The secret to perfectly browned cookies

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Four cookies.

Same batch of dough. Same baking temperature. Same baking time.

So, looking at their bottoms – why did they brown so very differently?

The answer?

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It’s all in the pan.

Shown above are four “colors” of pan. All are made from aluminum, yet their surfaces are very different.

Left to right, we have a shiny-surface pan; a light-gray baking sheet; one of our dark-gray KAF cookie pans; and my grandmother’s inexpensive old aluminum pan, blackened from years of use.

I’ve noticed that occasionally my cookie baking times differ a lot from what the recipe calls for. This doesn’t seem to happen with King Arthur recipes; it’s more with those I get from a friend, or out of a magazine.

At first I thought it might be my oven temperature. So I bought two different oven thermometers, stuck them in the oven side by side, and compared their readings to the temperature at which I’d set my oven.

All three agreed, at least within 10° or so.

So… what else?

I always use a half-sheet pan, lined with parchment, to bake cookies.

What would happen if I switched pans?

And while I’m at it, is there a difference in browning when you use parchment, vs. none?

Let’s put these questions to the test.

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Here’s my old, dark cookie sheet. I lined half of it with parchment, and greased the other half. I repeated this process with all four pans.

Next, I whipped up a batch of Buttery Snickerdoodle dough. I wanted to use a light-colored sugar cookie, in order to be able to see nuances of color.

I preheated the oven to 375°F – a typical cookie-baking temperature – and set a rack in the center.

One by one, I baked each pan of cookies for 10 minutes, checking my two thermometers to make sure the temperature didn’t waver.

The result?

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A vast difference in the finished cookies.

At left is the cookie baked on the shiny pan lined with parchment; at right, the cookie baked on the old, dark pan, without parchment.

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And here’s the complete result of the 10-minute bake, with “no parchment” cookies on the left, “parchment” on the right.

Top to bottom, you see cookies from the dark pan; the dark-gray pan; the half-sheet pan, and the shiny pan.

The half-sheet pan browned cookies just the way I like – with a slight degree of caramelization, which increases their flavor.

You may be thinking, “Well, that’s a bummer; all I have is my old, dark cookie pans.” Or maybe you invested in nice, shiny stainless steel.

Fear not; you don’t need new pans, simply an awareness of how your baking time might vary from that stated in the recipe.

Using the same batch of cookie dough and same oven settings, I followed the same process again – four pans, half parchment/half greased. But this time, I paid attention to the cookies as they baked, and removed them from the oven when I judged they were done.

The result?

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It’s possible to get perfectly browned cookies using any type of pan, and using/not using parchment. You simply have to adjust your baking time.

Pictured above (top to bottom) are cookies baked on an old, dark pan; a dark-gray pan; a half-sheet pan; and a shiny pan.

The time range (e.g., 11 to 13 minutes) refers to whether or not the cookie was baked without parchment (e.g., 11 minutes) or with parchment (e.g., 13 minutes).

Look at the difference in baking times! Depending on the pan you use, compared to the pan the recipe developer used, you might bake a cookie only half as long as the recipe directs.

So, here are my takeaways:

•An independent oven thermometer (or two) will help you verify how accurate your oven temperature is. Oven temperature is an important starting place; don’t blindly trust the manufacturer’s settings. And on that subject, I’ve never yet met an oven that was actually up to temperature when it claims it is; all of us in the King Arthur test kitchen know to give the oven at least another 10 minutes after it says, “I’m ready!”

•When trying a new recipe, do a test bake first. Line half of the pan you’ll use with parchment; grease the other half. Drop two balls of cookie dough onto the parchment side, two onto the greased side. Bake the cookies; remove them from the oven when they seem done, rather than going strictly by the time given in the recipe. Note on the recipe how long they baked; this is YOUR bake time, using your oven and your pans.

•Cookie recipes on our King Arthur Flour recipe site are developed using half-sheet pans or our KAF cookie sheets, lined with parchment. If your cookie sheets are darker or lighter, you may have to adjust your baking time.

Yes, all of this takes a bit of thought. But isn’t it worth it?

You want to treat your family and friends to cookies that are perfectly baked, right?

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Clockwise from top left: dark pan, dark-gray pan, shiny pan, half-sheet pan.

Both top…

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…and bottom!

 

 

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. "daisy in nj"

    I am continually amazed at what a resource KAF, and this blog (the dynamics of pies – and now cookie browning – no new pans needed!) consistently provides. Thank you so much for helping home bakers improve our process and final product!

    Reply
  2. DB

    I’ve become a big fan of the non-stick foil instead of using parchment. Do you think that makes a difference? Of course, I always set my timer a minute before recipe’s finish time and then keep adding minutes based on how it looks.
    For best results, aluminum foil is not recommended for cookies. ~Amy

    Reply
    1. KathyTobby

      I have become a big fan of a product that is foil on the bottom (the side you put down on the pan) and parchment on the top-where you place your cookies. It lays down completely flat even in a breezy convection oven. The paper has a lot of body so it lifts off the hot cookie pan without hammock-ing and breaking, tearing or collapsing the cookies so you can remove them from the pan sooner. I love it for messy stuffed or filled breads because the filling never burns against the sides of the pan. I don’t work for Reynold’s either! I just love that paper. It is tough to find though and rather expensive. I am out right now.

  3. perpigillium

    Thanks for the great article! Could we entice you to do this experiment with a stoneware cookie sheet also?

    Thanks!

