How To Properly Chill Your Dough For Better Cookies

It seems that every family has a cookie recipe where they do something just a little differently to achieve ooey gooey perfection. Maybe your grandma added an extra pinch of salt or a dash of almond extract. Those are adjustments you can clearly see on the ingredient list (or as a tiny asterisk on the bottom), but there's another one that you can't list: patience. 

If you want to impress your co-workers or family the next time you need to make cookies, simply prepare the dough as you always have, but before you bake it, let it have some chill time in the refrigerator. By allowing your cookie dough to rest before baking, you might unlock that perfect texture and flavor that just wasn't there before. Whether you're in a rush or have a bit of time on your hands, you can choose between the refrigerator and the freezer for chilling your dough. If time is pressing, simply pop the dough in the freezer as a handy shortcut.

Maximize cookie success with dough chilling

Once your cookie dough is mixed, either put the entire bowl of dough into the refrigerator, or shape the dough into rounds on a baking sheet as if you were about to bake them immediately. The bowl or the sheet should chill for at least an hour in the refrigerator. The more time you give your dough to chill, the more impressive the results will be. Overnight chilling is ideal if possible. When the chilling time is over, bake the cookies just as you usually would.

As you can imagine, utilizing the freezer is an alternative way to chill your cookie dough if you are in a hurry. As a rule of thumb, aim to chill the dough in the freezer for about a quarter of the time you would typically refrigerate it. So, if you can't do an hour in the refrigerator, do 15 minutes in the freezer. If you're not baking the cookies until later and want to have cookie dough prepped, ready, and on hand for baking on a regular basis, you can absolutely freeze it overnight. Do so in cookie portions, or roll the dough into a log shape and wrap it tightly in plastic. When you want to bake cookies, put the frozen dough in the fridge until it's softened and bake as normal.

Explaining the power of chilling

So, what's the point in chilling your cookie dough, and why does it make such a positive difference? For one thing, your cookies will taste better. A quick rest in a cool place will give all the ingredients time to blend together, and the flour will hydrate with the wet ingredients, creating a cohesive flavor and tender texture. Your cookies will also look better because the butter will solidify and help the cookie hold a better shape, instead of spreading flat and thin.

The baked result should be attractive, full, plump cookies that are tender inside and beautifully caramelized on the bottom, with the outer layer being desirably crispy. Chilling cookie dough is a good idea for any type of drop cookie (the kind where you scoop rounds of dough onto baking sheets) and is especially vital for sugar cookies that are shaped with cookie cutters. You want your shapes to maintain their sharp, precise edges, not to melt together and become blob-like, so adequate time in the fridge is important before baking.

We know, it's already hard enough waiting around for freshly baked cookies to be prepped and baked, and adding an hour more of chilling time sounds like too much. But, in the end, your patience will be rewarded with the best-looking and best-tasting homemade cookies you've ever made.