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How do you check if cookies are done?

Knowing when cookies are fully baked can be tricky. Unlike most dishes, there is no definitive cooking time or internal temperature to gauge doneness. Cookies continue baking on the hot pan even after being removed from the oven. Their small size and variety of textures mean each batch requires a slightly different approach. Fortunately, some simple techniques can help determine when cookies are perfectly done.

Visual Cues

One of the easiest ways to check cookies is by looking for visual signs they are baked through. Here are some common things to look for:

Spreading and Color

Most cookie doughs will spread outwards during baking. Pay attention to how much the mounds of dough increase in width. Cookies are likely underbaked if the dough does not spread much. Overly flattened, thin cookies may be overbaked.

An even golden brown or the color indicated in the recipe signals done-ness. Pale or doughy spots mean more time is needed. Dark brown or burnt edges indicate overbaking.


Cracks begin forming on the cookie’s surface as moisture evaporates during baking. Large cracks covering the tops show the inside has baked through. Cookies without cracks need more time. Tiny cracks that do not web across the entire cookie indicate underbaking.


The edges of a fully baked cookie will be set and slightly browned. They should not look wet or doughy. Crisp, firm edges are a sign of doneness.


The interior texture of a cookie can confirm whether it is ready to come out of the oven. Here’s what to look for:


Gently press the center of a cookie. It should still be soft but not doughy. Cookies with a cake-like moist center need more baking time. Overbaked cookies will be dry and hard throughout.

Crumb Structure

Break a cookie in half and look at the interior crumb. It should have a smooth, even texture without anyraw, floury patches. Underbaked cookies will be very dense and doughy inside.


While visual and textural clues offer the best way to assess doneness, estimated baking times can provide a helpful guideline.


Follow the indicated baking times in recipes as a starting point. Additional minutes are often needed if using a different oven or pan size than the recipe states. New ovens and dark pans may bake cookies faster.


Learn the average baking time for standard cookie recipes through trial and error. Make notes each time on how many minutes different doughs took to bake fully. Use these records to predict future baking times.

Common Types of Cookies

Ideal doneness for cookies varies based on the specific recipe. Here are tips for popular cookie styles:

Chocolate Chip

These classics should have golden edges, a set outer texture, and slightly underbaked centers when hot out of the oven. The middle will firm up after cooling. Baked too long and they will be hard and dry.


Look for an even golden color and crisp edges. Press gently to check the interior is baked through. The oats should no longer taste raw or doughy.


Sugar cookies bake quickly with their thin, delicate structure. Remove them once the edges turn golden and the tops no longer look glossy wet. Overbaking gives them a brittle texture.


Buttery shortbread requires more time to bake fully without burning. Bake until light golden on top and slightly browned on the bottom. The cookies should still be soft but not sticky.

Peanut Butter

These cookies often bake unevenly due to their thick, dense batter. Check for a dry, matte look on top and lightly browned edges. The center should be just set and not overly soft.

Tips for Perfectly Baked Cookies

Use these techniques to help your cookies turn out right every time:

Preheat Properly

Always preheat the oven fully before baking. Cookies placed in a cold oven take longer to bake and often burn on the outside while remaining underdone inside.

Use a Thermometer

An oven thermometer confirms the oven is at the right temperature. Ovens can run hot or cold otherwise leading to baking inconsistencies.

Watch Diligently

Begin checking cookies 1-2 minutes before the minimum baking time. Open the oven door briefly to peek at their color and texture regularly after that point.

Use Middle Rack

Placing cookies in the center of the oven allows for the most even heat distribution and better monitoring of their progress.

Stagger Bake Times

If baking multiple sheets, rotate pans halfway through and stagger when each goes in by 1-2 minutes. This prevents uneven baking.

Allow Resting

Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2-5 minutes before transferring to a rack. The residual heat finishes the baking process.

Common Causes of Over and Underbaked Cookies

Having trouble getting your cookies baked perfectly? Here are some potential reasons why:

Overbaked Cookies

Cause Solution
Oven temperature too high Reduce temperature 25 degrees
Baking sheet too dark Use aluminum or other light colored pan
Cookies too close together Leave 2 inches between cookies
Baked too long Reduce baking time 1-3 minutes

Underbaked Cookies

Cause Solution
Oven temperature too low Increase temperature 25 degrees
Baking sheet too light Use dark nonstick or insulated pan
Batter overmixed Stir just until combined
Baked too little Increase bake time 1-3 minutes

Testing Cookies for Doneness

In addition to looking for visual cues, you can perform these simple tests:


Insert a toothpick into the center of the cookie. It should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs when done. Dough sticking to the toothpick means more baking is needed.


Lightly tap the top of the cookie. A hollow sound indicates it is fully baked inside. A flat, dense sound suggests underbaking.


The bottom of a golden brown cookie should show the perfect amount of browning when lifted from the pan. Too light or dark means adjusting the bake time.

How to Tell If Cookie Dough Is Baked Properly Based on Recipe

The ideal doneness of cookie dough depends on factors like:

Fat Content

Doughs with more fat from ingredients like butter and eggs bake up chewier. Leaner doughs with less fat become crisper. Underbake to maintain softness for high-fat recipes.

Sugar Content

Cookies with more sugar caramelize and set faster. Bake to a darker color for very sweet recipes to prevent burning.

Flour Type

Recipes using cake or pastry flour produce more delicate cookies that bake quicker. Cookies made with bread or whole wheat flour require more time.


Chunks of chocolate, oats, etc. add density and slow baking. Allow 1-2 extra minutes for dough with substantial mix-ins to bake through.

Intended Texture

Chewy cookies are often underbaked slightly. Extra time produces a crisper cookie. Follow cues in the recipe for the right doneness.


Checking for visual cues like spreading, color, and cracks provides a reliable way to test when cookies are fully baked. Examining the internal texture and doneness of edges gives further insight. While baking times serve as useful guidelines, the signs of perfect doneness ultimately come down to look, feel, and a few simple tests. With practice, you will be able to produce consistent, perfectly baked cookies every time your craving strikes.