    If you wanted to test it and post to our page on Facebook, the “update” would be very welcome! I’m sure we could see about testing the stoneware cookie sheet if we had one to tinker with! Kim@KAF

    Reply
    1. Deb

      Stoneware cookie sheets are the ONLY way I will bake cookies! No parchment paper & pretty much fool proof. I haven’t used aluminum in 15+ years.

  4. Judy

    Live in Florida. I use a mercury thermometer in my oven all the time and never go by the exact time a recipe says I always deduct a few minutes to see how the first batch turns out . I have learned over many years to make one batch at a time, I always use parchment paper. Most of all I go by the smell . When I smell cookies they are done!

    Judy: I concur: my sniffer is my best friend when it comes to baking and knowing when things are done–I just hope it doesn’t betray me as the years pile up! I always do a test cookie or two if I’m worried about my dough–burning one cookie is better than losing the whole first dozen! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  5. Rachel

    The best way to get the best cookies is to use a baking stone. I put a piece of parchment paper on the back of the cookie sheet, put the dough on the parchment, and then slide the parchment and dough onto the stone. Perfectly baked cookies (and bread, cake, pie, and pizza) every time.

    Glad you found what works for you, Rachel! Thanks for sharing! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  6. Marcy Goldman

    I have only one non-fail approach to pretty well all cookies:
    DOUBLE sheet. Stack two cookie sheets together. LINE the top one with parchment paper. No burnt bottoms, even baking, nice edges – no worries.

    Reply
    1. Emilie

      I always do this too! Learned the idea in one of Marcy Goldman’s baking books years ago. The only thing I do differently is usually remove the bottom sheet with a few minutes left in the baking time, so the bottoms of the cookies will brown just a tad and the cookies will set properly. It means having a few extra cookie sheets but is SO worth it!

    2. KathyTobby

      I use insulated pans which is the same concept as the double pan but the double pan idea gives you flexibility. I use parchment too. I I like my insulated pans (I have over a dozen) because I can take them from the fridge to the oven and then start to reload the fridge for another batch. I like smaller fatter cookies with as little spread as possible. The stoneware might work great but I swear by my method too! There is more than one way to bake a perfect cookie. I love the double pan idea because you could use it in a vacation kitchen or anywhere you don’t have your stoneware or insulated pans.

  7. Marci

    This blog post is fantastic. It may push me into the smartphone market after all–I’m going to want to look at these pictures the next time I make cookies. Thank you so much. And as an aside, I recently bought the cookie decorating kit from KAF so I could make cookies with my grandson, and I love it. The butter cookie and the royal icing recipes that came with it are perfect. They will get much use in my kitchen over the years to come. You guys are all about excellence and perfection.

    Aw shucks, Marci! We appreciate the support and kind words. I’m so glad you’re sharing the fun of baking with your little grandson! No better time to learn than at an early age. :) Happy Baking! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  8. Kellie

    What a wonderful blog post! I tend to blindly follow recipe times and get irritated when the cookies over/under brown. I’ll keep all this in mind next time. Thanks PJ

    Reply
  9. Royce

    Thank you for the cookie demonstration. I have done and baked all of the versions above at some point throughout my life. I have always thought it was “the pan” or, “the oven”. I (currently) use a half sheet pan lined with parchment. Parchment has been a fairly new discovery for me (maybe 10 years) and I won’t bake without it. Why take the chance? KAF always has wonderful sizes and buys. You are the best, as is your products. I appreciate your tips, recipes and bakers blog. Thank you for your service in aiding me to become a better baker, as I am not a confident one. But I try. Ha ha.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Royce! I’m so glad you’ve discovered parchment (I love how it’s reusable!). When it comes to baking, you truly will become better the more you create and bake up. It’s just a matter of time (and experimenting). For any baking questions, be sure to call our free Hotline: 1-855-371-2253 Happy Baking! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  10. Roberta

    Now how about adding in Sil-Pat or other silicone liners and Air-bake cookie sheets? I have those too and would like to see test results….

    Personally, I find the air-bake sheets to spread and create “lace” cookies in every cookie dough I try. I despise them for ruining my doughs! As for Sil-Pats, they tend to create rather pallid bottoms and don’t promote as much browning as parchment–it removes the cookies from the “heat of the sheet”, so you wind up with paler bottoms. Worth a try, though! And the best thing is that you can use them over and over and over again (although I do reuse my parchment paper often to get the most out of it–a quick wipe down with a damp cloth makes them “like new–until they get cooked and brown up on me! Kim@KAF

    Reply
    1. Judy

      when living in Wisconsin i had an electric stove and my cookies were great. Gas is what is used here in California and baking cookies wasnt easy. Half the pan was darker than the other. I bought the insulated pans and now my cookies are a nice golden color. They aren’t lacey. Electric seems better to me for baking. What ovens are used at KAF. I feel that makes a big difference.

    2. Susan Reid

      Our test kitchen has 10 electric ovens and 1 gas one, which I guess gives yo a hint about where we land on that one! Susan

  11. Mary

    Another variable in my kitchen is that I tend to re-use a cookie sheet, and I’ve learned (with burned cookies) that cookies bake much faster when the pan is warm or hot to begin with. From now on, when I’m in a hurry I will use my dark pan and watch the cookies carefully. Two batches on the dark pan can be cooked in almost the same time as one can on the shiny pan. (Usually I lower the temperature for the dark pan.) And parchment is indispensable, a life saver when baking. Thank you for a great post, and for all things KAF. You folks and your products are the best!

