The Secrets to the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Want to know the secrets to making the best chocolate chip cookies? We're spilling everything, from if you should use butter or shortening to which kind of chocolate chips to use. Plus, grab our recipe for the best chocolate chip cookies.

by Robin Stephens


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Chocolate chip cookies are the all-time favorite cookie in my family. They were always in the baking rotation and often the only ones in the rotation. Believe me, I’ve made my fair share of these delightful chippers over the years. I’ve also made my share of not-so-great chocolate chip cookies. (Sad but true!) But through the years, and thousands of cookies, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks I’d like to share.

What is a perfect chocolate chip cookie? To me it’s all about balance — they should be soft and chewy (never overbaked), with crisp edges. The number one rule is simply to use the very best possible ingredients. They should be filled with chocolate chips or chunks and ideally served warm. Well, I think all cookies should be served a little on the warm side, but that might be because I’m always impatient to try them!

The #1 Secret for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies: Use Great Ingredients

Butter vs Shortening

Let’s look at the cookie components, starting with fat. The texture of any cookie is largely determined by the type of fat used — should it be butter or shortening?

Some recipes call for all butter or all shortening. I prefer a combination of both. Butter gives great flavor, but using just butter tends to produce flat cookies that spread. Shortening provides needed structure but doesn’t add to the flavor. Together, you get the best of both worlds. Be sure to always use real butter.

Chocolate Chips vs Morsels

When it comes to chocolate, a good quality chocolate really makes your cookies shine. The shape matters less than the taste of the chocolate. If you can’t find a good quality chip, use high quality chocolate bars chopped into chunks.

You may have heard the rumor about wax being added to chocolate chips to help them hold their shape during baking. I called several manufacturers and they assured me that it was just that — a rumor. No wax is added. Then why do chips hold their shape when baked in a cookie? Because they’re left undisturbed in the dough during baking and cooling. When chips are baked by themselves they will hold their shape — unless stirred or touched while still warm.

I like to use a combination of milk chocolate and semisweet or dark chocolate. Milk chocolate chips alone make cookies too sweet, but using a small amount alongside semisweet chips makes the perfect bitter and sweet combination.

My favorite brands for quality chocolate are Ghirardelli, Guittard, and Callebaut. They’re all rich and creamy. But you decide which is your favorite. Unsure of your favorite chocolate? Try a side-by-side taste test. If you don’t like eating the chips or chocolate bars, you don’t want to bake with them.

Technique: How to Bake the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Rule #1: Cream the Butter & Sugar

Why cream the butter and sugar together in cookies?

Do you ever wonder about creaming the butter and sugar step? I used to be confused about this. I was never sure if I was doing it correctly. Turns out it is an important step. It’s all about mixing the sugar into the butter until the sugar is nearly dissolved. You’re increasing the volume by mixing thoroughly and adding more air into the dough, resulting in lighter textured cookies. How do you know if you’ve creamed enough? First, be sure your butter is at room temperature, about 67°F. Mix it past the “wet sand” stage and stop when it looks light and fluffy, almost like frosting. Beat in the eggs.

Rule #2: Don't Overmix Cookie Dough

You can stir in the dry ingredients or carefully mix in on low speed of the mixer. I know it’s easier to use the mixer, but a word of caution: DON’T OVERMIX. Overmixing develops the gluten, making tough cookies. Now stir in those tasty chocolate chips, making sure the dough is fully combined.

Rule #3: Refrigerate Your Cookie Dough

Whether the recipe calls for it or not, it’s a good idea to chill the dough overnight. This helps the gluten to relax and to develop better flavor. Just as marinating enhances the flavor of meats and vegetables, sugar does the same for cookie dough. During refrigeration, the sugar dissolves and deepens the flavor.

If you just can't wait, bake only what you’ll eat, then refrigerate the remaining dough — it will only get better. Plus, just-baked warm cookies taste best, so only baking what you're ready to eat ensures you'll always get to eat them warm!

Now you are ready to bake.

Rule #4: Use Parchment and a Cookie Scoop

I like parchment paper on the baking sheet for easy cleanup.

Why Use a Cookie Scoop?

A #40 cookie scoop is definitely a quick and easy way to turn out cookies. But there’s more to it than that. The dough packs into the scoop, turning out thick, uniform cookies. Plus, since they’re all the same size, they bake at the same rate. And the tall mound gives a height boost, reducing spreading.

Look for cookie scoops at department and kitchen stores, or even your local restaurant supply house (they call them “dishers”). The number stands for scoops per gallon and should be imprinted on the scoop. A #40 scoop measures 2 T. of dough and is 1¾" in diameter.

Rule #5: Don't Overbake Your Cookies

Last and most importantly, never overbake cookies – it makes them dry and hard. I suggest underbaking most cookie recipes. Once out of the oven, let the residual heat from the baking sheet finish them. I always take mine out on the least amount of time and let them rest on the baking sheet a bit before transferring to a rack to cool.


Now that my kids are all grown, with children of their own, I’m still in the cookie baking business and loving it.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Grab our favorite recipe for Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies and get baking!

Tags: Baking, Dessert, Article

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