How to bake 1000 cookies!?
Here is the story and findings behind one of the major steps ChipMonk took to get the business where it is today
When Jose Hernandez and I were just starting ChipMonk Baking back in early 2019, one question I found myself Googling was “How to Make 1,000 Cookies”. I wanted to understand the shift from baking our cookies at home (which is what we did for almost a year!) to baking them in mass in a commercial or production kitchen. YouTube wasn’t a huge help (I probably watched this How It’s Made: Chocolate Chip Cookies video a hundred times), so to help all you aspiring cookie entrepreneurs out there, I’m going to lay out exactly what we do when we make and bake 1,000 cookies or more.
Step 1: Find a Space
To make 1,000 cookies you’re going to need more space than your standard kitchen. I recommend finding a shared commercial or commissary kitchen that will let you use the space for an hourly rate or a discounted monthly rate. An example of such a kitchen is Kitchen 205 in Houston, though hourly kitchens can be very expensive. If you know you’ll be baking regularly (1-2X per week or more), I recommend trying to find a kitchen with unused capacity. You can reach out and work out a deal where they can let you use the kitchen when they aren’t (e.g., weekends, evenings), for a greatly reduced monthly rent. Examples of such kitchens could include:
- Breakfast / brunch restaurants that don’t offer dinner service
- Veterans’ Halls
- Catering / Meal Prep companies that operate during the day
- Larger bakeries with spare space
The ideal space will have a commercial oven as well as some storage space (both dry and refrigerated) for you to keep your equipment and ingredients. It should also have the necessary health department documents and licensing so you can legally sell what you make their wholesale and online (for more information on this, read about Texas’ Food Manufacturers Licenses or your state’s equivalent).
At ChipMonk, we actually found a school lunch catering company that let us use their kitchen during weekends and evenings for an incredibly low rental rate. It was the perfect space for us to start off without risking a ton of money in rent or equipment.
With regards to how much your rent should be, a good rule of thumb is that you want to target ~10% of your total sales. I’d say in the early stages, you don’t want to be paying more than $500-1,000 per month for your space.
Step 2: Acquire Key Equipment
To bake 1,000 cookies, you’ll likely need:
- Baking Pans ($300) – You’ll want 18” x 26” “full-size” pans like these ones from Webstaurant. At ChipMonk, we fit 24 cookies per pan. So, you’d want 20-40 pans in total to start with
- Pan Racks ($200) – You’ll need at least one baking pan rack like this to hold your pans. You can also get a half-size one to start. These open up prep table space – you can let your cookies cool on the rack vs. laying out all your pans on tables
- Parchment Paper ($35) – Makes it easy to plate your dough onto pans without a huge mess. You can get some on Amazon or Webstaurant easily.
- Cookie Scoops aka “dishers” ($40) – Scoops will make it easy to portion dough and to keep your dough balls consistent in size. I recommend Vollrath Dishers from Webstaurant (lots of different sizes available)
- Spatulas and Measuring Spoons ($50) – Easily found on Amazon. These help with measuring out and mixing ingredients
- Scales ($100) – When making cookies in large quantities, you need to measure all of your ingredients by weight instead of random measurements like cups or tablespoons. To do this, you’ll need a few scales like this one. I recommend you get a heavier duty scale that can handle higher weights for your bulk ingredients (like flour and sugar), and then a precise scale (i.e., one that can measure up to a tenth of a gram), for your smaller / more specialty ingredients (e.g., salt, flavorings).
- Dough Mixer Machine ($4,000) – A standard KitchenAid isn’t going to cut it at these volumes. You need to upgrade to commercial size mixer. My recommendation is to start with a 20 quart mixer, which can make dough for 200-300 cookies at a time. At ChipMonk, we started with a Univex 20qt Table Top Mixer like this. A new one runs you about $4,000, but there are cheaper brands out there or you can look for local restaurant equipment auctions to buy one used. I highly recommend you buy 2-3 extra bowls and a full set of mixing attachments as well.
- Dough Bin ($30) – I recommend you get 1-2 of these tote boxes to hold your dough after it is mixed. Just dump the dough in and scoop from here.
- Cleaning Supplies ($100) – Make sure you have soap, sanitizer, food-safe gloves, aprons, towels, and dishwashing tools. You need to make sure any surfaces / equipment touching food are fully cleaned and sanitized. The space you work in should have a 3-compartment sink for dishwashing.