    Reply
  12. Lynn Paul

    I like using my Silpats, sometimes a silicone sheet. Can’t bring myself to use disposable parchment unless it is a messy one time (not sheets of cookies,). Don’t see Silpats mentioned much so I wondered if they are just “out of favor”?

    Greetings Lynn! I couldn’t say why we didn’t test them, but I do know they tend to create paler products. I love how reusable they are, but for crispy, brown bottoms, Silpats make it a bit difficult. Happy Baking! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  13. Tara

    I’ve had great results with Silpats. I have one mat for each cookie sheet so I never have to wait to scoop the next batch.

    Reply
  14. Jen

    I use a silpat on my half sheets, I have noticed that it usually increases the bake time as well to get that golden brown bottom on my cookies

    Reply
  15. Joyce Burns

    I like the non-stick foil but not for cookies and you even have to change cooking times for some other foods. I have taken a few overly crispy chiken pieces out of the oven. Great article!

    Reply
  16. Carolyn

    Ovens are notorious for uneven temperatures. Which is why recipes often recommend that pans be rotated and, if more than one, to swap them top to bottom part way through the baking time. I must admit I don’t usually bother with the swapping around but I do monitor the baking and remove them when I think the cookies are done. One odd thing I have noticed – when the dough is almost gone and I have a partial batch to finish up, those cookies always need less time in the oven.

    Is it possible the dough is a bit warmer at that point? If you leave the bowl out and the last cookies to go in are warmer from the start, you’ll easily find they’ll take less time to bake than cookies from lightly-chilled dough. Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
    1. Lulu

      This happens to me too, but I think it is because fewer cookies on the sheet means better air circulation which translates to a faster bake time.

  17. Shana Something

    I also find that there is a slight difference between lining a baking pan with a silicon mat and lining it with parchment. The silicon mat needs slightly less time to reach “optimum” doneness than the parchment.

    Reply
  18. Lauren Z.

    This is wonderful!! My only question is…what about stoneware? I generally use only stoneware now for cookie baking, and I know the stones usually mean slightly longer baking times than what the recipe may call for. Have you tested this type of pan ever?

    We have heard of people baking very successfully on baking stones, but I would think you’d check them a little sooner since the stones would be quite hot. You’d want to flip a cookie sheet, place the parchment on top, scoop the cookie dough out, and then gently slide the parchment onto the hot baking stone in the oven (set to 350F). I’d check 1-2 minutes early to see if the cookies bake up quickly or if they need another minute or two. Kim@KAF

    Reply
  19. Jeanine

    I bake thousands of cookies each year, always on parchment atop the KAF baking sheets. Over two years ago when I decided I needed new cookie sheets I bought two KAF sheets. i was so impressed using them both with parchment and without that I immediately ordered two more for my daughter and gran. Three generations of frequent bakers here, loving these sheets!

    Reply
  20. Linda Quick

    I’ve been using pastel paper for some time now for non-Bundt cakes. Cookies here I come. I also bake for the shortest time and start testing. (Pastel paper can be purchased at any supermarket/specialty food stores that sells Spanish Caribbean items. It’s sold in sheets by package weight.)

    Reply
  21. Lauren Z.

    Not sure if my comment got posted or not so trying again…This is a great post!! Have you ever tested with stoneware baking pans? That is what I mainly use now, so I would be curious to see the comparison between that and the different kinds of metal pans.

    Lauren-I responded to your previous post at last, so check out my response there! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  22. Starr Luteri

    This is very helpful. As I began reading, my thought was, “Oh, no! I need new baking sheets!” Of course, by the end, I know how to correct my baking times, until next Christmas when I’ll ask Santa for new pans. ;)

    Naturally, there’s yet another question: what about silicon (Sil-pat) sheets? Guess I’ll be doing some experimenting today.

    Thank you so much!

    Starr–I commented on a previous comment about Sil-Pats: they do not promote browning as well as parchment paper, but you can certainly use them for baking cookies. It’s hard balance as you don’t want to over-bake the cookies but you want color on the bottom: you may have to tweak the timing OR place the sheet lower in the oven if the heat source is in the bottom. Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  23. Just One Donna

    This is an excellent way to highlight the importance of knowing your tools when baking. After many years in my own kitchen I have the “feel” for my tools, and I know when I introduce a new pan I need to be vigilant or pay the price. This post is a great reminder of that point.

    Reply
  24. BAR

    I use a silpat, a silicone pan liner. It seems to work, but now you’ve got me wondering if parchment paper is better?

    Reply
  25. HoBo

    Great post! Question: do you need to grease a sheet and if so, what do you use? I do use parchment but if out, I’ve used Pam and the bottoms always seem to burn. Yesterday I didn’t grease or use parchment and cookies came out fine.
    There is usually enough fat content in the cookie dough to not need the grease. The excess fat may indeed be causing them to brown further and faster. ~Amy

    Reply
  26. Sandy Kay

    I use foil as well. I am curious as to why foil is not recommended!

    Foil can actually lead to stuck-on cookies, so I don’t like to use it. Also, foil deflects heat like the lighter-colored pans, which may discourage browning. Plus, it’s hard to re-use. That all said, we always recommend that people stick with what works for them and if foil is your go-to cookie baking method, keep on with it! Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  27. Tracie

    I always use my half parchment sheets! I don’t know what I would do without them!!

    …and with cookies, you can use them over and over and over again! Love the parchment half-sheets! I love that they are perfectly cut to size! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  28. Kim

    I have a KAF sheet pan with the silicon mat. I struggle with too brown edges. Should silicon act like the parchment? My goals in using the silicon are economy and being green.

