My cookie recipe calls for a starting temperature of 400, then a reduction to 350 10 minutes in and for the duration. My oven is big and well insulated, so it takes at least 30 minutes with the door closed to reduce to 350. Will partially baked cookies come out okay sitting on the counter that whole time? Maybe I should just start it at 350 and be done with it?

  • 3
    The recipe likely wants the temperature high for a reason. Usually improved rise or setting the crust on top… while moving to a lower heat then allows it cook through completely without burning/overcooking then outside
    – Joe
    Oct 22, 2023 at 16:55
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    The recipe means "turn it down and carry on" — not "turn it down, wait until the temperature is reduced to 350, and carry on" (no oven reduces in temperature immediately). Oct 22, 2023 at 17:03
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    Maybe I'm missing something, but the cookies I'm used to making take barely over 10 minutes total, and at lower temperatures than that. Why do they take so long? Oct 23, 2023 at 7:48
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    @the-baby-is-you - on average, cookie recipes I use are in the range of 15-20 minutes at 350-400º. How are you cooking them for such a short period of time at a lower temperature?
    – warren
    Oct 23, 2023 at 13:10
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    @warren My best cookie recipe makes sugar cookies that come out quite thin and I can fit 9 on a sheet (so relatively small). Cook time is 8-10 minutes at 350, they come out looking slightly undercooked in the middle and finish cooking from residual heat. If you leave them even slightly too long they will be too hard by the time they are cooled. Oct 23, 2023 at 15:05

3 Answers 3


Unless stated otherwise, reducing the temperature does not mean taking the food out of the oven, but simply adjusting the temperature setting.

If you need to reduce the temperature quickly (usually just an emergency measure if the temperature was accidentally too high and the food is about to burn), just leave the door open for a bit, a few minutes should suffice.

  • 7
    I would say, though, that if you know that your oven has really good heat retention, start checking the cookies a couple minutes before the recipe says to.
    – FuzzyChef
    Oct 22, 2023 at 19:06
  • If the OP's oven does have a lot of thermal mass, maybe pre-heat to somewhat below the lower temperature (350), and only turn the oven temp up to 400 F a few minutes before putting the cookies in, so the air is that hot but the oven walls aren't. So when you do turn down the thermostat temperature, you don't have hot oven walls keeping the temp up above 350 for long. (OTOH, putting the room-temperature pan in will cool off the air more quickly than 10 minutes so the heating element will be on. Might depend on the cookie size and shape whether that's a problem or a good approximation of 400) Oct 23, 2023 at 2:07
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    This reduction without opening is reasonably common. For old recipes baked in modern ovens, I have found that opening the door for a few seconds without removing the food is a good idea - or turning down the temperature 10-20% sooner than the recipe says. The latter ought to be better for recipes with baking powder, to avoid the risk of sudden cooling of (some of) the food (+1)
    – Chris H
    Oct 23, 2023 at 9:30

After 10 minutes the bulk of the cookie dough will have temperature significantly enough below 400°F that enough heat will get absorbed there to get the temperature down. Of course this holds mainly if, as you state, your cool-off times come from good oven insulation, not if they come from large heat capacity like when using a cast-iron stove.

Also you want to be working a full tray.


The answer comes from the nature of the temperature control in an oven and basic thermodynamics.

Ovens work by having a heating element that adds heat to the cooking volume. Once the desired temperature is reached, the element turns off. If the temperature drops (because heat was transferred out of the oven), the element comes back on, raises the temperature a bit and then turns off. This cycling of the element (on/off) keeps the temperature within an acceptable range.

When you heat up an oven, you are heating up the air in the oven, as well as the walls, etc. that make up the oven. Once heated, they take a while to cool down. When you open the oven, there's some exchange of the hot air in the oven with the cooler air of your kitchen. When you put a room temperature sheet of cookies into the oven, the overall temperature will drop. If you look, the heating element will likely come on as soon as you do this.

By having the initial temperature set to 400, you will (as others have pointed out) have an environment that will act to quickly rise the cookies and crisp both the bottoms and the tops of the cookies. By leaving it at 400 for 10 minutes, you are causing the element to quickly come back on, adding heat to the overall oven system, but specifically to the bottom of the cookie sheet.

10 minutes later, when you drop the temperature, you aren't causing the temperature to drop to 350 degrees. Instead, you are telling the oven "hey, the oven is hot enough to cook the cookies now, don't turn the element on for a while". Eventually, the element may come back on, but if your recipe is "10 minutes at 400, 10 minutes at 350", the element may never come back on.

The ambient heat of the hot oven will be enough to cook the cookies. In particular, by not having the element come back on, the bottom of the sheet will get no radiant heat transfer from the element, preventing the bottom of the cookies from burning.

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