Why You Should Never Skip Chilling Your Cookie Dough

Have you ever wondered why sugar cookie recipes make you chill your dough before baking? As it turns out, it's extremely important not to skip this step!

Patience isn’t really my strong suit. I’m the type of person who asks, “Are we there yet?” on road trips (yes, even as an adult). I’m all about instant gratification, so when I get to the step in my favorite sugar cookie recipe that requires chilling cookie dough–instructing me to wait three whole hours before baking my cookies–a little voice in my head screams, “Skip it!”

Unfortunately, my love of food science trumps my impatience, and I learned all about why this step is so important in culinary school. While it’s not the end of the world if you don’t chill your cookie dough, it does make a huge difference in the end result of your cookie.

View our complete Christmas Cookies Baking Guide.

What does chilling cookie dough do?

There’s actually a scientific reason for chilling your cookie dough, and it has to do with two components: fats and liquids. First, chilling the dough allows the butter, shortening, cream cheese, and other fats to solidify. Why is that important? Well, for the same reason that you want to keep your pie dough cool: If the fats melt too quickly, the dough will expand rapidly in the oven. That over-expanded dough loses its perfect texture. In the case of pie, the crust won’t be light and flaky. For cookies, they’ll spread out too quickly, tasting doughy and soft instead of full-bodied and chewy.

The second component in this equation is liquids. As the dough sits, the sugar absorbs the liquid from the other ingredients. That allows the dough to dry out a bit, preventing spread while creating the right conditions for a crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside cookie. In addition to a seriously improved texture, this dryer dough also creates the perfect conditions for the flour to break down into simple carbohydrates, creating additional sugars and enhancing the cookie’s flavor.

So, if you can’t wait the entire time requested by your cookie recipe, at least try to chill your dough for at least 30 minutes. It’ll be worth it! Test your patience with this collection of our best sugar cookie recipes.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay is a professional chef, recipe developer, writer and developmental editor. After years of working in restaurant kitchens, she turned to writing to share her skills and experience with home cooks and food enthusiasts. She's passionate about using local, organic ingredients and teaching others how to incorporate seasonal food into their diet. Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, writes for several publications and is the co-author of two books about Ayurveda.