How to Use Cookie Cutters to Make Cutout Cookies

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This step-by-step guide will show you how to use cookie cutters to make the best cutout cookies for every occasion.

Using cookie cutters is a fun way to make decorative cookies for different holidays and occasions. Whether you’re making everyday cookies or baking for a special celebration, here’s how to use cookie cutters to make the best cutout cookies.

The Best Cookie Cutters to Use

Cookie cutters come in many different forms, from plastic to aluminum and stainless steel. There isn’t one particular material that works best, according to our Test Kitchen. But for optimal results, use sturdy cutters that will hold their shape when you apply pressure.

There are cookie cutters for just about every holiday and season, and then there are some that are just plain fun. Here are some of our favorites:

If you’re looking for a very specific or personalized shape, 3D-printed cutters are a great option. You can find customized 3D-printed cookie cutters on Etsy. (Just keep in mind, they’re typically hand-wash only.)

Other Tools for Cutout Cookies

  • Baking sheet and cooling rack: A durable, nonstick baking sheet is key to making perfect homemade cookies. The 18×13-inch baking sheet from the Taste of Home cookware and bakeware collection comes with a wire cooling rack that fits right in the baking sheet.
  • Measured rolling pin: To get perfectly even cookie dough, use a rolling pin that allows you to measure and control the dough’s thickness, like this rolling pin, which comes in 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch sizes.
  • Multi-cookie cutter sheet: This multi-cookie cutter sheet helps maximize every inch of dough with different holiday-themed shapes in one giant cutter. Our Test Kitchen found that since the shapes are so close together, it can be hard to pick up stuck ones without messing up the others. For best results, use on firm cookie dough that is completely chilled.

How to Use Cookie Cutters

These instructions focus specifically on how to use cookie cutters. For more information about baking cookies—from making the dough to adding icing and decorations—check out our cookie baking guide.

Step 1: Choose the right cookie recipe

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Although you can use cookie cutters with any type of cookie dough, you’ll get the best results by choosing the right type of dough for your project.

For more intricate, decorative cutout cookies, our Test Kitchen recommends using a sturdy dough like the one in our recipe for Santa’s Elf Cookies. Dough that’s too wet or fragile can be frustrating to work with. If you’re using a dough that you know tends to spread and melt in the oven, stick to simple shapes like rounds.

Test Kitchen tip: If you’re willing to experiment, you can alter recipes to make them more stable and better for cutouts. For example, try substituting some of the granulated sugar for confectioners’ sugar or slightly increasing the flour. But remember—adapting a recipe takes patience!

Step 2: Roll out the dough

Hands rolling out cookie dough in order to make cutout cookies.Taste of Home

After preparing your cookie dough, refrigerate it for at least 1 hour. This will make the dough easier to cut with cookie cutters (especially intricate ones) and may help prevent your cookies from spreading in the oven.

Once the dough is chilled, roll it out on a cool, lightly floured surface. (Here’s how to roll out cookie dough like a pro!) Keep the dough’s thickness as even as possible so that the cookies will cook consistently. Many recipes call for 1/4-inch thick dough, but follow your recipe’s directions.

Test Kitchen tip: Measure your dough’s thickness with a ruler or use this measured rolling pin, which has indentations to guarantee an even thickness. It comes in 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch sizes.

Step 3: Cut out the cookies

Hands using a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut cookie dough.Taste of Home

Now it’s time to cut out your cookie shapes. To prevent sticking, dust your cookie cutters with flour before firmly pressing them into the dough.

Use a thin spatula to transfer the cutouts onto a cookie sheet, spacing them at least 1 inch apart. Bake according to the recipe directions. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Test Kitchen tip: The best sheet pans don’t require grease or even parchment paper—you can place dough directly on them and the baked cookies will slide off easily.

Step 4: Repeat

Hands transferring cutout cookies to a wire cooling rack.Taste of Home

If you’re making multiple batches of cookies, keep the extra dough chilled while the initial batches are baking. Once you take each batch out of the oven, let the cookie sheet cool completely before loading it up with the next batch of dough.

Editor’s tip: You can recycle dough scraps by combining them and rolling them out again—just make sure the dough is still chilled. However, avoid re-rolling the dough too many times—it could become tough. (Check out our other tips for making cutout cookies.)

Tips for Using Cookie Cutters

Can you put cookie cutters in the oven?

Don’t put cookie cutters in the oven. Plastic ones will melt and metal ones will get very hot.

How do you make cutout cookies that keep their shape?

Choosing the right recipe is key to making cutout cookies that will keep their shape. A sturdy dough made with confectioners’ sugar instead of granulated sugar is a great option. It’s also important to use chilled dough. If your dough is too warm, the butter will melt too quickly in the oven. (Check out these other tips to keep cookies from spreading.)

Do you cut cookies before or after baking?

Cut your cookie dough before baking it. Once the cookies are baked, it’ll be more difficult to get a clean cut.

What else can you use cookie cutters for?

There are many other ways to use cookie cutters that don’t involve baking—use them as a stencil for crafts, hang them as Christmas ornaments or use them to make fun-shaped pancakes. You can also repurpose cookie cutter shapes in creative ways—a diamond can be an elf, a crescent moon can be a watermelon and a Christmas bell can be a ghost!

Josh Rink, Taste of Home food stylist, contributed to this article.

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Teddy Nykiel
Teddy is an associate digital editor at Taste of Home specializing in SEO strategy. As a home cook herself, she loves finding inspiration at the farmer's market. She also enjoys doing any sport that involves water and taking long walks with her black lab mix, Berkeley.