    Yes, Kim, silicone acts like parchment – but it slows down the baking even more than parchment. Too brown edges would point to the recipe rather than the pan. Butter cookies tend to brown more quickly than those made with shortening; also, those that spread so that their edges are naturally thinner (which can be another attribute of butter cookies, spreading). Hope this helps – PJH

    Reply
  29. gail

    As a mother of four, grandmother of eleven and great-grandmother of 2, I am my familes cookie “queen’. The importance of the right pan took me time to discover. And I use the ‘Brave Test Cookie” with each batch. The first cookie is always baked at the recommended time and temp, than I adjust each for the results I want. Of course, I get to eat Brave Test Cookie;)

    Reply
  30. Karen

    I have always used aluminum foil on my cookie sheets, and they are perfectly fine…scones, biscuits too….I have been constantly asked to open a bake shop…go figure. Foil works for me…

    Reply
  31. Katherine

    Can anyone recommend a stainless steel cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, without aluminum? Thank you!

    I’d think any good purveyor of ss would be the one to choose, Katherine. Revere makes cookie sheets – check them out? Personally, I don’t like ss cookie sheets unless they have an aluminum core; the ss conducts heat pretty poorly… But I understand some people simply want to avoid aluminum, so luckily there are nice ss cookie sheets out there. PJH

    Reply
  32. Irene Menard

    Thank you for this article! I bought your KAF parchment paper and always use it to make my cookies. Will not buy another brand.

    Reply
  33. Susy

    Thanks for doing all the work it took to produce and write up the results. I use KAF half sheets with KAF parchment sheets. Do you sell a case or folder in which to store the half sheet parchment? I like to store them flat, not folded, so they lie flat when placed on the half sheets. I made my own “folder” from cardboard, duck tape and velcro because I couldn’t find anything the right size.
    We don’t sell a folder, but what a great idea to add to our customer wish list! I’ll do that right away! :) ~Amy

    Susy, I store my parchment flat on top of the fridge. Now that means I can’t store any more “junk” up there too, but they do stay flat and out of the way up there! PJH

    Reply
    1. Sherri

      My KAF parchment paper comes in a ziplock bag. It fits perfectly in a kitchen drawer underneath my foil and cling wrap boxes. Stays nice and flat.

  34. Kara D

    What would the difference be in baking with a Silpat vs. parchment?

    Kara-I wrote back to a previous comment about Sil-Pats: they do not promote browning as well as parchment paper, but you can certainly use them for baking cookies. It’s a hard balance as you don’t want to over-bake the cookies but you want color on the bottom: you may have to tweak the timing OR place the sheet lower in the oven if the heat source is in the bottom. The major difference is that the Silpats act as a better insulator from the heat coming into contact with the pans (and thus the cookies), so they cookie bottoms don’t brown very well or very evenly. Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  35. Amy

    Great post! My question is slightly off topic. When I’m making darker cookie doughs, like gingerbread, I never sure when they’re cooked enough because i cant really use browning as a guideline. Any tips? Or is it just trial and error?

    For darker cookies, I like to bake a single cookie for a “test” run. I bake it and check it 2-3 times to see how it looks, and if it burns, it’s just one! I will know how long is long enough! Many times, when the cookie shows very little moisture between the cracks on top of the cookie, it is done baking–I will sometimes bake a little longer, like when I do ginger snaps, because I want a drier cookie, but I do watch the bottoms and bump the rack up a level to keep the cookies from browning too much on the bottom. Kim@KAF

    Reply
  36. Ric Crouch

    I go one additional step–I annotate each recipe the “correct” time for the various cookie sheets I have. (Yep–I get that picky!)

    Not picky, Ric – you’re just being efficient and effective! :) PJH

    Reply
  37. Linda Percy

    I, too, would be interested in seeing results from stoneware. I’m not baking cookies right now, cuz it’s too hot and my wonderful old Wedgewood stove takes hours to cool down after I use the oven. Fine in the winter, but not so much in the summer!

    I hear you, Linda, about the heat – I love to bake, but sometimes it’s a real challenge trying to force myself to turn on the oven on these hot days. I’m guessing stoneware would be a lighter, gentler bake than most pans – maybe partway between gray and shiny? Let us know if you give this test a try sometime. PJH

    Reply
  38. ricklasita

    Silpat every time for me, never burns, and with my oatmeal/apple cookies, always perfect.

    Whatever works for you is what you should use, for sure. Thanks for sharing – PJH

    Reply
  39. cathy

    Amy’s July 10 reply to DB says aluminum foil is not recommended for cookies. Is there a health reason? I’m wondering because this is my “go to” method for assembly line baking — line my half sheet aluminum pans with aluminum foil. Sometimes I use a silicon mat… Thanks!
    Cathy
    Hi Cathy, my suggestion was actually in reference to the quality of the cookies. The foil may cause the bottom of the cookies to burn. ~Amy

    Reply
  40. Suellen Freeman

    Great post and demo pix. I always use parchment and have cookies sheets I love by a company named Doughmakers. They have a pebbly, semi shiny surface.

    Suellen, we have Doughmakers cookie sheets (and cake pans) in our test kitchen – definitely a nice product! Thanks for sharing – PJH

    Reply
  41. Kris

    Hmmm. My spouse likes chewy, barely cooked cookies. I like crisp cookies. Usually only one of us is happy with the outcome. I wonder if if could make us both happy by using a dark sheet and a largish dough ball the next time I bake cookies?

