We Tried 6 Ways of Storing Christmas Sugar Cookies, and the Winner Tasted Freshly Baked After Days
- How I Found the Best Way to Store Cookies
- Layer Cookies Between Flour Tortillas in a Resealable Lidded Container
- Resealable Zip Top Bag
- Resealable Container with Lid and a Slice of White Bread
- Resealable Container with Lid
- Resealable Container with Lid and Marshmallows Inside
- Layer with Parchment and Freeze
- Overall Key Takeaways
A fresh cookie is a true delight. What is less delightful is when you reach for a cookie a few days later, only to find that it’s turned from soft and chewy to hard and stale, or even gooey and wet. When life gets busy, we can’t always count on being able to bake and enjoy cookies on the same day. So, I set out to test the best ways to keep cookies fresh so you can bake several days ahead but still enjoy that ideal same-day experience.
So, What Is the Best Way to Store Baked Cookies so They Stay Soft and Chewy?
Freezing baked cookies is the best way to keep them tasting fresh. Layer them between parchment paper before storing them in a resealable container (or plastic bag).
For this test, we baked and stored a chewy sugar cookie. These cookies have the ideal textural trio: a lightly crisp edge, soft interior, and chewy centers. When you bend the cookie, it slowly gives, folding almost in half before breaking apart. The challenge with this cookie is that it can become stale quickly. When researching the best advice on the internet, there was a surprising lack of variety.
Most recommendations for cookie storage just say to store in an airtight container for four to five days, but there were also a few tips suggesting things to add to the containers to improve the method. We decided to put these common and uncommon tips to the test, and the winning method was surprising and superior to all others.
How I Found the Best Way to Store Cookies
- The cookies: It’s hard to ensure each cookie is exactly the same, but to get as close as possible to uniform baking, I made two separate batches of dough to avoid doubling the recipe, using the same brand of eggs and butter. I portioned them out with the same ice cream scoop and used similarly shaped, sized, and finished (light-colored!) baking sheets. To remove another variable, I opted not to toast the sugar in the recipe, sticking to regular granulated in the cookie dough and for rolling. If any cookies baked a few shades darker than intended, they were not included in the storage test.
- The storage: I ensured all my containers had tight-fitting lids with no cracks or buckling, and the bags did not have faulty or incomplete closures. I filled each container between halfway and three-quarters full. I wanted to limit the open space in the containers while ensuring the cookies did not smash into each other or that the container was too full to properly seal.
- The testing: I stored the cookies for five days at room temperature, except for the bag in the freezer. I set them on my counter away from direct sun and the oven to maintain a steady environment. To taste the cookies, I opened the containers to remove a single cookie and resealed the package. For batches with something added to the container for freshness, I tasted a few cookies, checking for consistency of texture and flavor within the containers. The frozen cookies defrosted, still in their sealed bag, on my kitchen counter until no longer cold to the touch.
- Ratings: I judged each method on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the perfect, unchanged cookie. I considered flavor, aroma, and, most importantly, texture. Did the cookie absorb any unwanted flavors, and did the butter taste fresh? Did the cookies smell like toasty sugar and vanilla still? Was there still a trio of textures: crispy, soft, and chewy?
Cookie Storage Method: Layer Cookies Between Flour Tortillas in a Resealable Lidded Container
About this method: Storing cookies with tortillas was referenced in a few different ways online. I chose to test a straightforward method and opted for flour over corn tortillas for a more neutral aroma. In a rectangular container, I lay a tortilla, halved to fit better, between rows of cookies arranged in a single layer. The idea is that the tortilla would keep the air in the container moist and prevent the cookies from slumping into one another, and eliminating the need for parchment between the layers.
Results: Have you ever wished you could un-bake a cookie? Well, that is essentially what a tortilla can do. The tortillas went beyond keeping the cookies soft and turned them into gooey rounds closer to raw cookie dough than baked cookies. They added TOO much moisture.
You could see the edges of a few cookies start to disintegrate after the first day without even opening the container, and by day 5, the cookies had little structure left to them. Some of the cookies had bonded with the tortillas (which had become firm by this point), and some were so fragile they fell apart when trying to pick them up. Although I may try tortillas the next time I end up with hardened brown sugar, I’m going to keep them away from my cookies.
Cookie Storage Method: Resealable Zip-Top Bag
About this method: A resealable bag or container is generally the advice you see online for cookies. We wanted to see if there was a difference between a thinner bag that zips shut and a firm container with a lid. I filled the bag a little more than halfway, laying the cookies flat and allowing them to overlap. I sealed the bag, making sure to press out any excess air from the top of the bag while sealing. The bag was stored flat.
