Cookies are simpler to make than most other baked goods, but getting them to cook evenly can be a trick. An overcrowded oven, inappropriate bakeware or even an inaccurate oven thermometer can produce cookies that are either burnt to a crisp or soggy and underdone. In extreme cases, you might have some of both. Take control of your cookie kingdom to ensure evenly browned cookies every time.
Give Them Some Space
Conventional radiant ovens have heating elements on the top and bottom of the oven that heat up the oven cavity. Unfortunately, most ovens have hot and cool spots, so cookies don't always cook evenly. To encourage even baking, preheat the oven at least 10 to 15 minutes before you bake the cookies. Keep the oven door closed so that hot air doesn't escape. Bake one sheet of cookies at a time, and place that cookie sheet on the center rack. If you stack several baking sheets in the oven, cookies on the bottom and top sheets will get done long before those on the middle one. Space the cookies at least 2 inches apart. Turn the cookie sheet halfway through the baking time if the cookies aren't browning evenly.
The Best Bakeware
The oven isn't the only culprit when cookies don't brown evenly. The baking sheets you use can also make a difference. Stick with aluminum pans for best results, according to Cindy Mushet, author of "The Art & Soul of Baking." Aluminum pans heat quickly for even browning and hold their heat during baking. Use rimless cookie sheets or heavy-duty aluminum baking sheets with a 1-inch lip. You can also use insulated cookie sheets, but they may not brown as well. Cookies baked on dark nonstick pans may burn more easily. Reduce the heat by 25 degrees Fahrenheit if you use this type.
The Convenience of Convection
Many modern ovens come with a convection setting. If you're lucky enough to have a convection oven, take advantage of its superior cooking ability for more evenly baked cookies. Convection ovens blow hot air throughout the oven, eliminating cold spots, so cookies bake more evenly and quickly. Convection ovens are so efficient that you can bake more than one batch of cookies at a time. Reduce the heat by 25 F and the baking time by 25 percent when using a convection oven.
Take Its Temperature
You've preheated the oven, spaced cookie sheets correctly and used aluminum pans, yet cookies still end up either burnt or raw. The problem might be an inaccurate oven temperature. Even new ovens can be off by 50 to even 100 F, which can make a big difference in your baking success. Test your oven's temperature regularly with an alcohol-based oven thermometer. You don't have to call in a repairman if the oven temperature is off. Simply lower or increase the temperature accordingly.
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