Proceed with caution. To avoid mishaps, read the recipe from start to finish — twice — before beginning. Many cookie recipes require that a dough be refrigerated for a length of time.

Shop carefully. Our recipes use large eggs and all-purpose flour, unless otherwise noted. For optimum results, invest in fresh baking powder, baking soda and spices.

Equip your kitchen. Use flat, shiny, rimless and insulated medium- to heavy-gauge aluminum baking sheets. Eliminate greasy baking sheets by using parchment paper or reusable silicon (such as Silpat) baking mats.

Measure carefully. Precision is essential to baking success. Spoon flour and powdered sugar into the measuring cup (rather than using the measuring cup as a scoop) and level ingredients with a straightedge, such as a knife. Soften butter at room temperature until a light touch leaves a slight indentation, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Keep it round. When preparing refrigerator cookie dough, place the plastic- or wax paper-wrapped logs on a level shelf in the refrigerator and give dough a quarter-turn every 15 minutes for the first hour, to prevent the sides of the cookies from flattening under the dough's weight.

Bake evenly. Preheat the oven for at least 20 minutes. Adjust baking rack to the oven's middle position. For true accuracy, invest in an oven thermometer. Use one baking sheet at a time in the oven, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Hot baking sheets can cause cookies to spread, so cool baking sheets completely between batches either by alternating among several cookie sheets or running hot ones under cold water.

Store wisely. Most cookies remain fresh for up to a week when stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Use separate containers to store different types of cookies. If icing cookies, store them undecorated and ice them when ready to serve (most cookies will defrost in two hours).