You can even just cut up chocolate chips, if that's what you have.

You probably aren’t reaching for a cutting board when you make chocolate chip cookies—but you should be. Pushing beyond the bag of classic chocolate chips changes the look, feel and quality of any cookie recipe you already love. Simply put: Chopping up bars of chocolate instead of using bagged chips or chunks takes your baking from average to sublime.

Let’s talk simple visuals. No right-minded person is going to turn down a cookie studded with chips, and it’s true that it’s more convenient to just have a bag of chunks ready to stir into your dough. But the advantage of chopping chocolate is that it looks a little less cookie cutter. All you need is a bar of chocolate and a sharp knife. Don’t worry about clean lines and exact sizes. Think “rustic.” You want chunks, slivers and the finest chocolate shavings. They’ll probably happen naturally as you chop, and that’s ideal. When that mix of textures is folded into your dough, you get gorgeous bakery looks as well as several chocolate experiences all within one cookie. The big chunks stay tall and proud, creating a mouthful of chocolate in those bites. The slivers create striations that deliver cocoa flavor throughout and give you a great ratio of chocolate to cookie. And the shavings—oh, the shavings—speckle the dough and make your cookies look complex and decadent.

Chopping your own chocolate also gives you freedom to control the quality of the cocoa. Lots of high-end products are sold in bars or disks, which are perfect for chopping. You can work your way through brands as well as percentages of cacao until you find what you like best. Do you prefer 72% chocolate, or does your recipe have better contrast when you use a 77%? Do you want to base your chocolate selection on country of origin? Maybe you enjoy chocolate with notes of passion fruit or realize you’re partial to something a little smoky. Maybe you want to try the ruby chocolate that’s all the rage. It’s a new chocolate that is naturally pink, which could be a real knock-out in a chocolate dough. The point is: You are the architect here.

Watch: The Secret Ingredient for the Chewiest Chocolate Chip Cookies

Or you can forget about percentages and origins and just chop up a fun candy bar. Even a mass-market fave brings flavors and textures that semisweet chips don’t offer. So grab your go-to and chunk it, slice it and mince it. Then slide all your pieces into any dough. Your cookies will seem brand-new when you play with the size, texture and flavor of your chocolate. A whole mess of store-bought candy is particularly genius all bound up in a deep-dish skillet cookie.

The best part of this is that it works even if you want to use bagged chocolate chips. Set aside some chips to leave whole. Then roughly chop a portion, and finely chop the rest. It’s an instant upgrade to your recipe using the chips you already have in your pantry. You’ll still get all the variation in texture that you would from working with pricier chocolate. And that will impress anyone lucky enough to get a homemade chocolate chip cookie from you.

This simple technique raises your baking game even beyond chocolate chip cookies. Try chopping chocolate for cupcakes, scones, muffins and cheesecakes. They’ll all feel richer and classier with a little tweak to their chocolate.