Crazy for Crust

How to know when your cookies are done baking

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How do you know the your cookies are done baking? The time might say 10-15 minutes but how do you really know when they’re the perfect doneness so they’ll be crunchy and soft and gooey too? This visual is going to show you exactly how to know when your cookies are done baking.

My chocolate chip cookie recipe is the most popular recipe on this site so I’m using it to show you how to get all your cookies done just right.

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overhead shot of cookies

One of my good friends LOVES my chocolate chip cookie recipe. She raves about it all the time and I love that she loves them. It makes me happy to know that my recipes are well received. Awhile back she confided in me that someone in her family wasn’t sure exactly what “glossy sheen” meant on my instructions and that they’d over baked the cookies. Now, my cookies are good no matter what but they’re the best when they’re baked JUST RIGHT.

It’s just like Goldilocks: just a couple of minutes in the oven can take your cookies from too little baked past just right to over baked. So how do you know when your cookies are done baking?

This tutorial will tell you how to tell if your cookies are done baking so you’ll end up with perfect cookies every time.

Okay, so before I start one important note:

Cookie doneness is also personal preference. You might like your cookies raw so my done is too much or maybe you like a crunchy not gooey cookie and you’ll think my just right is too little. This tutorial is to give you a general idea of how to tell when cookies are done and then you need to decide for personal preference.

Here are some ways that recipes tell you to know if your cookies are done:

  • Time (i.e. they’ll bake in 10-13 minutes)
  • They’ve lost their “glossy sheen”
  • They’ll be “cracked” or “golden brown” around the edges 

It is important to note that, most of the time, a cookie isn’t completely done cooking until up to 20 minutes after it comes out of the oven: as it cools it firms up, sets, and finishes baking. That’s why it’s important to know when to take it out of the oven because once it sets, it could be overdone if you bake it too long.

Here are some ways to know if your cookies are done:

1.  Look at the sheen.

This is my favorite way to tell if a cookie is done. It starts or mostly looses the glossy sheen that raw cookie dough gets when it’s heated in the oven. As the dough melts it gets glossy. As the cookie bakes, the glossy sheen fades to flat. As soon as it’s mostly “flat” (i.e. not glossy) the cookie is done.

Let’s look at examples from my chocolate chip cookie recipe:

This cookie still needs to be baked; it's under done!

The sides of the cookie are starting to dry out but you can see that the center is very wet-looking or glossy with a sheen. These are not done yet.

This cookie is overdone right out of the oven

However, these are right out of the oven with no glossy left at all. Once they cool and set they will be over done, so these were baked too long (only 2 minutes longer than the just right photo, up next).

This is a perfectly done cookie right out of the oven

Those are the PERFECT looking cookie. Dry around the edges, golden brown around the bottoms, and the top is just losing that glossy sheen. There is a teeny bit left but that keeps them gooey. The center will set and fall a bit as these cool and they’ll be soft for days.

2. For sugar cookies or delicate cookies, look for slightly golden edges/sides.

In the case of my chocolate chip cookies, the edges get quite golden as they cook and the center stays more pale. It’s very easy to over bake sugar cookies because of how pale they are. You do not want the tops to brown at all in the case of a sugar cookie. ONLY the sides/edges should start to get golden brown.

You can see on my M&M sugar cookies that the bottoms are golden and the top are still pale in color.

Cut Out Sugar Cookies are our favorite holiday tradition.

If you peek at the back stack of hearts, you can see the edges are just a light golden, signaling my cutout sugar cookies are perfectly cooked.

3. Use the glossy test and the poke test for dark cookies.

When you bake cookies that are all chocolate or dark, like gingerbread, it’s often hard to tell when they are finished. The glossy sheen test comes in handy for these – the second they are no longer shiny pull them out. You can also poke the side with your finger – if the edge doesn’t fall inwards they’re done, if it leaves a noticeable indentation then they need more time.

My candy corn chocolate cookies have no more wetness look to them, and the edges are a bit dryer. That’s how you know they’re done.

Those are the visual ways to tell if a cookie is done, but there are also some recipe best practices.

  1. Make sure you read the recipe. Start checking your cookies at the beginning of the time range it shows (if it says 10-13 minutes, check at 10 minutes).
  2. Rotate your cookie sheets halfway through baking for even cooking. I do this at least once or twice every time I bake!
  3. Get an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is the right temperature.
  4. Remember that all ovens cook differently so yours might cook faster or slower than mine.
  5. Use a timer, don’t rely on yourself to remember.
  6. Wait for the oven to fully preheat before baking.
  7. Don’t overcrowd your oven: bake only 1 or 2 sheets at a time.

With these easy tips you’ll be able to know when your cookies are done in no time at all and you’ll have perfectly baked cookies forever.

Check out all my cookie recipes here!

Other baking tips:

cookies on cookie sheet

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