Do you crave soft and chewy cookies? This step makes all the difference.
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From chocolate chip to oatmeal raisin, no dessert satisfies quite the way that cookies do. They're easy to make, serve a crowd, and there are so many iterations to choose from. Using high-quality ingredients and a reliable recipe are two ways to ensure a delicious cookie—but there's something else you should do to take the dessert to the next level: refrigerate the dough.

Close up of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on plate from above
Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Why You Should Refrigerate Cookie Dough

Firmer Dough

Flour contains naturally-occurring enzymes, which break down as the dough chills, leading to increased browning. The sugar in the dough absorbs the moisture from the flour, causing the cookie to brown and caramelize. Refrigerating the dough allows the flour to fully hydrate and helps to make the cookie dough firmer.

Firm dough prevents the cookies from spreading too much, which is why chilling the dough is a crucial step for cut-out and rolled cookies. "The colder and more solid the fat is, the less the cookie will spread," says food stylist and recipe developer Caitlin Haught Brown.

More Flavor

Chilling the dough also improves the way your cookies taste. "In terms of flavor, you'll notice more depth of flavor from the vanilla and the sugar will taste sweeter," says Haught Brown. "In terms of texture, chilled cookie dough produces a more evenly golden-brown cookie with a crisper edge and chewier center."

How Long to Refrigerate Cookie Dough

As a general rule of thumb, you should refrigerate cookie dough for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. More than that, and you won't see a noticeable difference in the final product. Once the dough has chilled, let it warm up at room temperature until it's just pliable (about 5 to 10 minutes). Don't let it get too warm or you'll defeat the purpose of chilling the dough all together.

How to Refrigerate Cookie Dough

To make forming the chilled cookie dough more manageable, pre-portion it by scooping balls of dough into individual cookies, placing them on a sheet pan or in a resealable bag, chilling, and then baking right away.

When Not to Refrigerate Cookie Dough

There are some cases where you should avoid chilling cookie dough. For example, the dough for Alexis's Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies shouldn't be refrigerated, since the goal of this recipe is to create super thin, crispy cookies that spread significantly when baking. Refrigerating the dough would prevent these cookies from spreading the way they're intended to.

"A tuile cookie, where the appeal is based in the thinness or lacy qualities, is another example when you should bake the cookie dough immediately," says baker and food stylist Jason Schreiber. Additionally, if you're making a super soft peanut butter cookie or a cakey snickerdoodle, you may not want to refrigerate the dough before baking.

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