter on stoneware. I only use my stoneware for cookies. I’ve never had a cookie experiment, but maybe I should do that:) The butter thing was super helpful! Thanks!

  62. Whitney says:

    I don’t have a stand mixer and so I’ve always wondered if that makes a difference. My cookies always look like #3 and I’ve heard over mixing can make them greasy, but is there a way to mix it all well without a mixer and have them not turn out flat?

  63. Stacey says:

    This is very interesting! Adding 2 Tsp of cornstarch to the dough makes for nice soft cookies (never, ever, crispy). It might be fun to experiment with that as well.

  64. Anne says:

    A few years ago, I read a NYT article about a cookie shop in NY that refrigerates their cookie dough for 72 hrs after mixing, and before baking. They said this allowed the flavors to meld properly, and significantly changed the resulting texture of the cookie. I would assume that no matter what sort of butter you use, what what mixing stye, refrigeration can save almost any cookie dough and also firm up too soft butter in the dough.

    I always chill my dough for at least a day before baking, but I have never done side by side tests to see if it really makes a difference. I also use 100% brown sugar and 100% whole wheat flour (soft white wheat) which results is a darker cookie, but a still delicious, soft-in-all-the-right-places cookie. Another cookie-making tip I have learned is to shape all the dough into balls (the silicone cookie scoops sold at the registers at Bed Bath and Beyond are fabulous), freeze any extra balls on a cookie sheet, then keep them stored in a ziploc bag in the freezer until you want to bake them. Then those who love raw cookie dough can have their fix any time, and when you need a quick dessert requiring no prep work, dishes or forethought, viola. No need to thaw them, you just add about 2-3 minutes to the baking time. They will bake much taller straight out of the freezer.

    Wow, cookies are important!

  65. grace says:

    FABULOUS idea, mel! these results are not surprising, but sadly, i learned that the hard way rather than finding out via wonderfully-written blog post. :)

  66. Amy says:

    I use the crisco sticks – they stay in the cupboard, so are always room temp ;-). I also use room temp eggs (or warm them up in warm water if I don’t remember to take them out earlier). More brown sugar than white (1 1/2 c. brown, 1/2 c white) and extra vanilla (2 tsp). Also, just a *bit* more flour than called for. Makes a great cookie :-)

  67. Mame says:

    LOVE this concept!! I am most interested in seeing the test of the temperature of the dough AFTER it is all mixed. ex: make the cookie dough, all with the perfectly softened butter, and then bake one batch right away, refridge one batch for an hour and then maybe one for longer or something like that. I really wish I was one of your neighbors or local friends….. they must be getting lots of cookies right now :o)

  68. Nanci says:

    Thank you so much for doing this. I have seriously wanted to ask you how you always get your cookies so beautiful and puffy. Mine are always flat. Can’t wait to see the results of your other experiments. Thanks again.

  69. Katheryn says:

    Love this post. I’ve got to say though, the cookie that looks the best to me is the melted butter version. So this is helpful to me since now I know I should always melt the butter to get the type of cookie I like.

  70. Jean says:

    I like the middle one. First one is a little too thick and puffy and last one is too flat.

  71. Ashley in PDX says:

    My daughter did this experiment with butter temperature and measured cookie diameter for her 6th grade science project – she got the same results !!

    Great post

  72. nancy says:

    is it possible to overmix the butter when creaming it with the sugars?

  73. Kate says:

    Mel, This is very interesting! I’m glad you posted. And I’m also glad to see we are CCC Soul Sisters by going the America’s Test Kitchen Perfect CCC route. That’s my tried and true cookie and anyone who has eaten them agrees they are THE BEST! I mean, really, is there a better cookie out there? I think not!

  74. [...] forgetting to set out the butter to soften when baking cookies, and usually end up microwaving it. HERE is why I won’t ever do that [...]

  75. Heather says:

    Okay, I know I am a crazy cookie lady when I realize that yes I read the entire post and loved it and now need to conduct my own experiment. Thank you

  76. Emily says:

    Have you noticed the same difference with your whole wheat chocolate chip cookie recipe?

    • Mel says:

      Emily – yes, for the most part. I always use cool room temp butter for those cookies or else, because of the oats in the recipe, I find they spread too much.

  77. This is such a great experiment. I’ve always wondered if it really makes a difference. I guess it really does.

  78. michelle says:

    Do you chill your dough before baking or do you immediately start baking the cookies after mixing all the ingredients?