    Or you could use two of the same type pan, and just bake one pan longer than the other… A dark sheet can produce burned bottoms rather than crisp cookies – so be careful. PJH

    Reply
  42. Janet

    Air bake cookie sheets are the best – no more burnt cookie since I purchased air bake cookie sheets 20 years ago. I won’t use anything but air bake cookie sheets.

    Janet, I’m glad you like your AirBakes – to me, they dry cookies out but it could just be my oven or recipe, too. To each his own, right? Thanks for your feedback – PJH

    Reply
  43. Sue B

    I prefer to use silicon sheets over parchment. Is the timing the same as parchment?

    Sue, I’ve found that silicone sheets actually result in a slightly longer bake than parchment; they’re thicker and provide more insulation. PJH

    Reply
  44. Lawrence

    Thank you, PJ, for a very interesting and thought provoking blog post.

    I must be doing it wrong, but I’m getting great cookies with my equipment and Good King Arthur Flour. I use stainless steel sheets that my Mother had made at a sheet metal shop, I have some aluminum sheets from a rummage sale, and I am thinking about some more cookie sheets, but want to be able to put the sheets in the dishwasher after baking.

    I don’t rotate the sheets while baking, and my range, a 2011 gas Whirlpool bakes wonderfully, and the cookies are usually perfect at the minimum time in the recipe.

    Now, can snickerdoodles and lemon bars be made deliciously with the White Whole Wheat? I live alone, and love to bake, so I take cookies to church and community functions.

    Lawrence, there is absolutely no “doing it wrong” when things turn out right! Whatever works for you is absolutely right. Stainless steel is absolutely the way to go, if you want to put through the dishwasher. You’ll need to bake longer, but that’s OK; it’s a variable you can control.

    And yes, snickerdoodles and lemon bars can both be made with whole wheat. I prefer white whole wheat, myself; the flavor is milder, and the color lighter. Since whole wheat takes longer to absorb liquid, I’d suggest making the cookie dough and letting it rest for 30 minutes, before scooping out. EThe cookies will definitely be darker, but if the flour is fresh, I’m sure you’ll enjoy their flavor. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  45. HollyO

    My cookies come out best when I bake them on my Pampered Chef stone!
    No parchment needed.

    Holly, thanks for sharing. Many people have great results baking on stoneware – witness shortbread, often baked in a stone mold. Keep doing what works for you – PJH

    Reply
  46. Mary W

    Great experiment! Very informative. Thanks for doing the legwork and publishing the results. Would love to see more of these kinds of experiments so I don’t have to do all the work myself. Love KA Flour Co.

    Mary, we intend to do more posts like this going forward. The blog is always a work in progress; but everyone loves tips, so thanks for your feedback – we hear you! :) PJH

    Reply
  47. JulieC

    I’ve purchased darker cookie sheets in the past, and they always came with instructions to lower the baking temperature around 25 degrees to maintain the same baking time without burning. Have you guys noticed a difference with baking temp v. time with different types of pans? Or will the dough not bake evenly- does it even matter? :)

    Julie, it’s true – reducing the oven temperature will help keep darker pans from baking too quickly. And a lower temperature should bake cookies fine, though there’s a slightly greater chance of them drying out a bit. I like to simply reduce the time, as that way I can mix pans in the oven if I have to – dark and light can both be in at the same time. PJH

    Reply
  48. Julia Ann

    Thank you for that work done. I usually bake my cookies at 350 no matter what the pan is like and remove when they look ‘right.’ I learned how important it was to check my oven temperature. Found out why my cakes were always so dry
    and overbaked.

    Julia Ann, you’re clearly a seasoned baker – which is really handy, isn’t it? Bake on! PJH

    Reply
  49. Barbara Shores

    WOW … So much information. Thanks for sharing results of your experimenting. I love this and also king Arthur… made a visit when living in VT.

    Thanks, Barbara – I hope you can come back and visit us sometime. :) PJH

    Reply
  50. Teresa F.

    Wow, 55 comments! I haven’t read them all, but I regularly use silicone liners on light colored half sheet pans. I still dial in new cookie recipes to figure out the right times for my oven. Great post and information on how the KF test kitchen develops recipes.

    Yet another voice to reiterate the advice: check and check again each time you try a new recipe for baking times of your cookies. Thanks for sharing, Teresa! Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  51. Susan Belles

    I’m going to share this info with my 16yr old daughter, she’s always baking! :0) I’m also going to have to give KAF a try since I’ve NEVER used it!

    Susan, you’re going to LOVE our flour; millions of bakers do! We really pay attention to quality and consistency; we know that the time you spend in the kitchen is valuable, and we want to ensure you’re successful every time out. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  52. linda

    Love the research. Use only KAF (I buy a huge bag at BJ’s club and keep it in the freezer) parchment (I buy half sheets precut at the restaurant store as its such a great bargain) and an independent oven thermometer for yummy products. Also, I use a Danish Whisk when incorporating ingredients, much better than a wire whisk or a spoon.

    Linda, all good suggestions – thanks for sharing here. PJH

    Reply
  53. Chris

    GOOD EXPERIMENT! I noticed one other possible reason for dark cookies. Half way into baking time, I switch the position of the 2 pans to keep them baking evenly. Instead of aligning the pans one directly over the other, I was staggering them for what I thought was better ventilation in between the pans. This brought the one side of each pan closer to the oven wall; those cookies closest to the wall were way overdone. Now I don’t stagger the pans, but place them evenly one above the other. Thanks for sharing all your hard work.

