How To Know When Cookies Are Done: A Comprehensive Guide

Birthday Cake Cookie Sprinkles on Pan

New bakers often find themselves in a sticky situation. Their cookie dough is perfect, the scoops of dough form that perfect cookie shape, or they manage to do perfect cutouts. 

But the recipe says to bake for 20 minutes, and the cookies are already starting to look browner than they’d like. Now, they’re unsure how to know when the cookies are done.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at some signs that your biscuits or cookies are ready. We’ll also give you some tips and discuss some of the most popular cookie types and how to know they’re ready.

Signs That Cookies Are Done Cooking

In many ways, when it comes to the baking part, most cookie recipes are similar. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the common signs. Here’s how to know when cookies are done:

  • The cookies are firmly set - It’s not that easy to undercook cookies, and most types require a relatively short baking period. One of the best ways to know that your cookies are ready to come out of the oven is when they’re firmly set. They shouldn’t be rock hard, but they also shouldn’t be moist or mushy anymore.
  • The cookies are lightly browned - Except in the case of cookies like chocolate crunchies, chocolate shortbread, ginger nuts, or another type of cookie flavored with a dark ingredient, most cookies only need to be lightly browned when they’re done. As soon as you see that rich, light, honey-brown coloration, you know they’re ready to go.
  • They’ve started to crack around the edges - A well-cooked cookie will often start to crack or crumble slightly around the edges. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means that your cookie contains enough moisture, and enough of it has evaporated during the baking process.

Tips and Tricks for Checking if Cookies Are Done

Now that you’ve seen the basic visual cues linked to how to know when cookies are done, let’s discuss some practical tips and tricks for checking to see if your cookies are ready to come out of the oven.


  • Don’t be afraid to try one - The very best way to tell if a cookie is done is to steal one off the baking tray. You can take a bite or break off a piece. Either way, when you taste it, you’ll know for certain if it’s done. A cookie that’s fully done shouldn’t be doughy, nor should it be overly crunchy (unless you’re making a really crunchy type of cookie). It should be soft, crumbly, and perfect when freshly baked.
  • Poke doughy cookies like you would a cake - If you like to make thick, doughy cookies like choc chip or various types of shortbread, you can poke it. Using a metal skewer or the tip of a narrow knife, poke one of the biscuits. If the object you poked with comes out covered in dough, the cookie is still undercooked. If the knife or skewer comes out basically clean, the cookies are ready.
  • You can put cookies back in the oven - While you can’t reverse the process on burnt or overcooked cookies, you can bake undercooked cookies a bit longer. It’s better to err on the side of caution and still be able to fix it.

    How To Tell When Sugar Cookies Are Done

    Sugar Cookies - Stacked with Colors

    Sugar cookie recipes consist primarily of butter. That’s why they spend so much time cooling down before you cut or shape them. You need the butter to set into a usable form before you shape and bake the cookies.

    For this reason, the cookies often seem soft, mushy, and even melty on the baking tray. So, if you want to know how to tell when sugar cookies are done, here’s the key.

    When they’re done, sugar cookies are firm and slightly crispy. In almost no way will they resemble the soft, melty cookies that you put into the oven (except for the shape).

    As mentioned above, you can also poke them in the center with a clean skewer to confirm if they’re done.

    How To Know When Chocolate Chip Cookies Are Done

    Chocolate Chip Cookies with Oreos

    Here’s how to know when chocolate chip cookies are done, and it’s very similar to sugar cookies. There are four things you should look for:

    1. Golden brown edges - A fully cooked chocolate chip cookie will have light, golden-brown edges. If the edges are dark brown or black, you’ve overcooked them. On the other hand, if they’re pale without a honey-brown tinge, they’re not ready yet.
    2. A set surface - A well-done chocolate chip cookie will have a set, slightly firm upper surface. If the surface is rock-hard, the biscuit is overcooked. However, if the surface is still damp or overly malleable, the biscuit isn’t ready yet.
    3. The biscuit isn’t stuck to the baking paper - Chocolate chip cookies go through three phases while baking and two of them involve being stuck to the paper. 
      1. When you just place the cookies on the tray, they’ll be very moist and stick to the baking paper. This will last until the cookie is done.
      2. When the cookie is perfectly done, it will be loose, and you’ll be able to remove it easily from the parchment paper or baking sheet. This is the Goldilocks zone, in baking terms.
      3. When the cookie is overdone, it will once again start sticking to the baking or parchment paper. This happens because it starts losing too much moisture, causing it to adhere to the paper.  
    4. Golden-brown undersides - A perfectly baked chocolate chip cookie will have an underside that’s the same color as those lovely golden-brown edges. It shouldn’t be white (undercooked) or dark brown (overcooked) but a light honey brown (just right). 

    How To Tell if Gingerbread Cookies Are Done

    Gingerbread Cookies

    Since gingerbread cookies contain a fair bit of ginger, they can be rather dark. This rules out the golden-brown rule that works with so many other cookies. So how do you know that they’re done?

    Here’s how to tell if gingerbread cookies are done:

    1. They’ll be firmly set.
    2. They’ll be a lovely medium-brown color.
    3. The edges may crack and will be slightly darker than the rest.

    How To Tell When Peanut Butter Cookies Are Done

    Peanut Butter Cookies

    Unlike many other cookies, peanut butter biscuits only fully harden once they’ve been removed from the oven. Here’s how to tell when peanut butter cookies are done:

    1. The tops of the cookies are a uniform light brown.
    2. They’re soft to the touch but not moist or mushy.
    3. The edges may crack slightly.

    How To Tell When Oatmeal Cookies Are Done

    Oatmeal Cookies

    Oatmeal cookies are generally a type of drop biscuit. In other words, you just drop a certain amount of the dough onto a cookie sheet. You can follow the same instructions as for most drop biscuits to see if they’re done.

    Here’s how to tell when oatmeal cookies are done:

    1. The center isn’t wet or jiggly anymore.
    2. The edges are golden brown and slightly cracked.
    3. The cookie is firmly set with a firm, but not rock-hard, appearance.


    There isn’t really much to knowing when cookies are done. As mentioned before, you need to check that they’re set and ensure that the color is right (for the type of cookie you’re making).

    We trust that this article has helped you understand the basics behind baking well-done cookies. However, there’s one thing that you should know before getting started. The ability to accurately gauge whether a cookie is done often comes with experience. 

    The best thing you can do is get in the kitchen and start baking. Sooner or later, you’ll develop the knack of telling whether your biscuits are fully cooked. 

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