12 Secret Tricks Grandma Never Skipped When Baking Christmas Cookies

When it comes to picture-perfect Christmas cookies, Grandma knows best! You'll find her most legendary baking secrets below.

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Jar with vanilla extract and sticks on wooden board
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Use fresh ingredients

Whether it’s natural vanilla or real butter, using fresh, quality ingredients will produce a better cookie. Replace your back-of-the-cupboard spices, sugar and flour when they’re expired to make sure you’re all set for holiday baking.

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Pieces of butter in the hot pan top view
Karpenkov Denis/Shutterstock

Brown butter before baking

The extra step will give your cookies a toasted, somewhat nutty note that sets them apart. Also known as beurre noisette, browning butter is a necessary skill for any baker, and the good news is that it’s super easy to do.

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Baking cookies with embossed rolling pin
Shutterstock / ranniptace

Use an embossed rolling pin

If you want picture-perfect cutouts every time, consider using an embossed rolling pin. It’s a super easy way to create a high-end look. From snowflakes to Christmas trees, there are a variety of patterns that are perfect for your holiday cookies.

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Christmas Tree Spritz Cookies with green sugar sprinkles
Shutterstock / jan j. photography

Chill your spritz cookie gun before using

Help your spritz cookies keep their shape by chilling the cookie gun before using it. Also consider chilling your baking sheets to help prevent the cookies from spreading too much in the oven. Try your hand at some of our favorite spritz cookies!

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Stick of creamery butter in opened wrapper; Shutterstock ID 368432732; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home
Shutterstock / littlenySTOCK

Use butter instead of margarine

While some older recipes call for margarine, it’s best to reach for butter for your Christmas cutouts. The flavor is important and the extra water found in margarine could mess up your cookies. Learn the difference between butter, margarine, shortening and lard.

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Brown sugar in bottle on wood table, retro color style

Revive your brown sugar

All set to bake until you find rock-hard brown sugar? Don’t fret! Put a moist paper towel in a microwave-safe bowl with the brown sugar and microwave for 20 seconds. It may take a few 20-second intervals to bring the sugar back to life.

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Flour sifting through a sieve for a baking
Shutterstock / Maly Designer

Sift the flour

Be sure your flour is free from lumps by sifting it. Using a hand-crank sifter like Grandma’s will create flour that’s light and fluffy. If you don’t own a hand-crank sifter, use a fine mesh strainer over a mixing bowl. Just remember than one cup of sifted flour is different from one cup of flour that’s not yet been sifted.

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Sugar cookie dough in a glass bowl with measuring cup in front
Shutterstock / nastiakru

Chill the dough

If you’re making cutout cookies, chilling the dough is an important step that you won’t want to skip. It’ll make rolling out the dough much easier to do. Short on time? Stick the dough in the freezer. Only work with half of the dough at a time so the other stays chilled.

Look through our best recipes for Christmas cutout cookies.

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Christmas cookies for baking.
Shutterstock / kikovic

Use the right baking sheet

Choosing the right baking sheet for your cookies will help prevent burned bottoms and unevenly shaped cookies. Try using shiny baking sheets without sides. The lighter, shiny sheets are better than the dark, nonstick versions, which can cause uneven baking. Baking sheets without sides make it easy to slide cookies onto a cooling rack.

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Close up of kid decorating the gingerbread cookies
Shutterstock / Levranii

Forget the piping bag

Use a zip-top food storage bag instead! It’s easy to fill and use, and it’ll help give you better control when decorating. Toothpicks are another great tool for intricate decorating.

Find more easy Christmas cookie decorating ideas.

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Preparation of the dough.
Shutterstock / Artem Shadrin

Don’t waste ingredients

Grandma never throws away anything that could serve another purpose, including ingredients. Think outside the box to see how you could save your leftovers—freezing ingredients or incorporating them into another recipe would be a great way to prevent them from going to waste.

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Freshly baked homemade Christmas cookies in a tin box
Shutterstock / BlueOrange Studio

Properly store your cookies

Keep your cookies fresh for the holidays by storing them in an airtight container. If your cookies will be sitting for a few days, stick a piece of sandwich bread in the container. The cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread to help them stay soft.

Here’s how to mail cookies this Christmas.

Alexa Hackfort
Alexa is a writer who believes there’s always room for ice cream. Based in Milwaukee, she enjoys exploring the city, tackling new recipes and planning her next trip.