    Excellent point, Chris – the position of the pans relative to one another definitely influences browning. Sometimes, when the bake time is short, I actually just bake one pan at a time, in the middle of the oven, so I don’t have to think about shifting the pans around midway through. Thanks for your good feedback! PJH

    Reply
  54. Carol

    How interesting–thanks so much! Hope you keep the tips coming, they’re so helpful. Regarding oven temp not being correct when your stove beeps–I actually called Maytag a couple years ago when I got a new stove to tell them I used a thermometer in the oven and the temp I had set wasn’t reached when the buzzer went off. I was told when the buzzer goes off, this does NOT mean your oven is at the temp you set! How dumb! I asked why I would care if the oven heat was at 310-degrees if I had it set at 375-degrees, and she had no answer for me. Makes you wonder why manufacturers bother to even put a pre-heat buzzer on a stove. Waiting 10 more minutes is the way to go.

    So, so true, Carol. That’s interesting, they actually tell you the oven’s not up to temp. when it beeps. Begs the question – “Well, then, what the heck is it beeping for?!” I have to wait at least 15 minutes after the beep for my oven to be fully heated. A word to the wise – get an oven thermometer and use it! At least until you understand your own oven’s foibles. PJH

    Reply
  55. Margare

    another big factor to consider is if you are using an electric oven or a gas oven. Through similar experimentation, I have found that I have to cook at a higher temperature and longer cooking times in my daughters new electric oven than I do in my even newer gas oven.

    Thanks for adding your feedback, Margare – most of us don’t have gas vs. electric ovens to test, so your experience is very valuable. PJH

    Reply
  56. Deneen

    Excellent, excellent, excellent!! I can’t wait for KAF to come back to Vegas!! Best day seminar & demonstration EVER

    Reply
  57. Julia

    Love the comparison – and as always the photography! Made me want to go bake Snickerdoodles. (Was that your ulterior motive?) I would love to see the same kind of test with cake rounds – my all time worst baking problem is having what looks like a perfectly baked cake layer, take it out of the oven, and it collapses while cooling. I usually test with toothpick or an uncooked strand of spaghetti. Have heard I should tap the bottom of my pan. Any special tips on getting perfectly baked cake?

    If you have a kitchen thermometer, check the cake’s temperature! Chocolate or butter cake = 209′, jelly roll or sponge = 191-194′, chiffon = 210′, pound cake = 209′. We hope this helps with cakes baked in your kitchen. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

    Reply
  58. Mary

    This is great info and thank you. Another way to bake two pans of cookies at the same time is to start one pan on the bottom and bake for half the time, then take that pan, turn it around and put it on the top rack. Put the next pan on the bottom and start again. I bake hundreds of cookies at the Holidays and would never have time unless I did my baking this way.

    Reply
  59. dirt

    I have tweaked my baking time and always use my same pans. I always use parchment paper when baking my cookies. I have never been this extensive in my experimenting. Sure is insightful and validating. Thank you sooooooo much Pat

    Reply
  60. Liz

    I really enjoyed this post. Do you know how things might change using Silpats? Thanks!

    Hmm, I would think the silicone would insulate the the pan even more, but it is hard to say without further testing!-Jon

    Reply
  61. Kimberlee Anna

    This was so helpful and answered a number of questions I had about this very subject. I was wondering what you think of silpat compared to parchment paper when baking cookies?

    I believe this has been addressed in several responses below/above, but a silpat tends to protect the cookie bottoms more and you might have a bit of trouble getting a golden brown color. Still, if it works and you love the results, no need to change! Always do a test cookie to see! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  62. elynch3

    I use the same 2 pans and always use parchment. The first time I make a new receipe I watch as they bake, and when they’re done I mark the time on
    the receipe so I know how long to bake the next time.

    Reply
  63. Louella Garrou

    I now own 3 unglazed loaf pans, (1 lost due to breakage). I got a new stove in 2005, oven temp 375 for bread baking for 35 min ’til done (thumping on bottom of each loaf resulting in ‘hollow sound). A perfect loaf of bread whether Cinnamon/Raisin, White, White Whole Wheat, Herb & Garlic Artisan, no knead bread Boule. All KAF flour, all KAF additions/ingredients. Can you tell me where I can purchase a replacement for my lost stone pan? I love KAF everything (including the staff). Thank you for the tips about cookie baking. Can you give me a tip on how to roll a long French or Italian loaf, bread sticks, or soft pretzels with only one hand (because of a stroke, my dominant hand does not function), so I’m not sure how to go about this?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Louella, thanks for sharing here. We sell a stoneware loaf pan, equivalent to a 9″ x 5″ pan, that makes a longer loaf with smaller slices. I love these smaller slices, since I try to keep my portions small. For a “regular” stone loaf pan, just Google “stoneware loaf pan” – you’ll find tons of results. As for rolling with one hand, cup your fingers slightly, and gently roll the loaf back and forth, moving from one end to the other and back again. Do this just as you would with two hands – using your one hand to cover the same territory as two hands. Good luck – and enjoy. PJH

  64. Sandy Jones

    This is a wonderful article. After seeing this I suggested we do a similar experiment for my son’s science fair project. We did not get as big of a difference in results as you did but there were differences. We will be using your article as a reference in the bibliography.

