How to Avoid Burning the Bottom of Your Cookies

Accidents happen, but what are you supposed to do when you follow the recipe and’re met with the scent of burning cookie minutes before your timer even goes off?

burnt cookies
Photo: Getty Images

Obviously, we'd all like every batch of cookies we ever bake to turn out perfectly, but there's an extra measure of pressure applied to holiday cookies. These aren't just your Sunday afternoon chocolate chippers, no — these are destined for cookie platters!

Of course, if you've ever burnt the bottoms of your cookies, you understand the inherent anxiety that arises with such a high-stake baking project. You don't think it will, but what if it happens again?

The good news is that you can easily take some of the anxiety and guesswork out of this equation. Here are five simple tips for preventing blackened undersides on your next batch.

5 Ways to Prevent Burnt-Bottom Cookies

Be A Mindful Measurer

Especially with sugar. Beyond providing sweet flavor, sugar is a key player in developing a crispy texture in your cookies. However, going overboard on the sweet stuff can promote fast and excessive caramelization, ultimately resulting in cookies with overly-darkened bottoms and edges.

Reevaluate Your Baking Sheet Set-Up

There are a few ways your baking sheet can stealthily set you up for failure when it comes to surprise burnt bottoms. Thankfully, the solutions are easy.

First, if you have a baking sheet that's lighter in color, reach for it. While dark, nonstick baking pans are great for moments when you're looking to really promote crispness (say, when you're baking up some frozen French fries), they're not ideal for your cookies.

Now, regardless of what baking sheet you use, do not — let me repeat, do not — grease it. Not even with a spritz of non-stick baking spray. Oftentimes, cookie recipes will specify that you use an "ungreased baking sheet," and the reason is that in your 350-degree oven, the bottoms of your cookies can start to sizzle in that extra grease. Instead of greasing your cookie sheet, line it with a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Either will prevent sticking and help protect the bottoms of your cookies. And no, neither wax paper nor aluminum foil will not work as a substitute.

One other thing to consider: Are you using a rimmed baking sheet or a perfectly flat cookie sheet? While baking your cookies on a rimmed sheet pan is just fine, using a flat, rimless cookie sheet does allow warm air to circulate around the cookies a bit better and promotes more even baking. Additionally, using a flat cookie sheet will allow you a slightly better view of the (more evenly browning) edges of your cookies, which can minimize your risk of baking them for too long.

Try Baking One Sheet at a Time

While we're on the topic of even heating and airflow, if you don't trust yourself to be consistent about rotating two sheets of cookies halfway through baking, just play it safe and bake one sheet at a time. Remember, for most conventional ovens, the heating element you're relying on for your cookies is located at the bottom of the oven — so, if you're not inclined to rotate your pans, that bottom pan is apt to get a little too much toastiness while your top pan may still need time to bake.

And Be Mindful of Where Your Oven Rack Is

Supposing you do decide to go with just one sheet at a time, make sure the rack is positioned in the center of the oven to ensure the most efficient baking experience possible.

When in Doubt, Show Up Early

It's important to keep in mind that the cookie recipe in your hand wasn't developed using your oven, so your bake times may vary slightly from what's written. That's why you should keep an eye on your precious sweets throughout their baking journey and check to see how brown and set they are looking a few minutes before they're scheduled to be finished.

While nothing in life is certain, these tips will certainly minimize your chances of ending up with a batch of gingerbread men bearing burnt bottoms.

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