How To Know When Cookies Are Done: 9 Clues & Common Cookie Mistakes

No one wants to take out their tray of cookies from the oven to find undervalued or overbaked cookies. Not getting it right with cookies happens to the best and worst of bakers. So, if you are a new baker struggling with how to know your cookies are done, you should read this article.

It’s not so easy to know your cookies are done, especially while they are still baking. There is the timing factor, the thickness of the dough, and all that but sometimes, they are not enough.

Underbaked and overbaked cookies are not very appetizing, and they do not make up for the time and effort you must have put into baking. To help you avoid this, here is a list of ways to know that your cookies are done and ready to be served.

Get ready to take out your first batch of perfect cookies.

How to know when cookies are done

To know if your cookies are done and ready to eat, do the following:

1. Check for golden edges

As cookies cook, they begin to turn golden brown at the edges while the center remains soft with a light golden hue. This method is good for testing the doneness of drop cookies like peanut butter and oatmeal cookies.

Don’t wait until the cookies turn brown before you remove them. Otherwise, they will become overbaked or get burnt.

2. The glossy dough fades

As the cookie transforms from raw dough to well-baked cookies, the glossy sheen of the dough fades out.

If you look into the oven and can still see a shiny surface, the cookie needs some more time in the oven or air fryer. The cookies should have dry sides and a soft center.

3. Check for cracked tops

When baking, you need all your senses to determine doneness. Check the top of your cookies for crack signs.

As heat builds up in cookies, they rise slightly. As the dough comes down, it’s drier and develops little cracks on the top and around the edges.

4. Puffy cookies

Another way to know your cookies are done is the dry edges and puffy centers. Even flat cookies are soft at their centers.

Take the cookies out once they are puffy to avoid overcooking. The longer they stay in the oven, the drier and more brittle they become.

5. Darkened toppings

Toppings like sugar and fruits brown and darken as cookies bake. As the cookies near doneness, the toppings turn golden brown. If you leave your cookies an extra minute in the oven, they will end up burnt.

6. Is the baking time up?

Please follow the instructions if your recipe has a recommended time and temperature. Most recipes have a temperature and time range. Once you are a minute to the minimum range, stay very close to your oven.

Some cookies may be done by the minimum range, and some may have to get to the maximum range.

The instructions in your recipe are very important, so you should follow them for the best results. However, you should put your eyes and nose to work as well.

7. Done cookies have firm edges

This is a physical test. Put on a clean pair of oven mitts to protect your fingers against heat. Gently press down on the top of one cookie and see if it springs back up. If it doesn’t and leaves a dent instead, the cookies need a few more minutes to bake.

8. Do the toothpick test

This test is ideal for dense cookies and dark cookies. You can also carry out this test when you perceive that your cookies are done but the baking time has not elapsed. Take a clean wooden toothpick or skewer and push it halfway through the cookies.

If the toothpick or skewer comes out with raw batter or crumbs, the cookies are not yet done. They need a few more minutes in the oven. You don’t have to do this for all cookies. Just a few would be enough.

9. Try to lift the cookies

Take a spatula and try to lift one cookie. If the cookie is too soft and seems like it’s breaking apart, leave it alone. Well-baked cookies are firm, easy to lift, and lightly brown at their bottoms. You can remove and serve them now.

Do cookies harden as they cook?

Yes, they do. Cookies continue to cook for 5 minutes after you put them on the cooling rack. This is why it is advised that you remove cookies from the oven a minute before or immediately after the baking time is up.

cookies coming from the oven - millenora

Factors to consider when baking cookies

The type of cookie

Different types of cookies require different recipes, baking temperature, and time. Do not assume the baking temperature and time for one recipe will work the same for another. Stick with the instructions in your recipe.

Size of cookies

Small cookies cook faster than large cookies. If you want your cookies small, do not use too much dough. More dough makes the cookies thicker and spreads too much. It could also alter your expected cooking time.

Type of oven

Know your oven. Different types of ovens have different modes of operation – temperature setting and heat distribution. A conventional oven does not have a fan that distributes hot air. As a result, it has hot spots that make cookies cook unevenly.

A convection oven, on the other hand, has a fan that evenly distributes hot air and bakes evenly. These ovens are the best to work with, especially for beginners.

The dough

Your dough should have the right consistency. It should not be too thick or too light. It also should not be too dry or moist. A dry and tough dough will make your cookies flaky, crumbly, and hard. If the dough is too wet and sticky, the cookies will come out thin and flat.

To get a perfect consistency for your dough, use the right ingredients in the right proportion.

Common mistakes that do not allow cookies to get done well

Using the wrong flour and butter

Flour and butter are two crucial ingredients to the outcome of your cookies. The wrong butter and flour can make your cookies too hard, dry, and crumbly or too soft, flat, and spreading too much.

