Cookie

Stella Parks' Brilliant Trick for the Most Perfect Cookies

Melty chocolate chip cookie pile, here we come.

December 17, 2018
Photo by Bobbi Lin

A few weeks back, Stella Parks—the brilliant, James Beard Award–winning pastry genius behind Serious Eats and BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts—was kind enough to reward me for falling into a deep, deep social media–scrolling wormhole with an expert lesson in cookies.

On Instagram, she posted this crazy-useful 15-second tip for making freshly baked chocolate chip cookies perfectly round—one of a few cookie-related issues I struggle with regularly—and I've been able to think of little else since:

It goes like this:

1. Take your cookies out when they're still a tiny bit under-baked.

Parks notes that this trick should be done on a hot baking sheet, while the cookies are still in the final stages of firming up.

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Top Comment:
“You should always take cookies out slightly underdone. They continue to bake on the tray and they need to stay on the tray for awhile so they don’t tear when removing them to a cooling rack. As for the perfect shape. I put that in a class with trimming forsythia bushes. They are not supposed to be perfectly shaped. It is part of the charm of a home made cookie.”
— Allison W.
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"The reshaping needs to be done immediately after the cookies come out of the oven, while they're still totally molten and unstructured," she says. "All of my recipes opt to slightly under-bake the cookies, so carryover cooking will finish them off on the tray."

For folks using a recipe that has them fully bake the cookies in-oven then immediately transfer to a cooling rack, she notes that taking the baking sheet out a minute or two early will help make the batch viable for this trick.

2. Grab a cookie cutter (or something similar) that's a bit wider than your cookies.

Parks uses a cookie cutter that's slightly larger than the cookie itself to conduct the reshaping.

I personally don't have a large stock of cookie cutter sizes, so I've tried this with an overturned mug, cup, and even a small bowl, and it's worked perfectly each time (although visibility is limited, whereas with Parks' cookie cutter, you can see what you're doing the whole time). I've found that it's best to have roughly 1/3-inch to 3/4-inch of space between the cookie's edge and the rounded tool you're using (e.g., cutter, mug, bowl). In tests with something much wider than the cookie, it was way too easy to accidentally gain extraneous force and cause the cookie to sink in on itself in the reshaping process.

3. Move the hot cookie around in a circular motion within the rounded mold for about 15 seconds.

As Parks demonstrates in the video, the reshaping trick is super simple: Just swoosh around the rounded mold (cookie cutter, overturned mug/cup, overturned bowl) in a circle with the still-molten cookie inside of it for roughly 10 to 15 seconds. The edges of the cookie will be pliable enough that this will cause them to take on the rounded shape of the mold you're using. The result? Perfectly rounded cookies.

Parks says this trick works best with drop cookies—aka, the kind you drop from a spoon or scoop onto the baking sheet—since certain styles (like slice-and-bake) can be too structurally fragile for this jostling. The cookies she's using in her video are homemade Chipwich sandwich cookies from Serious Eats.

What's your best cookie shaping—or decorating—tip? Let us know in the comments!

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9 Comments

Karuna January 1, 2019
What cookie recipe is that in the main photo?? Those are my ideal chocolate chip cookies and I need them yesterday.
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. January 1, 2019
Hi Karuna,

Apologies, there is not a corresponding recipe for those on the site. Here’s a cookie recipe I love on the site:

https://food52.com/recipes/47796-jacques-torres-chocolate-chip-cookies
 
amazinc December 22, 2018
So agree with "JUDY". By the time you get to the 24th or 36th cookie, they have hardened into what-ever-they-are-going-to-be . So all the effort will be to make the first 12 "perfectly round" will only make the then the rest of them........................delicious!!
 
Bud Z. December 21, 2018
A perfectly round cookie made this way is unnecessary and unnatural. It’s a cookie not a cake. The cookies in the above picture look raw and like splatter. Not appealing and a waste of time. My apologies to cookie dough and undercooked cookie lovers.
 
JoAnn F. December 21, 2018
Thanks for the tip. We have to bake perfect cookies at work and this looks like it will salvage some that have to much character.
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. December 21, 2018
Glad we could help! :) I almost never need cookies to be perfectly round at home, but I think this trick is really useful for when I'm making them as a gift, etc.
 
Allison W. December 20, 2018
You should always take cookies out slightly underdone. They continue to bake on the tray and they need to stay on the tray for awhile so they don’t tear when removing them to a cooling rack. As for the perfect shape. I put that in a class with trimming forsythia bushes. They are not supposed to be perfectly shaped. It is part of the charm of a home made cookie.
 
judy December 20, 2018
I guess I don't mind the irregular shapes. I know a tray of nicely rounded red cookies at the bakery looks pretty inviting, but for me at home, I just go with the drop cookie and take them as they come. Never would have thought about rounding them out. Also at 15 or so seconds a cookie, wouldn't the last ones on the tray have cooled long before one gets to them? Some kitchen hacks aren't really worth the trouble. For me this would be one of them.
 
Jackie T. December 17, 2018
Use a cookie scoop. Perfect.