    Reply
  65. Sue E. Conrad

    One trick that usually works for me is to start with the least amount of time stated in a cookie recipe, then add time as necessary ~ you can always bake more, just not less!! As for baking sheets, I’ve invested in USA Pans (two half-sheets and one jellyroll), and I just love them! No more buckling due to oven heat like the inexpensive pans, and clean-up is a breeze!!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Sue,
      I remember being at Town Meeting one year, and a gentleman said “always vote early, and often” . That’s kind of how I see baking times. Always check early, and often! ~ MJ

  66. LC

    great. what about comparing the top of the cookie? sometimes, they are more brown and other times more yellow on top. i have no idea why…….

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Loretta,

      The tops can have a lot to do with where the element is in your oven, how well the heat circulates, plus ingredient choices. You may need to play with which rack you bake on, depending on where your element is. ~ MJ

  67. Sara Denbo

    You mention your half sheet pans, but what are they made of? Are they the shiny ones or the ones that look like they have ridges? Are the ridges bumpy on the surface? thanks for the tips!

    Reply
  68. Chris

    Your study is flawed. This has less to do with the pan and more to do with the grease. It’s the butter that’s browning the bottoms of your cookies, not the pan. That’s the difference.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      I think we can agree to disagree agreeably, Chris – each cookie has the same amount of butter, so it’s the parchment/pan that’s the variable. PJH

  69. SCIENCE IS FUN

    A dull, dark, or black surface absorbs more of the radiant energy (IR) coming from the oven walls than a bright, shiny, or white surface, which reflects much of it. A black pan (carbon steel or a coated aluminum, for instance) will therefore become hotter and transmit heat more quickly than an otherwise identical uncoated stainless steel or aluminum pan in the same oven. This phenomenon explains why white suits and dresses are popular in hot, sunny weather.

    On the average, a shiny pan is 15F cooler in a 350F oven than its black equivalent, and that 15F can make a crucial difference. Because the shiny pan’s temperature is lower, you must either extend the cooking time or increase the baking temperature. Neither of those two alternatives is totally satisfactory. No matter what the cooking temperature or how long the cooking time, chances are that either the exposed crust will receive too much heat or the crust that lines the pan will absorb too little heat.

    Shiny bakeware is not all that bad. It can be beneficial at times. Some delicate cookies require a very hot oven but are apt to burn on the bottom when baked on a dark, dull cookie sheet. A glistening cookie sheet, on the other hand, reduces the heat reaching the cookies’ undersides – hence no burning.

    The parchment has no real effect on the pan’s heat absorption because of its material and mass. It is likely mainly invisible to the IR radiation frequencies emitted by the burners in the oven.

    There is no mystery. It’s just science!

    -Larry

    Reply
  70. Mike

    Just wanted to say that I’m a dude that bakes, ALL THE TIME! I love it, and so do my friends. This is by far one of the best blogs I have ever read. And this POST is AWESOME! Thank you so much for this. My cookies are going to be awesome!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s great to hear you love to bake so much, we here all certainly do as well! Happy cookie baking and we hope you continue to enjoy our blog for many baking years to come! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  71. Ann DeLong

    my most successful cookie baking has been with heavy gauge aluminum pan, no parchment, using convection bake. Cookies take 3-4 minutes less and turn out crunchy on the outside chewey in the middle. It really saves time.

    Reply
  72. Nadine

    Wonderful post, thank you for sharing. All those voluminous comments were too daunting for me to read.

    Reply
  73. Kim L.

    I loved this article that was shared by the Brown Eyed Baker. I love to understand how changing a variable can affect the finished product in baking. Could you add a stoneware cookie sheet or sheet pan to your comparison test? I’m a huge fan of the Pamperd Chef ones – I’m a former consultant. Thanks!

    Reply
  74. fabian

    I do not like browned bottoms.Oven very hot.I use parchment and big pan.Tender cookies.Not browned.Good luck.

    Reply
  75. Saima

    Love this study… Its such a relief to know that whatever pans you have, you can make it work instead of going crazy over what pan is the best.
    And am I the only one that is noticing the even surface and therefore even browning on the cookies baked without parchment?
    Thats a revelation… I will definitely test my cookies without the parchment.

    Reply
  76. Spoon of Hearts

    You are my hero! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve followed every direction, painstakingly, only to have the finished cookies underdone, overdone, or just not gift worthy. After working for a multinational corporation for 17 years, and being “downsized” I’ve started a blog, and I am learning a lot of things as I go. I linked to this in my first real post, and credited it to you and the Flourish blog. I hope that I did it right, because you have such great information that will save so many so much time and effort…and burned cookies! Thank you for doing the research!
    http://www.spoonofhearts.com/2014/09/sometimes-you-just-need-cookie.html

    Reply
  77. Debbie

    I see that you didn’t mention a baking stone. I use my baking stone (it’s rectangle in shape and usually holds 9 cookies at a time) for all my cookie baking. It gives me consistent and wonderfully browned bottoms every time! I have to say, I do love, love, love parchment paper for all other baking! Thanks for the article. Very informative.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Debbie, we haven’t actually tried this. Do you preheat the stone? How do you transfer the cookies on and off the stone? Thanks for sharing. Barb@KAF

  78. Paul Bostwick

    Good work… consider dropping/editing-out the half-pan distinction as color is the big issue on this, not size (unless the half pan means some color that I am not familiar with.) It is confusing to track it with the other variables.

    Also future experiments should have the pan types written on the paper like the times and parchment/no parchment and time.

    Your point that all the pans work but take different amounts of time would be best made by a grid of cookies… Across one axis Time, down the other: pan type. If you want a third variable: Parchment consider a third grid all parchment.