Using the wrong measurements for ingredients

The wrong measurements and substitutions could also be the reason for your hard, too-chewy, or flat cookies.

Too much flour or fat can ruin your recipe. Carelessness with one ingredient can do a lot of damage to your recipe. Also, mixing all ingredients at once is not a very good idea.

Not preheating the oven

When you do not preheat the oven, baking starts too quickly. The outside of the cookie cooks, and the inside remains raw or half-baked dough.

Overcrowding the baking sheet

Overcrowding the baking sheet suffocates the cookies and they do not get equal exposure to heat. Also, the cookies are too close to each other and will not spread well. When cookies do not spread well, there is a high likelihood that they will not bake properly.

Not rotating the baking sheet

To achieve even baking, rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking. Rotating the baking sheet makes sure that each cookie gets an equal amount of heat and bakes evenly.

Not doing this will most likely give you unevenly baked cookies especially when you have a full baking sheet.

Not chilling the dough before baking

Chilling dough before baking solidifies the fat and prevents excessive spreading. If you do not do this, you risk getting too flat and too thin cookies.

Using an expired baking soda or powder

Expired or stale baking soda or powder will make your cookies too dense because they will not rise well.

Always check the dates on your cans of baking powder or soda. If you have had your baking soda and powder for months, it will be best if you trash them and get fresh ones.

Adding too much butter shortening

Too much butter shortening makes the batter too light. This will cause it to spread too much as it bakes. The cookies come out too thin and crispy.

Using cold eggs

Cold eggs do not allow the formation of air pockets in the dough. These air pockets are necessary for perfect cookie texture.

Do not take your eggs straight from the fridge and add them to the dough. If you are short on time, place the eggs in a bowl of warm water to bring them to room temperature.

Overmixing the dough

Overmixing the dough makes it tough. The resulting cookies are also tough and chewy. In your bid to get a perfectly mixed dough, you likely overmix it. Watch it.

Adding too much grease to the baking sheet

While you need to grease the baking sheet to spread well and become crispy, too much fat can affect the outcome of the cookies. Too much fat will make the cookies spread too much and stick to the pan.

Baking on the wrong rack

The different racks in the oven get different amounts of measurement. Check your recipe and place the cookies on the rack it says you should bake them on. If the cookies are too far from or close to heat, they may be underbaked or overbaked.

Opening the oven door

Opening the oven door too many times alters the temperature in the oven. This in turn affects the baking going on in the oven. Fluctuations in temperature will result in uneven baking.

Not allowing the cookies to cool enough

Time is very important for baking cookies. The time your cookies spend on the baking sheet or cooling rack is very important to their outcome. Cookies continue to cook for about 5 minutes after you take them out of the oven.

Always allow your cookies to cool enough on the baking sheet or cooling rack before you serve them.


What should you do if your cookies are not done at the end of the baking time?

If your cookies are not done after the baking time has elapsed, leave them to bake for a few more seconds or minutes.

Keep an eye on them and check them at 60-second intervals. If the case is the same after three to five minutes, there’s a problem with the oven or recipe.

How do you know when cookies are done in an air fryer?

Cookies turn golden brown in an air fryer when they are done. You can also follow the timing and temperature you set for cooking. Preheat the air fryer to 300°F (149°C) for 7 to 8 minutes.

Why do cookies come out chewy?

Cookies turn out chewy if you use a lot of flour and white sugar. White sugar forms a thick syrup in the dough as it heats up. This thick syrup is responsible for the chewy texture of cookies.

How can you stop cookies from spreading as they bake?

You cannot stop cookies that are already baking from spreading in the oven unless you want to stop baking.

However, you can get better results with the next batch by adding more flour to the batter. You can also chill the batter to make it firmer.

Other tricks to try out include lining the baking sheet with parchment paper instead of covering it with butter or nonstick spray, making a tall cookie dough, cooling the butter, cooling the baking sheet before putting another set of dough on it, and not overmixing the dough.


I guess you are ready to move from being a beginner to baking cookies like a pro. Yes, you have set the time on your oven and mixed the dough correctly, but you need to employ your visual senses as said earlier. Follow the signs highlighted above.

Ensure that you are baking at the right temperature. Otherwise, your cookies will be brown on the outside and remain uncooked on the inside. Once you master the clues that help you know your cookies are done, baking will be more fun for you.

Remember to get an instant-read food thermometer when next you are shopping. It will be worth it.

Wondering if you can make cookies without baking soda? Yes, you can. See what your cookies will taste like and a list of baking soda substitutes you can use.

Thanks for reading.