Some recipes claim that chilling cookie dough creates a more flavorful cookie with impeccable texture. We put this theory to the test to find out.

By Kelly Vaughan
March 01, 2019
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If you’re looking for a way to improve your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, make them with refrigerated cookie dough. Refrigerating the dough for even 30 minutes can improve the texture and flavor of that famous $250 Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie or a tried-and-true Toll House recipe.

“Chilling dough prior to baking lends itself to more tender, well-shaped, and slightly stronger flavored cookies," explains Meredith Tomason, Test Kitchen Manager for Nestle Toll House. "The flavor-enhancing ingredients such as vanilla, salt, spices, and sweeteners all become a bit more concentrated and heightened.”

The resting time also “gives the butter time to saturate the dry ingredients (which is why some recipes require melted butter), for softer cookies,” says pastry chef and author David Lebovitz.

Of course, we didn't just take the experts' word for it, we put their theory to the test by baking our favorite classic chocolate chip cookie recipe three different ways—one batch was baked immediately, one batch was baked after chilling for one hour, and the last was baked after 24 hours of refrigeration. Below are the sweet results.

RELATED: How to Make the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie, According to Science

Method #1: Baked Immediately, Without Refrigerated Dough

I baked the first batch of cookies immediately after the dough was prepared, which is the method most often noted in chocolate chip cookie recipes. I dropped heaping tablespoons of dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and anxiously waited for the magic to happen. Once they finished baking and cooled on a separate wire rack, I cut, measured, and tasted. These cookies were just under 1” (⅞” precisely) in the thickest part of the cookie. The brown sugar flavor was prominent, creating rich notes of caramel and vanilla. However, these were more soft and chewy, than crispy and chewy. If you prefer a cake-like cookie, this classic method holds up to its reputation.

Method #2: Baked After Refrigerating the Dough for 1 Hour

These cookies were definitely more crispy and chewy than the cake-like cookies from round one. However, these cookies were less thick than the first batch, which was unexpected since chilling is supposed to prevent the dough from spreading out. At ⅝” in height, they are certainly thinner. Another surprising result was that the caramel and vanilla notes were less flavorful in this batch. While these were still a very delicious cookie, the flavor and texture were both stronger in the first batch of cookies. However, if you’re team #extracrispy, refrigerating the dough is definitely a useful method.

Method #3: Baked After Refrigerating the Dough for 24 Hours

This long-awaited batch of cookies were the best of both worlds—they had a crispy, caramelized exterior similar to batch two with the sweet flavor found in the batch baked immediately. The interior was soft, moist, and gooey in all the best ways. Their thickness was also a happy medium—about ¾” in height. The extra crispiness also held up well to dunking, which checks off another criterion for perfect cookies. This batch was definitely worth the wait—and now we see why professional bakers favor a lengthy chilling time.

The Verdict?

It comes down to personal preference—if you prefer crispier edges and soft interior, plus deep vanilla and caramel notes, we recommend using refrigerated cookie dough that's been chilled at least overnight. However, the first no-chill batch had a nice, soft texture and was rich with flavor. If you’re like us and get an instant urge to have freshly baked chocolate chip cookies that won’t go away, go ahead and bake a batch without chilling. Either way, we doubt they’ll last very long.

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