Spread in Oven

Here are some helpful solutions for the common causes:

  • Butter or margarine too soft

    Butter or margarine was over-softened. The butter or margarine should be soft to the touch but not appear oily or melted. Butter or margarine can be taken from the refrigerator (not the freezer), then cut into 8 to 10 pieces and placed in the mixer bowl. When beaten with an electric mixer, it will soften to the perfect consistency. Unless a recipe specifically calls for melted butter or margarine, do not melt them.

  • Used vegetable oil

    Vegetable oil cannot be substituted for butter or margarine in a cookie recipe. If you choose to use vegetable oil, look for recipes specifically developed to use vegetable oil.

  • Used warm/hot cookie sheets

    Warm cookie sheets cause the fat in the dough to melt. As a result, cookies start to spread before they even get into the oven. Allow cookie sheets to cool completely before baking additional cookies.

  • Low oven temperature
    • An oven that hasn't reached the correct baking temperature causes the fat in the dough to melt before the cookie bakes through. As a result, cookies spread too much. Heat the oven for at least 10 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to turn the oven on just before you begin measuring ingredients.
    • Oven thermostats can change over time, requiring adjustments by the baker or calibration by a professional. To assure the correct temperature each time you bake, always use an oven thermometer.
    • Frequent opening of the oven door can result in significant heat loss. Resist the temptation to look inside the oven to just one or two quick peeks!
  • Warm kitchen

    Cookie dough softened in the warm room. Chill cookie dough for 20 minutes prior to baking. Cookies will take 2 to 3 minutes longer to bake.

  • Used Old Fashioned Oats
    • Old Fashioned Oats absorb liquids more slowly. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons additional flour to the amount called for in the recipe.
    • Substitute Quick Oats, the kind that cook in 1 minute, for the Old Fashioned Oats.
  • Too high proportion of brown sugar

    Brown sugar melts at a lower temperature than granulated (white) sugar, causing cookies to spread. Try using a combination of granulated sugar and brown sugar.

  • Greased cookie sheet

    Too much grease on a cookie sheet can cause cookies to spread. Spread a thin layer of vegetable shortening or lightly spray no-stick cooking spray onto cookie sheet. Or, place parchment paper on the cookie sheet.

  • Used a fat containing less than 70% fat

    By law, margarine must have at least 80% fat, which is the same as butter. The remaining 20% is water. Some time ago companies that produced margarine started marketing a product with less fat and more water; these are called vegetable oil spreads. The more water a vegetable oil spread contains, the more likely cookies will spread. Unless the recipe is especially formulated for vegetable oil spreads, use butter (not whipped or light) or margarine (the package should contain the word "Margarine.") Do not use any margarines or butters sold in tubs.

  • Too little gluten in the flour

    Some brands of flour sold in the southern United States are designed to produce light, fluffy biscuits but may not produce acceptable cookies. Use a national brand of flour. Learn more about flour.