By Vanessa Greaves

Baking doesn't get much easier than making muffins. Learn how to turn out the best muffins from scratch with the help of a few easy tips and tricks.

Muffins on Cooling Rack | Photo by Meredith

Try this recipe: Moist Cranberry Pecan Muffins

10 Tips for Marvelous Muffins

1. Choose your muffin.
If you're wondering which muffin recipe to use, here's a tip: Less butter and sugar in a recipe makes a drier bread-like muffin, while more butter and sugar produces a moister muffin that's more like cake.

2. Start with room-temperature ingredients.
Have all ingredients at room temperature before you start making the batter. Why? Having eggs, butter, and milk at room temperature helps them make a smooth mixture that traps air and expands when heated in the oven. That expansion makes your muffins fluffy and light. Room-temperature butter should indent easily when you press it.

3. Don't overmix.
The more you mix, the tougher the muffin, so use a light touch. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Then pour the wet into the dry. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to gently stir the two together until everything is slightly moistened. Yes, there might be lumps. Small lumps are fine.

4. Add the extras.
Fold in fruit, nuts, etc. after lightly combining the wet and dry ingredients. Then give the batter one more light-handed stir and you're done. Is the batter still lumpy? That's okay; it will still bake up just fine.

5. Make muffins removable.
Inexpensive muffin pan liners make it easy to get the muffins out of the pan without tearing them. But even if you use paper liners, a quick spritz or swipe of vegetable oil on the top of the muffin pan will make muffin removal even easier.

6. Portion the batter.
That thick, lumpy batter is best portioned out with a spoon or a small ice cream scoop so you'll get evenly sized muffins.

7. About those muffin tops.
Some say muffin tops are the best part. To get yours, bake the batter in shallow muffin tins or overfill regular muffin cups. (When the batter rises out of the overfilled cups, you'll be glad you followed step #5.

8. Feel the heat.
Every smart baker uses an oven thermometer to make sure the heat is just right for their recipe. Position the baking rack in the middle of the oven for even heat distribution, and rotate the pan halfway through baking to counteract any hot spots. Yes, all ovens have hot spots.

9. Cool down.
Let muffins cool for a few minutes before lifting them out of the pan and onto a cooling rack.

10. Wrap 'em up.
Muffins are best when freshly made, but for muffins anytime you want them, wrap cooled muffins in plastic and freeze for up to two months.

Wake Up to Muffins

Many muffin batters can be made ahead of time. If you have room in the fridge, you can even scoop the batter into a lined muffin pan so it's ready to go in the oven first thing in the morning.

Photo by cook4fun1

Try this recipe: To Die For Blueberry Muffins

Trivia: Do You Know the Muffin Man?

During the 19th century, purveyors of muffins, or "muffin men," roamed through London at teatime, ringing hand bells and selling their wares. These were English muffins -- short, flat, and spongy -- not American-style muffins, which resemble sweet bread or cake.

More About Muffins

* Did you know? You can turn any quick bread recipe into a muffin recipe just by baking it in a muffin pan. The baking time is a lot shorter, though, so keep an eye on the doneness.
* Discover why your low-fat muffin is not your friend.