    Absorption of and emissivity of heat is the issue here and shiny pans absorb slower and emit slower. If there is some need for speed (maybe a leavening that does not stay aloft as long?) then the darker pans might be at some advantage but your point is super: Don’t blame the pan, just know the influence it has and work with it.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Paul, and that certainly will give our fellow readers some extra food for thought. Happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  79. Stephanie

    My son and I did a very similar experiment for his science fair project last year and he won “Best in Show” for K-2.

    We used chocolate chip cookie dough without the chips. We cooked them on a pan, on parchment on Reynolds Release and on Silpat. We measured cookie diameter, color and taste/texture.

    For all the bakers out there – this type if experiment can make the science fair a lot more fun (& tasty)!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      What a great project to do with your son, Stephanie! Not only is it educational and interesting, but all your materials and results are 100% edible deliciousness! Keep up the great work! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Ab- I think it really depends on your cookie sheets and their finish. I certainly have had some cookies stick to un-greased sheets before, but if you have found some that don’t need grease then you are indeed a lucky baker! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

    2. Ann H

      I too, am truly old-school. Most of the cookies I bake have butter so I rarely grease the sheets or use parchment ($$$$). I bake a ton of cookies (usually in cool weather–Christmas). I have the KAF square sheet (3 years), 1 old (10+ yrs) half sheet its mate, a slightly smaller sheet. These three have aged to a golden patina (butter cookie residue). Two new half sheets (shiny) which I have only used once with Silpat (meh). I did have the air-bake sheets which worked well (they were time-forgiving), until my husband used them for baking fish (ruined!). My parchment exception is “The Joy of Cooking’s” “Cocoa Kisses” (meringues), for which I use parchment (2-3 times before replacing). I will try them using Silpat this December.

  80. Beth

    Air bake pans and a silicone mat have won me a shoebox full of blue ribbons from the county fair, both gas and electric ovens.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks so much for sharing Beth! It is great to have as many bakers’ experiences together as possible as you never know what will work for you. Happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  81. JoAnn

    Fantastic Post!!
    I’ve always “thought” dark pans would make the cookies darker and now I know for sure! I use the same pans and methods as KAF’s preferred and am never disappointed.
    Thanks for the scientific process you developed to prove this conundrum; you are my go-to resource.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re so glad you enjoyed the post, JoAnn, and we will try to keep more helpful tests and recipes coming! Happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  82. Kayler

    You have a tiny typo in this line, I think:

    “Drop two balls of cookie dough onto the parchment side, two onto the baked side.”

    I think you wanted to say “greased side” rather than “baked side”

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks so much for catching that Kayler! We have fixed that typo and you were exactly correct that we meant to say “greased side.” Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  83. Janice

    I received Wilton cookie sheets as a gift when we married. A suggestion was to bake cookies on the top rack. I have used this for years for sugar cookies. What do you think about this advice?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Janice, I think that if it works for you, keep doing it. Ovens vary so much in how they bake, I wouldn’t say it’s a fail-proof solution; but it certainly makes a lot of sense to give this a try if you have trouble with your cookie bottoms burning. Thanks for sharing – PJH

  84. E

    I had the hardest time perfecting a recipe and the problem is always with the meringue. I bought this kit and all my problems went away! It includes a recipe book and a tray that has meringue cookie size measurements which was a lot of my problem. I recommend to simplify the macaroon baking process!
    http://www.organizeit.com/macaroon-kit.asp

    Reply
  85. Nikki

    I’m not sure if anyone mentioned above here, but I learned that after baking, stow the cookies in a closed container and place a fresh slice/slices of bread inside. This keeps the cookies soft and moist. Even seemed to work for burned ones.

    I’m not a fan of crunchy cookies and this was a good bit of advice!

    Reply
  86. Rosemarie

    Do you have a recipe for snickerdoodles that does not use butter? I also only use organic spelt flour and egg whites. Organic Agave instead of sugar.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Rosemarie, try using Spectrum shortening, or similar, in place of the butter, plus substituting your chosen flour and sweetener and egg whites. While the result will be quite different, texture-wise, you may still achieve a modicum of cinnamon-y snickerdoodle flavor. Good luck – PJH

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Feel free to substitute in for the butter, but you will need some sort of fat (lard, shortening, margarine) in the cookies for mouth feel. Bear in mind that each fat will have a slightly different final effect on the product and we haven’t tested all the choices. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  87. Rosemarie

    Forgot to mention that I just bought 2 half sized Nordicware cookie sheets and Artisian silicone pads.

    Was tired of old pan buckling and tipping my pumpkin pie as well as my cookies sliding to one end. This pans are not suppose to buckle in the oven.

    Reply
  88. JOANN

    I found this very informative. I guess I never realized the pan made so much difference in baking. I found this very useful. Now I will have to try my different surfaces. I have some old pans as well as a stoneware cookie sheet and a silicon baking sheet and parchment. I usually use my silicon baking sheet when baking cookies but I do adjust the baking time so they are browned like I like them. Thanks so much for all of your efforts to enlighten us bakers.

    Reply
  89. Trish

    I sell my baked goods and only use King Arthur flour. My Grandmothers taught me many things. Baking was among those talents and I learned to ‘smell’ when they are ready…to my liking. Your flour is expensive (have learned to buy it when it is on sale/cheaper and wrap in plastic and freeze.) but it makes all the difference in the finished product. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Thank YOU Trish, for your support and kind words. We’re proud to be part of your baking business. ~ MJ

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