- Ingredient Bins and Bowls ($100) – It can save a lot of time to organize your larger ingredients into food safe buckets or bins. Make sure to label them well! Also buy yourself a set of stainless-steel bowls for weighing out ingredient into (here’s a good set)
- Packaging ($100) – You’ll need to get some packaging for your cookies. I recommend you start with blank bags (https://www.clearbags.com/ is a great supplier for these) at first. You can print out stickers with the branding and nutritional information at first (https://www.onlinelabels.com/ is a great place for low-cost stickers). Over time, you can invest in custom printed packaging to really make your product stand out.
- Heat Sealer for Packaging ($40-250) – You need something that can heat seal your packaging shut so it is air tight and keeps your product fresher longer. You can use a hand impulse sealer like this to start or jump for a continuous band sealer, which is more expensive but much faster.
- Oven ($3,000) – As mentioned earlier, make sure your baking space has a commercial oven. Ideally one with room for at least 5 pans at a time (the more the better). Be careful though! Most commercial ovens are convection while your oven at home is “conventional”. Convection ovens use a fan to blow hot air throughout the inside of the oven. That means they run hotter than a standard home oven. If you are baking your cookies at say 325 degrees Fahrenheit at home, when you move to a convection oven you’ll need to lower your baking temperature by about 15 degrees. Make sure to run some tests to determine the perfect temperature before you start baking a ton of cookies. Here’s an article with more information on convection vs. conventional ovens. If you need to buy one, you could start with a single-deck oven like this one for under $3,000. Make sure that you follow all your local fire safety codes when working with ovens (typically they require a vent hood and potentially a fire suppression system).
Depending on how equipped the space you’re in already is, the total equipment cost to get started can range from ~$1,000 up to $8,000 (if you needed to buy an oven and/or mixer machine). Buying used equipment can help you keep these numbers under control as well.
- Step 3: Create a recipe / batch sheet / formula
You need a guide to layout how much of each ingredient you’ll need to make your 1,000 cookies. To start, write out your basic cookie recipe for say 10 cookies, but convert all measurements into grams.
For example, let’s say the below measurements make 10 cookies (PLEASE NOTE – THIS IS NOT A REAL RECIPE! :P)
To scale up to 1,000 cookies, you’d multiple by 100. So, you’d get:
10,000g (10kg) flour
5,000g (5kg butter)
5,000g (5kg egg)
Total weight = 21kg
Keep in mind the size of your mixer here. A 20-quart mixer can hold approximately 10kg of dough, so you’ll need to divide your total ingredient amounts into “batches” approximately 10kg in weight. So, for our above recipe, you’d make two batches where each one produces ~500 cookies like this:
5,000g (5kg) flour
2,500g (2.5kg butter)
2,500g (2.5kg egg)
Total weight = 10.5kg
You’ll of course need to run some tests to make sure your calculated yield is accurate. I also recommend you write out your mixing, plating, and baking steps in great detail so you (and eventually your team) have a manual / guide to make sure everything is done correctly.
Step 4: BAKE!
At ChipMonk, we start off by weighing out all the individual ingredients needed for our “batch” of dough. After they are weighed, we’ll add in each ingredient into the mixer in phases. Typically, with baking, you add in your “wets” (liquids, butter, egg, flavorings, etc.) first and then you’ll add in your “dries” (flour) second. Let it all mix together until you get the consistency you want.
From there, move your dough from your mixer bowl into a bin on a table. Use your dishers / scoops to portion the dough out onto pans (that have parchment paper laid out on them). If you do 24 cookies per pan, you’ll prepare just over 40 pans to reach 1,000 cookies.
Once the cookies are scooped, put your pans into the oven and bake until ready. Pull the cookies out and let them fully cool before you package them.
During packaging, make sure you wash your hands and wear food safe gloves when handling ready-to-eat product. Keep things safe and clean! Once your cookies are in their packaging, use your heat sealer to seal the packages shut.
You can then use large cardboard boxes or plastic containers (something like this works) to hold your packaged cookies. Box them up, label the boxes accordingly, and take them away to your farmers market, store, warehouse, etc.
And, Bam! You just made 1,000 cookies :)
Have any questions on the process or want to learn more about things like specialty food startups and commercial baking? Shoot us an email at email@example.com. Thanks for reading!