By: Cece Kirkwood. This post may contain affiliate links.
Okay okay okay. Listen. I know you might think that us recipe developers are just torturing you by calling for chilling times for cookie dough before baking.
But I promise you… it has a purpose.
So… Why refrigerate cookie dough?
The “chilling time” allows for the fats in the dough to well…chill out. When cookie dough fats, like butter, cool and solidify, they will spread slower when they hit the heat.
This is because the fat takes longer to heat up to the temperature in the oven. When the fats stay solid for longer, you’ll end up with a plumper cookie and a bit more of an even bake all around.
To prove this, I did a little science experiment for all my loaves out there.
The Cookie Dough Chilling Experiment
I took my classic chocolate chip cookie recipe and baked a few cookies in different batches, each one spent a little bit more time in the fridge than the next.
From the mixing bowl, straight to the oven.
For the first batch, I mixed all of the ingredients together and immediately scooped the dough and placed it straight into the oven.
This cookie spread the most, of course, and while super delicious – the texture was pretty close together, but still delicious.
Chilling the cookie dough for 30 minutes.
Next up, as my recipe suggests, I put this batch in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. This cookie had a bit more lift, but it was an uneven amount, allowing her to look a bit more rustic. Again, delicious as always.
Chilling the cookie dough for 2 hours.
For the third batch, these cookies stayed in the fridge for 2 hours. Watching these cookies bake was a lot of fun. About halfway through, the center of each cookie had puffed up like a tiny mountain in the oven. That was the solid fat sitting, waiting to warm up and slowwwllllyyyyyy spreading out. And it did begin to spread out, but again, not completely. It left a cute little lump in my cookies which created somewhat of an air-pocket in the cookie.
Brrrrrr…. 4 hours chilled cookie dough.
Finally, the fourth batch stayed in the fridge for over 4 hours. This time allowed all the fats to chill to the same temperature which made for an even fluff after baking. This cookie spread the least amount and made for a beautifully chewy, scrumptious cookie.
Moral here: for the most part you can bake your cookies immediately or chill them before baking. But, just remember that it does change the texture and overall “lift” of the bake. If you are baking a super large, monster-sized cookie and the recipe calls for chilling time, it’s generally a good idea to follow the instructions, otherwise – you could end up with a flat, super spread out cookie.