Editor’s note: This story was originally published on April 25, 2023. It has been updated.

I’ve once heard it said, “Cooking is an art, baking is a science.” That seems mostly true. There seems to be more freedom with cooking — if you add too much butter, your food will likely be OK if you’re cooking. But if you’re baking, the composition will change.

That’s true of chocolate chip cookies.

Prima facie, chocolate chip cookies appear to be a simple dessert, but obtaining the perfect chocolate chip cookie may require more care. There are several factors at play when it comes to making the perfect cookie. Let’s analyze what makes the perfect cookie and how you can make it at home.

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The quality of the ingredients

When you’re trying to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie, one of the first things you should look at is the quality of your ingredients. Is your butter fresh? Is your chocolate rich? What types of ingredients make the perfect cookie?

Butter

When it comes to butter, you can’t go wrong with Cabot unsalted butter. Bon Appetit said, “This slightly higher amount of water (compared to European-style butter) steams in the heat of the oven, puffing up flaky pie crusts, plush cakes, and crispy-edged cookies, making them light, fluffy, and tender.”

Another good option for butter is to make your own. It’s surprisingly easy. Put heavy cream in a stand mixer and mix until you see butter form and separate from liquid (buttermilk). Drain in a cheese cloth and give it ice baths until the water is clear.

You could also consider using (recommended by Taste of Home) Land-O-Lakes unsalted butter. It’s a good option for baking at home.

When choosing butter, a good rule of thumb is to purchase sweet-cream butter. According to Food Network, this butter is made from pasteurized fresh cream. Steer clear of butters that are made with oils.

Cookies are a baked good where the butter really shines through, so this is an area to pay attention to when choosing your butter. You can also stop by your local dairy farm to pick up some fresh better. Save the European butter for flakey pastries and spreading it on top of freshly baked baguettes. Avoid using margarine, salted butter, whipped butter and spreadable butters for baking cookies.

If you want your cookies to have a more toasted flavor, consider browning your butter on the stovetop and then cooling it completely. Brown butter, as it’s called, adds a caramel flavor to cookies.

Sugar

For chocolate chip cookies, you’ll need both granulated and brown sugar. Granulated sugar gives the cookies their crispiness while brown sugar can add a bit of moisture into the cookie. Home Made Simple said, “The difference is in the molasses that makes brown sugar brown: It adds moisture and slight acidity, resulting in a moist and chewy texture.”

The difference between light brown sugar and dark brown sugar is the amount of molasses in them. Bake or Break said dark brown sugar has a toffee or caramel type of flavor, so if that’s what you’re aiming for in your cookies, then it’s a good idea to use dark brown sugar.

Light brown sugar will result in a chewier cookie. Bake or Break said, “It’s often used in cookies to help make them soft and moist. In fact, I’m not likely to make a batch of cookies without it!” Light brown sugar seems to be the better option to go with if you want more of a traditional chocolate chip cookie. When making your cookies, make sure to have both granulated sugar and light brown sugar on hand.

Flour

There are several different types of flours — bread, all-purpose, pastry and others. Most of the time, recipes call for all-purpose flour, but is that the best flour for baking cookies?

All-purpose flour is one of the best to use, but if you really value a chewier cookie, then you might want to try a mix of bread flour and all-purpose in a 2:3 ratio. Bob’s Red Mill said, “The main differences between bread flour vs. all-purpose flour are the protein content and gluten content. Bread flour has a higher amount of protein and higher amount of gluten which is why it’s good for an airy, chewy bread that needs time to rise.”

The best chocolate chip cookies are typically made from all-purpose flour, but you can try different proportions of all-purpose flour and bread flour to see if you prefer the texture that results from that. Making a cookie out of nothing but bread flour isn’t the best idea though, so make sure to include all-purpose flour.

Some cookie recipes will also call for a little bit of cake flour in addition to the all-purpose flour. This will give the cookies an airier, chewier texture.

Baking soda

Baking soda is baking soda, right? Well, that’s mostly true. Make sure to check the expiration date on your baking soda and whether or not it was stored correctly. Ideally, baking soda should be stored in an airtight container.

Most of us likely aren’t storing baking soda properly and if you use it, it’s probably fine — but if you’re going for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie, it might be a good idea to purchase some new baking soda and get in the habit of proper storage.

Eggs

Use large eggs, either brown or white for baking. Farm fresh is best, but use what you have available to use.

Salt

Table salt is the best option for salting your cookie dough, but if you want salt on top, you’ll want to go for a coarser salt like Maldon salt or sea salt.

Chocolate chips/chunks

Most of the time, we just grab a bag of chocolate chips and unceremoniously put it into our dough without measuring it or considering whether or not it’s the best for chocolate chip cookies. Truth be told, it still is really good.

But you might want to pay closer attention to your chocolate.

You’ll want to chop up your chocolate. You have two options for doing that. The first is to buy a bag of good value chocolate chips like Guittard and then chop up the chocolate chips into small bites. Or you can grab bars of chocolate and start chopping. The best bar of chocolate to buy for cookies is one that is not too sweet, but also not too bitter.

By chopping the chocolate, you can maximize how melty the chocolate in the cookies gets.

Consider picking up chocolate in the percentage of the 60s, but no more than the 70s. You don’t want the chocolate to be too sweet because the dough itself has a fair amount of sugar. If you’re looking for a national brand, consider Ghirardelli or Godiva or Chocolove. But if you’re looking to go into the price bracket above that, consider locally sourcing your chocolate or buying a brand like Taza Chocolate.

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Checking your oven

Most of us just turn on our oven and then think it’s good to go, but that might not be the case. After you preheat your oven, use a thermometer to test the various areas of the oven to see what parts of your oven are hotter than others.

That’ll help you know where to place the cookie sheet in the oven and what temperature you’ll actually be cooking at as opposed to guessing the time based on an approximation of the temperature of the oven.

Mixing your ingredients together

Before you even start to think about mixing your ingredients together, pull them out of the fridge and make sure they reach room temperature. Your butter and eggs need to be room temperature for them to mix together in the best way possible.

Sift your dry ingredients together as well so they can be well-combined. Keep your dry ingredients separate from your wet ingredients. Then, when both are well-combined, fold in your dry ingredients. Don’t aggressively mix them because the gluten in the flour will develop and your cookie will be chewy (not in a great way).

If possible, weigh all your ingredients as opposed to measuring. Measuring is often imprecise whereas weighing them is more precise. If that’s not possible, use the spoon and level method to ensure you’re not putting in too much or too little of specific ingredients.

Chill your dough

Whatever you do, make sure to chill your cookie dough. If you have the problem of your cookies spreading or coming out a little greasy, chilling your cookie dough can be a game changer because it impacts the butter in the cookies.

When your dough is chilled, the butter in the oven melts slower, which gives the cookies less opportunity to spread thin. Even an hour or so will make a big difference in your cookies, so make sure to chill them.

Best chocolate chip cookie recipes

Now that we’ve talked about some tips of how to make good cookies, here are some of the best chocolate chip cookie recipes. When the recipe calls for chocolate chips, substitute it with chopped chocolate. You can also do things like browning the butter to elevate the flavor or mixing flours.