    • Mel says:

      Michelle – I don’t chill my dough because I usually want cookies right.this.very.minute and haven’t planned ahead but I’ve added to my list of things to experiment with.

  79. Andria says:

    You need to read this recipe from the New York Times about the perfect temperature for butter. Apparently, the perfect temp for butter is 65 degrees. Who knew? It also goes into different types of butter. (Did you know that European butter is 82% fat?) I read this YEARS ago, and I still remembered it so well, I had to google it after reading your post.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/17/dining/17bake.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    OK, I sound like a nerd, but that’s OK. :)

  80. Julie Markham says:

    Years ago I learned that making cookies with room temperature butter made a huge difference so seeing your experiment was quite validating to me. A long time ago, quite by accident, while trying to stay busy and listen to someone on the telephone who needed to talk, I made my chocolate chip cookies by hand. Completely by hand — just a wooden spoon. What a difference! I often share my cookie recipe but people complain that theirs never taste the same as mine. I ask if they used a mixer and they always say, “of course,” as though skipping that part of my recipe was optional. I’d be interested if you test this out…

  81. I always follow nancy silverton´s advice for room temp butter: soft but not greasy. There really IS a big difference in the cookies. And I can just imagine your kitchen…and your happy kids who had a ton of batches to `taste´. It´s a good thing you have them to eat all that sweet stuff!

  82. Michelle says:

    When you test pans, try a baking stone. It’s my personal favorite way to bake cookies. Not too brown on the bottom, which makes for a softer cookie.

  83. Stacy W. says:

    Thank you! You just answered one of my life’s great baking mystery questions!

  84. Tricia says:

    I know I am the 86th commenter, but my question is LIFE OR DEATH. Are there ANY techniques that would make a CCC made without brown sugar successful? I can NOT for the life of me find brown sugar in Mexico. Whave piloncillo , which is not the same. Also, I cant find molasses to make my own brown sugar.

    So, thoughts? Pllllllease help me, I miss CCC soooo badly.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Tricia – I don’t know of any other good subs for brown sugar other than the ol’ molasses trick. All white sugar will definitely make the cookies less chewy – have you tried googling any other substitutions for brown sugar?

  85. Michelle says:

    Hi Mel, I made these this morning to share with a generous group of volunteers who came over to help paint our house! They all loved them! :) You don’t by any chance have a weight measurement for the flour in this, do you? Especially with 3 1/2 cups, there’s quite a bit of room for variation in the amount. My cookies came out a little flatter than yours look like, even though I followed the recipe exactly, and I’m wondering if it’s because mine had a tad less flour.

  86. Anna says:

    Thank you for this! I am a cookie-holic, although usually not organized enough to get my butter out early enough to soften, so I try to soften it in the microwave. More often than not it gets that melty spot in the middle. I am going to be more aware of my butter temperature from now on!

  87. Ok…..so I may be on to something that has bothered me forever. Everytime I make your peanut butter choc chip cookies (I think they are in your best recipes) they never flatten out like normal cookies or like your photo of them. Do you melt your butter in that recipe or make it super duper soft? Just curious. They are still amazingly delicious but are not in the presentation category if you know what I mean. They stay almost in the shape of my cookie scooper. Drives me bonkers!

  88. Mel says:

    Aimee, hmmm, I don’t melt the butter in those cookies! My guess is you might need to use a bit less flour. Even a 1/4 cup difference and I bet it will help. Just a thought!

  89. Chris says:

    What a great experiment! After getting into the Joanne Fluke Cookie Jar mystery series, and noticing her recipes called for melted butter the majority of the time and having great success with her recipes, I started using melted butter the majority of the time in my baking too. I’ve found that as long as you chill the dough about an hour prior to baking, melting the butter results in cookies that are just as uniform, thick and chewy as those made with softened butter. This was a revelation to me because I live in the foothills in a very hard-to-heat home that is mostly way to cold to obtain properly softened butter in the winter and this has made it possible for me to whip up a batch of delectable, comforting cookies any time I want. Thanks for taking this on and sharing it with us!

  90. roxy says:

    Mel,
    I tried this cookie recipe along with others and for unknown reasons to me my cookies seem to turn into cookie puffs, I’ve tried different methods/cookie dough size although they taste right yet they always turn puffy and not so cookie like. Any suggestions or how do you make such beauties?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Roxy – have you looked at my post on measuring flour (scoop and sweep method)? That will make a huge difference in cookie outcome. If you are using that method, you might try adding even slightly less flour. Sounds like a bit too much flour is causing your cookies to stay puffed.

