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How to measure drop cookie dough

measured cookie dough, ready to bake

 The most common type of cookie seems to be the drop cookie. Chocolate chip, oatmeal and anything else that must be scooped and dropped (hence the name) onto a baking sheet without any shaping or rolling falls into this category and, despite how prevalent they are, there is a lot of debate over how exactly you’re supposed to drop the chunks of cookie dough onto your baking sheet. How big should the cookies be? How do you get them to all turn out to be the same size?

Most recipes call for dough to be dropped in “heaping teaspoonfuls” or “rounded tablespoonfuls” and I have to admit that I am no exception here (although I do try to give a more concrete estimate of the size by saying things like “1-inch in diameter” when I can). These measures are based on actual spoonful amounts, not on measuring spoons. Think of your silverware drawer. Odds are that you have two sizes of spoons in there: smalls are teaspoons and larges are tablespoons. They don’t correspond exactly to the size of a measuring spoon, but tableware is where the measurement originated – and where the measurement for cookie dough scoop sizes still lies. A rounded or heaping tablespoonful is going to be about 2 measured tablespoons. A rounded or heaping teaspoonful is going to be about 1 measured tablespoon.

I shape my drop cookie dough using these spoons to pick up a smallish amount of dough then using a round butter knife to push the dough onto the baking sheet. This gives me a round piece of dough (a proto-cookie, if you will) and keeps my fingers clean. Once I have one, I simply eyeball the rest to match. As long as you make all your cookies about the same size – teaspoon or tablespoon – there really is no “wrong” option. Just be sure to keep an eye on the baking time while your cookies are in the oven, because if your cookies are smaller than the recipe writer’s were, they will bake a bit more quickly. If they are larger, they could take a minute or two longer.

Now, if you don’t feel comfortable “eyeballing” your dough like I do – although I assure you that the longer you do it, the more consistent your cookies will get – you can invest in a cookie scoop to do the measuring for you. Cookie scoops come in different sizes to take the guesswork out of the “rounded tablespoon” approximations and they work just like mini ice cream scoops, complete with small levers that push the dough out of the scoop and onto your baking sheet in a perfectly portioned ball. The downside is that dough will inevitably stick to them no matter how good the lever mechanism is (happens with ice cream scoops, too), so you might have to dip them in warm water a few times while you work to keep them slippery.

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  • linda
    September 27, 2007

    I stumbled across your site while searching for recipes. Love it! I’ve added it to my RSS feeds already. I bake frequently but don’t do cakes much. A friend has asked me to make a strawberry filled white cake for an event, but she left the icing choice to me. Help! I may attempt the buttercream you listed with the classic white cake recipe, but it says not to refrigerate. If I’m making a fresh strawberry filling for the cake, I would think refrigerating would be important. Or should I go with more of a whipped icing and refrigerate that? Suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  • annie
    September 27, 2007

    I use different sized ice cream scoops. They usually come in measure sizes from 1 tbs to 1/4 cups. And the dough just plops right out.

  • Megan
    September 28, 2007

    I’m a big believer in the cookie scoops. I’ve never had a big problem with the dough sticking to them but I’d advise buying ones that are heavy and solid to anyone interested in them. I fear one with plastic components wouldnt be able to scoop through a cold hard cookie dough.

  • Elyse
    September 28, 2007

    Count me in with the scoop-lovers. They take a lot of the hassle out of drop cookie baking. Small metal scoops are quite handy and help to give one’s baking (like muffins) a more professional appearance. Try it you’ll like it…

  • Brittany
    August 4, 2013

    Your tip of using the two spoons and a butter knife works GREAT!!!!! 😀 Thank you for sharing your awesomeness!

  • Marge
    November 18, 2013

    I love using scoops as well but i’m trying to find out how long to bake drop cookies using the largest scoops! Say 1/4 cup. Can you help me? Most recipes say 8-10 min but that’s for 1 tbsp.

  • Nicole
    November 18, 2013

    Marge – You are going to have to check the cookies for doneness yourself when using such a large scoop size, since cookies that big can take quite a bit longer to bake. Many recipes even call for cooking “jumbo” cookies at a slightly lower temperature so that they don’t overcook on the edges. I would do a test batch first, baking just one or two cookies until they are done (it could be about 20 minutes of baking time, depending on your oven), and look for golden edges and cookies that are set in the center. Then, use that test as a guide for the rest of your baking.

  • Marlene
    December 5, 2013

    I am making snowball cookies. I would like to use a cookie scoop measuring one inch across. The recipe calls for a 325 oven for 20 minutes. What should the time be reduced by?

  • How to Shape Homemade Cookies
    December 17, 2012

    […] on the size of cookie desired, use two teaspoons or two tablespoons. Take one spoon to scoop the cookie dough out of the bowl and use the other spoon to push the dough […]

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