Recipe Review

Who Wins the Title of Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever?

updated Dec 11, 2019
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(Image credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Design: Kitchn; Headshots From Left to Right: Jason Merritt/Getty Images, NBC/Getty Images, Steve Granitz/Getty Images)

Growing up, I thought there was only one way to make a chocolate chip cookie. You started with the yellow bag of Nestlé Toll House chocolate morsels, followed the directions on the back, and nine to 11 minutes later you were rewarded with a tray of warm cookies. Simple as that.

Fast forward 20 years, and there are now more recipes for chocolate chip cookies than I’d ever have a chance to make in my lifetime (although I’d be down to try). To distinguish themselves from the competition, they all claim to be the best, whether that’s because they’re the easiest, or the most flavorful, or the chewiest, or the softest.

Some have even gone viral. There’s the version adapted from Jacques Torres in the New York Times, which was so thoroughly researched and tested that it likely is the most “perfect” chocolate chip cookie, although you have to wait for it (and pay for it), because science says a chill time of 36 hours yields the best cookie, as does 1 1/4 pounds of bittersweet chocolate disks.

Then there’s Alison Roman’s salted chocolate chunk shortbread cookies (aka #thecookies), in which she took all her favorite parts of the classic dessert and created something new altogether — a buttery, crumbly, salty concoction that proved just how far we’ve come since Toll House. Another Instagram favorite? The giant crinkled chocolate chip cookies from cookbook author Sarah Kieffer, featuring the unique (yet incredibly noisy) technique of banging your cookie sheet on the oven rack as the dough bakes.

But traditionalists, fear not, because some of the internet’s most popular chocolate chip cookies — from Alton Brown, Martha Stewart, and Joanna Gaines — don’t stray too far from classic versions. (We also tossed Toll House into the competition, to act as our control cookie.) There are no chocolate disks or flaky salt, no overnight chill or pan-banging — these are just good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies. For consistency’s sake, I tested each with King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour, Nestlé Toll House semi-sweet morsels, and Domino sugar, and baked them all in the same oven, on the same cookie sheet, on the same day.

Here’s how they ranked, from my least favorite to the very best.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

When Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Table cookbook came out last spring, everyone was talking about these cookies. She claimed the secret to the best-ever chocolate chip cookies was simple: Use half as much butter. Curious as to whether she’d really cracked the code, I was eager to give these a try, but the lack of butter meant cookies that didn’t spread at all in the oven (read: cakier cookies with no crispy edges). Plus, I kept taking bites with no chocolate, resulting in immediate point deductions.

Rating: 5/10

The Toll House cookies were predictably average. They’re still tasty, of course, and because there’s nothing polarizing about them, they’re a solid choice for a crowd of picky eaters. But they’re too small for my liking and lacked flavor in comparison to some of the others.

Rating: 6/10

These cookies boast crispy edges with soft, chewy, slightly doughy centers — my favorite type of cookie. They’re also very easy to make. But because they didn’t yield consistent results every time we baked them, they didn’t quite earn enough points to be crowned the winning cookie.

Rating: 7/10

The Very Best Chocolate Chip Cookie: Alton Brown’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

These dense, wonderfully chewy cookies boast tons of flavor, thanks to a higher ratio of brown sugar to white and a quick chill in the fridge before they’re baked. Their heftiness and chew makes them reminiscent of a bakery cookie, but you get to enjoy them warm from the oven.

Rating: 9/10

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The Big Takeaway Lessons from All Four

1. Use chopped chocolate or chocolate disks: It’s not that I necessarily wanted more chocolate, but all four of these cookies left me wanting more evenly dispersed chocolate. Chopped chocolate or disks are both better melters than chips, so they get into more nooks and crannies and create layers of chocolate in every bite.

2. Use bread flour for chewier cookies: If a chewier cookie is what you’re after, using a flour with a higher gluten content (like Alton does) will help you get there.

3. Make bigger cookies: The larger the cookie, the more contrast in textures you can achieve, like craggy-crusty edges and a chewy, slightly underbaked center. Opt for about 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie, and adjust bake time accordingly.

What’s your absolute favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? Tell us in the comments below.