If you’re like most, you don’t want to take the time to chill your cookie dough. I totally get it…because who wants to wait for cookies. But here’s the thing if you REALLY want the best cookies… you know a little patience goes a LONG way.
This is the thing the pros know and appreciate.
Just take a look at the difference chilling makes:
This chilling period does quite a few things.
Most importantly, it allows the flavors to develop and intensify! You can think of it like marinating.
It gives the liquid in the egg a chance to hydrate the starch in the flour, making the dough firmer. And it allows the enzymes in the flour and egg yolk to break down the carbohydrates into its component sugars, fructose and glucose.
The short of it? Chilling cookie dough makes the cookies much more flavorful, with that blissful caramelized butterscotch flavor, and it makes them thicker, chewier, and browner.
In the above photo, you can see this play out with my Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. Each cookie was baked on the same baking sheet, at the same temperature, for the same amount of time.
The taste and texture improved with every batch… until 72 hours. Then I noticed diminishing returns. I think that’s because this particular recipe has a lower hydration level so after a certain point the dough starts to dry out.
Oppositely, I notice 72 hours of chilling time are my favorite cookies when I’m using my Ultimate Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. That one has a higher hydration level and yields well, chewier cookies.
Either way, I’d HIGHLY recommend chilling for 24-48 hours the next time you bake any drop style cookie. Bake off a few immediately so you can compare the chilled ones!
Q: WHAT IF I REALLY CAN’T WAIT TO ENJOY A COOKIE?!
Totally understandable. When I can’t wait, I simply bake off a few cookies immediately after making the dough then send the rest to chill in the fridge. You can even save a few of the ones you baked immediately to compare the results of the chilled ones!
More common questions answered:
Q: SHOULD I CHILL THE ENTIRE MASS OF DOUGH OR BALLS OF DOUGH? DOES IT MATTER?
I much prefer to chill the entire mass of dough. Simply cover it tightly in the mixing bowl or move it to an airtight container then pop in the fridge.
I know this makes scooping the balls of dough harder because you have to allow the dough to sit at room temperature until it’s malleable enough which can take over an hour depending on your kitchen environment.
However, by allowing all of the dough to chill together you’re allowing the flavors to marinate more deeply. Also, balls of dough tend to dry out faster in the fridge.
Q: HOW LONG SHOULD I CHILL THE DOUGH?
Anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. The longer you chill the dough, the more flavor will develop. The flour will also absorb more of the moisture so the thicker and chewier the final texture will be. After 72 hours the dough will begin to dry out and you risk it going bad.
Q: WHEN DO I FREEZE THE DOUGH?
If you’re wanting to freeze the cookie dough (specific directions on that here) simply do it after the 24 – 72 hour chilling period.
Q: DOES THIS APPLY TO ALL COOKIE DOUGH?
This most directly applies to chocolate chip cookie dough. But any time you want to develop stronger flavors and a thicker chewier texture in any drop-style cookie dough, chilling will be your friend. When making cookies with oatmeal, it’s best not to refrigerate more than 48 hours at most as oats are such a drying ingredient, and you don’t want the dough to dry up too quickly.
So what do you think? Will you chill your dough next time? Will you do a side-by-side experiment?
I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)
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