Results: These cookies became firm and lost their soft, chewy middle. They cleanly broke apart with a gentle snap and no bend. Somehow, the edges of the cookies had become softer than the centers, which was the opposite of when they were freshly baked. They tasted correct, with no off or stale flavors, but had lost the intended texture so completely that I had to drop the ranking.
Cookie Storage Method: Resealable Container or Zip-Top Bag and a Slice of White Bread
About this method: Adding a slice of soft white bread was the most common suggestion I found while researching, beyond storing cookies by themselves. Often used to keep brown sugar from hardening, the idea is similar to the tortilla. The moisture from the white bread creates a humid environment in the container. Over time, the bread becomes firm as it loses its moisture, but the cookies stay soft.
Because most tips only say to add a slice to a container without any specific details, I kept it simple. I added a slice of soft white bread to one side of a rectangular container and then stacked cookies next to, but not on top of, the bread on the other side. I sealed the container, making sure all sides and corners were firmly closed.
Results: The slice of bread in the container had, in fact, become firm and slightly stale, which seemed like a good sign. These cookies’ crisp edges had softened, but the outer shell of the cookie had become harder. There was some chew left in the centers, but there was a toughness to it as well that reminded me of when a chewy fruit candy gets old.
Additionally, there was inconsistency between the cookies in the container depending on their proximity to the bread. The cookies closer to the bread, or ones touching the crust, had softened around the edges to the point of becoming crumbly when picked up. Those further away maintained a crisper edge. The cookies tasted slightly stale, but I couldn’t be totally sure what I was tasting wasn’t a little of the bread flavor itself.
Cookie Storage Method: Resealable Container with Lid
About this method: The most common method I read for storing cookies is to pack them into a rigid container and seal with a lid. While similar to packing in a zip-top bag, I wanted to see if this method kept more air out. I filled a container about three-quarters full with a few layers of cookies, and firmly snapped the lid into place, ensuring it was well-connected at all points.
Results: These cookies were similar to the ones stored with a piece of bread. There was still some bend to the centers when broken in half, although not as tender or soft as freshly baked. Like many other methods, the shell of the cookie had become hard. The flavor was pretty fresh, and unlike with the bread, there were no added flavors to the cookies.
Cookie Storage Method: Resealable Container with Lid and Marshmallows Inside
About this method: While I didn’t see many recommendations for using marshmallows in cookie storage, it’s frequently mentioned in brown sugar storage, so it was worth a try. I stacked cookies in a rigid container and dropped in several full-sized marshmallows before adding the lid and checking for a strong seal.
Results: The container looked so pretty and festive, and the aroma of the marshmallows smelled wonderful when opening the container. Similar to the bread and tortillas, the marshmallows had become firm over time. The structure of the cookies hadn’t changed much. While the outer shell was a little harder than after baking, the edges stayed crisp, and the centers yielded to a bend and had a good chew. The cookies still had a well-rounded buttery flavor and did not taste stale.
If the marshmallows added any extra flavor, it was only in a beneficial way to boost the vanilla. The changes to the cookie were overall very minor, and I’m not sure someone who wasn’t searching for the details would have noticed, but I noticed and had to rate accordingly.
Cookie Storage Method: Layer with Parchment and Freeze
About this method: Freezing is a well-proven strategy of food preservation, but would a home freezer and a delicate cookie work as well as an industrial freezer? Freezing was mentioned a few times during my research, and while much of the focus was on freezing unbaked dough, I did see some suggest freezing baked cookies as well. I layered some cookies in a resealable plastic bag specifically made for the freezer, with a piece of parchment between the stacks to keep them from sticking to one another while freezing or defrosting. I sealed the bag, pressing any excess air out while closing, and laid it flat in the freezer. To taste, I let the cookies defrost in the sealed bag on the counter until they were no longer cold.
Results: Wow! These cookies were like they were just baked, from the flavor to the texture. The sugar coating on the outside of the cookies that turned hard in other methods stayed light and delicately crisp. The centers were both perfectly soft and chewy without compromising the structure of the cookie. They did not crumble or break when picking up and even withstood the lunch-box test when I sent an extra to school with my son.
They were super buttery with the sweet, slightly eggy taste that is a hallmark of a chewy sugar cookie. These cookies did not sweat when defrosted, so I put them back in my freezer and was able to defrost a single cookie at a time with the same spot-on flavor and texture. While this might not work for all types of cookies, it was a bonus, and allowed me to have delicious, fresh cookies in 10 to 15 minutes.
Overall Key Takeaways
Storing soft and chewy cookies can prove challenging. There are several easy methods for storing at room temperature for up to five days, but these methods have moderate success at best. If storing at room temperature, pack cookies in a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and, if possible, drop in a few marshmallows.
The best method is to store baked cookies in the freezer. Not only will this keep them fresh once defrosted, you can keep them in the freezer well past the five-day mark when the cookies would otherwise be turning hard and stale.