Step-by-Step: The Food Lab's Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik unless otherwise noted. Top image: J. Kenji López-Alt]

You know you've got a special kind of marriage when your spouse not only doesn't appreciate it when you bake fresh chocolate chip cookies, but in fact institutes a household-wide ban on the treats, forcing you to undergo a screening process—that's only slightly less invasive and awkward than an airport security scanner—to ensure that no cookie enters the house. When I started the testing for what would eventually become my Best Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, this wasn't the outcome I'd predicted.

Then again, I hadn't planned on making more than 1,500 cookies over the course of a couple of months, but that's what happened. Only now, a full two years later, has my wife relented somewhat. It started with a box of chocolate chip cookies that our neighbor dropped off for us (no, our neighbor didn't use my recipe). Then I saw her nibbling at the edge of a cookie at a recent Food Lab book tour event where I served cookies and apple pie for dessert. Who knows, I may even be allowed to make a full batch of them for Christmas this year.

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What makes the cookies so tasty? The ingredients aren't really all that unique. It's the process that does it. Instead of relying solely on the oven to produce those delicious caramel and butterscotch notes, I start by browning the butter used in the dough. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar, I whip the eggs with sugar to incorporate more air, making the cookies lighter and more tender. No chocolate chips in these cookies, either: I make them with chocolate bars that I chop by hand, giving you a good mix of big chocolate chunks that melt into pools and thin shavings that weave their way throughout the dough.

Finally—and this is the most important step—I let the dough rest at least overnight before baking. This produces superior flavor thanks to the work of enzymes that shorten large carbohydrates into smaller building blocks, accelerating the browning and caramelization process when the cookies are finally baked.

Sound like a lot of work? Don't worry, it's all quite easy (okay, waiting that extra day before baking them is not that easy), and now it's easier than ever with new step-by-step photos to walk you through the process.

Let's Start Cooking!

You can read up on the science here, get the recipe with the link below, or check out the step-by-step gallery for a walk-through of the process.