Why Chill Cookie Dough?

Have you ever wondered why people chill cookie dough, and some people don’t? Yes, you can make cookies without chilling the dough, and yes you can make cookies with chilling the dough, so what’s the difference?

I am going to break it down for you today, as this was something I didn’t know for a long time either. I thought that cookie dough was only chilled if they were spreading too much, and that was it. Because I had always made cookies without chilling the dough growing up, I didn’t think anything of it as my cookies were good and they worked without chilling. But I also only had one cookie recipe, haha! Then, as I got into commercial baking, chill time was just not an option as we were making so many cookies and time was money, and our refrigerators were packed full of so many other ingredients it would have been impossible to get cookie dough in there too!

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But, as I’ve been focusing more on recipe development and sharing recipes, and less on commercial baking, I’ve had time to dive into this more. The verdict? If I’m making soft and chewy cookies, then I actually prefer chilling the cookie dough. Plus, if you read my Tips for Baking With a Gas Oven post, and you were rolling your eyes about chilling cookie dough, then read on for all the benefits! So, today I am going to answer the question of Why Chill Cookie Dough?

lemon zest chocolate chip cookies

Why Chill Cookie Dough?

Sticky Dough The fist reason recipes may call to chill the dough is that the dough is so sticky it’s impossible to work with unless it’s chilled. In order to get the right texture and consistency for a finished cookie, sometimes you may need or want to use less flour which would then result in a very sticky cookie dough. Chilling this type of dough allows it to become easy to work with your hands, scoop, or roll with a rolling pin. Many decorated sugar cookie dough recipes will require you to chill the dough as it makes it easier to roll and cut out. If you ever have a cookie dough that is sticky, pop it in the fridge for anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes and then try working with it then!

Cookie Spread If your cookies are spreading out a lot, then try chilling the dough for 1 hour, and then baking off. You’ll see that with the colder dough, the cookie dough won’t spread as much in the oven, therefore resulting in a thicker cookie that doesn’t go flat in the oven. This is because when cookie dough is chilled, the fat is also chilled and is a solid when the cookies go into the oven. Take pie dough for example, you know that you need to have chilled pie dough in order to get that perfect pie crust that holds its shape in the oven right? Think of that same analogy for certain types of cookie dough.

Chewy Factor If you refrigerate cookie dough then your cookies will come out with a chewy middle and a little more crispy edges. This type of cookie with a chewy gooey center and crispy edges is most common for classic chocolate chip. As the dough chills in the fridge, it gradually dries out as well. And that may be confusing, as no one wants a dry cookie. But, as the dough dries out, the sugar becomes more concentrated. A higher percentage of sugar will result in this type of cookie – chewy inside and crispy outer edges. So, this allows you to get this result with the same cookie dough that produces a doughy or caky cookie if baked without chilling! Two cookie recipes with one dough, with chill time being the only difference!

More Flavor Letting dough chill in the fridge will actually concentrate the sugar even more. Thus, resulting in a more flavorful cookie. This magic can happen with just 1 hour chill time, and you can even chill them for a full 24 hours if that’s easier. There’s not much difference in chilling time between 1 hour or 24. Getting to that 1 hour benchmark is the magic number, and anything beyond that is just for ease. As I find it easier to make cookie dough, and let it chill overnight, then bake off the next morning.

Golden Brown As the dough sits in the fridge, the fat solidifies as I mentioned above. This can also help cookies bake up more evenly, and not burn as easily as the dough is cold. If your oven has hot spots, or you’re baking in a gas oven, then chill time is actually a big benefit to getting perfectly golden brown cookies.

So, is chilling chocolate chip cookie dough required? No maybe not, depending on the recipe and if the cookies spread too much in the oven. But, are there benefits to chilling cookie dough? Absolutely! And now that I don’t bake hundreds and hundreds of cookies at once anymore and I’m just baking for myself or my friends, then I pretty much chill cookie dough every single time. As I prefer the texture of the finished cookie more when I refrigerate the dough. Yep, I’m that person now. Try my Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that you can make chilled or not chilled! Totally up to you. Try it out, and see what you prefer!

balls of chocolate chip cookie dough on a sheet pan

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