Does Refrigerating Brownie Batter Overnight Make for Better Brownies?

updated May 1, 2019
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A stack of three brownies with a glass of milk in the background
(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

Recently, as I was reading through the comments on all our brownie recipes, one suggestion in particular stood out: Refrigerate the batter overnight for a richer, chewier brownie.

The tip rang a bell, and after a bit of Googling, I discovered why: Alice Medrich, author of several dessert cookbooks (and recipient of the title “First Lady of Chocolate“), writes in her book Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate that “refrigerating the brownie batter in the pan for several hours, or as long as two days before baking, wreaks enormous transformations: it improves the top gloss and crustiness, and it also blends the flavors so that the brownies taste much richer — and the texture is chewier too.”

The tip has been widely shared by a number of food websites (and Bon Appetit is in support of the tip, too), but I was skeptical. Did it really make that much of a difference that it was worth waiting a full extra day to eat delicious homemade brownies? I had to find out.

This Is What Happens When You Refrigerate Brownie Batter Overnight

Keeping all other variables constant, I baked two batches of brownies: one that went into the oven directly after I mixed up the batter, and one in which the batter sat overnight in the fridge. When I pulled them out of the oven, I could see a clear difference: the batch made from refrigerated batter was darker in color, with a bubbly top.

When I cut into them, the difference was even clearer: the chilled batter brownies were much, much fudgier (almost to the point where I considered sticking them back in the oven). It was impossible to cut a clean slice.

Flavor-wise, the ones baked from refrigerated batter did taste a little more intense — richer, more chocolate-y. But was it worth the wait?

(Image credit: Grace Elkus)

In my opinion, no. I even conducted a blind taste test for three of my friends and only one of them preferred the batch made from the refrigerated batter. My theory is that because the batter went into the oven cold, it used some of the bake time to simply warm up, resulting in brownies that were slightly undercooked (and therefore denser and fudgier).

If you prefer super-fudgy brownies, I would simply pull them from the oven a few minutes early rather than use this refrigeration trick. Because if you’re anything like me, you’re baking brownies because you want them ASAP — not because you think you might want one tomorrow.

That being said, if you’re in charge of bringing brownies somewhere and you want to get a head-start, you could certainly refrigerate the batter overnight (you just may want to add a few minutes to the bake time). But honestly, I still think you’d be better off baking the brownies and refrigerating the cooked brownies. The flavors will continue to develop, and they’ll have a chance to firm up a bit, making them easier to cut.

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