  91. Becky says:

    I think this is a fun experiment and it’s fun to see the results but it’s a flawed experiment. If this original recipe calls for softened butter then of course that is how it is going to turn out best. Using a different temperature of butter isn’t going to come out quite right. My favorite recipe uses melted butter but they never come out flat because that is what the recipe calls for. I love using melted butter because it makes the cookies so chewy! But regardless, I love your blog and think experiments are always fun!

    • Mel says:

      Hey Becky – I get what you are saying (my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe starts with melted butter, too) but my point in running this experiment was largely to show that butter temperature does make a difference and that the recipe instructions should be heeded – as in, if a recipe calls for softened butter, melted butter won’t yield the same results. Surprisingly, and I hear this a lot from readers, many people disregard the “softened butter” part or don’t know exactly how soft to get the butter and just go ahead and melt it. So that’s basically why I wanted to show how a cookie that is supposed to be made with softened butter will look different with the varying butter temps. :)

  92. Becky says:

    Oh, I see now. Sorry, I guess I didn’t understand. Yes, it is very important to follow recipes! Especially the butter part of recipes.

  93. Leah Midkiff says:

    First off I just want to say that I absolutely love your website! It’s helped me with meal planning for the hubby and two toddlers for a while now!

    I love your cookie experiment posts! My husband refuses to eat any kind of pie or cake or brownie (blasphemy I know, I find myself quite often baking pans of brownies and then eating the whole pan by myself) but he will eat Choc. Chip cookies and so I’ve proceeded to make them at least once a week for about a year now. We really love your “perfect chocolate chip cookie” that uses melted butter because I often struggle with soft butter recipes and those ones turn out every time. But I recently tried a few soft butter cookie recipes that caught my attention and so far none of them have turned out. I’ll admit I’ve made batches and then hid them in kitchen cupboards to eat while no ones around because even though the taste was phenomenal, I just couldn’t let anyone else see how misshapen they were. So my question is how long do you generally cream your butter and sugar for? I know over beating can ruin the cookie dough, but I’ve also read in a few places that they should be beaten together for 5 to 10 minutes in a kitchen aid (which sounds like a long time to me). I know everything I read simply says “beat until light and fluffy” but I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I would love your opinion on a little bit of a more detailed instruction. :)

    • Mel says:

      Hi Leah – I only beat my butter and sugar together for probably 1-2 minutes…the real trick, I think, is beating it for a full 3-4 minutes after you add the eggs. The batter will turn a noticeably lighter color. My aunt, who is a cookie master, swears beating it for that long after adding the eggs makes for the best cookies. Good luck!

  94. Ashley Nicole. says:

    This makes me want to do my own experiment, mainly because whenever I make cookies with cold-from-fridge butter and eggs and bake them right away, they -still- look like that melted butter picture. Which makes me wonder what they’d look like if I melted the butter. O.O

    (The only way I’ve been able to get cookies that look like the perfectly softened butter cookie is to decrease the butter by half and double the amount of flour. It’s ridiculous.)

  95. Elle says:

    THANK YOU FOR THIS POST! I am in the process of making sugar cookies from scratch for the first time, and the dough is MUCH stickier than in the pictures (stupid Pinterest!). Now I’m thinking it was because I tried to take advantage of my daughters nap time and microwaved my butter on half power. My butter was like your middle option, I thought “I’m sure its fine” but it stuck everywhere! I’m currently waiting for it to chill and hopefully that will bring it back to normal!

  96. Lorraine says:

    I am so late to the party but what was the texture of the cookie the next day? All my cookies are great out of the oven but the next day they are rock hard.

  97. Carly says:

    I know this was posted quite a few months ago and you may have even done it by now, but I’d love to see the differences baking soda makes! I’ve recipes that call for as little as 1/2 tsp baking soda and that’s it & then some that call for more or even baking soda & baking powder together! Thanks!

  98. Danielle says:

    What about chilled butter?

  99. Sonya says:

    Very helpful post, along with your post about chilling cookie dough! Thanks for sharing :)

  100. […] Butter that is too cold, too soft or melted will alter the texture and taste of the cookies. See http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2013/06/the-great-cookie-experiment-butter-temperature.html for a more in-depth explanation. It also helps to have your eggs at room temperature as […]

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