Recipe Review

This Might Be the Most High-Effort Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Ever (but It’s Worth It)

published May 2, 2019
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

The best part about baking cookies is that they’re usually pretty darn easy to make. You can preheat your oven, whip up a recipe, and have homemade cookies ready within an hour. But then there are those high-touch (and high-effort!) recipes that claim to take cookies to an entirely new level — the ones that aim to elevate the humble baked good into something seriously impressive. A perfect example of that is J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s — of Serious Eats and The Food Lab fame — chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Lopez-Alt says he baked countless batches of cookies in pursuit of the perfect recipe, and he landed on a formula that he has dubbed his “best chocolate chip cookie recipe.” The recipe strays from the traditional and uses a combination of techniques to boost the final product. While it’s not a quick or easy recipe to pull off, the results are rumored to be well worth the effort.

What makes this recipe different? A few extra steps. For starters, you’ll brown the butter to give the cookies a deep, nutty flavor. You’ll also whip the eggs and sugar until they’re light and ribbony. An overnight resting of the dough further develops the flavor, and then you’ll hand-tear chunks of dough to achieve a craggly texture.

So are they actually worth the work? And could this really be the best cookie recipe ever? I whipped up a batch to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

How to Make J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lopez-Alt instructs to you start by heating butter in a saucepan until it gets brown and fragrant. Then transfer the browned butter into a bowl, drop an ice cube in it, and whisk it until it melts. This quickly cools down the butter and adds back some of the water that was lost during browning. You’ll pop that in the fridge to cool down and move onto the dry ingredients.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Then move to the wet: whipping eggs, vanilla extract, and granulated sugar until light and ribbony. As Lopez-Alt explains: “The goal here is to dissolve the sugar while incorporating air into the egg mixture in order to help the cookies bake up light and crisp.”

To the whipped egg mixture, you’ll add the cooled brown butter and dark brown sugar — then add the dry ingredients, mix again, add the chocolate, and cover to rest in the fridge overnight.  

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

The next day, you’ll scoop the cookie dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and rip each dough ball in half, piecing them back together with the ripped edges facing outward. (This gives them a rougher, more craggly final texture.) They’ll bake in a 325°F oven before they’re finished with flaky sea salt.

My Honest Review of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ll just get right to it: This recipe is the closest thing to a perfect chocolate chip cookie that I have ever tasted. They’ve very, very good.

The cookie has strong, nutty flavors that come from the dark brown sugar and brown butter, and it makes the cookies taste especially rich and complex. It’s almost like you’re eating a caramel-flavored chocolate chip cookie, with notes of dark rum and butterscotch magically coming through. The bits of chocolate broke up the richness of the dough and made for an unbelievable flavor.

The texture of the cookie was also textbook perfect. Tearing the cookie dough apart before baking made them perfectly craggly, not to mention photo-worthy. The edges were crispy and the center was chewy. (Just the way I like them!) The overnight resting really did seem to upgrade the texture and also made them bake super evenly, so it was worth the wait.

While the process of making these cookies was a bit exhausting, the outcome was totally worth the effort. I can confidently say that this may just be my new go-to cookie recipe.

Credit: Charli Nowak
The Food Lab's Chocolate Chip Cookies

If You’re Making J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Cookies, a Few Tips

1. Make sure you’re using the right size ice cube when making the brown butter: Kenji actually specifies to use an ice cube that’s made with about two tablespoons of water, so don’t default to a giant one.

2. Use a stand mixer: This recipe has you go between whisk and paddle attachments, and it relies heavily on using the power and speed of a stand mixer, as opposed to a hand-held one. If you don’t have one, see if you can borrow one from a friend — I found it to be pretty crucial for this recipe.

3. Take your time whipping the eggs and sugar together: This recipe has you whip together the eggs and sugar until they’re pale and ribbony, which takes time. The instructions state that it’ll take about five minutes, which feels like a really long time while you’re doing it — so just sit back, don’t rush it, and give them enough time to get ribbony.

4. Don’t overmix the dough: When you go to add the dry ingredients into the dough, Lopez-Alt notes that you should mix it “until just barely combined.” This prevents the dough from getting tough, so don’t overdo it.

5. Don’t skip the resting period: Lopez-Alt notes that the resting period is the “most important step of the whole process.” While waiting overnight might be difficult, it’s totally worth it.

Have you ever made J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s chocolate chip cookies? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn