Things come up, and we get sidetracked. It happens. If you’ve just made a batch of cookie dough, then leave it on the bench. Is that okay? How long can cookie dough sit out before it goes bad?
We’ve consulted the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to bring you an informed answer. In this article, you’ll also get facts and hacks as well as storage tips to get the most out of your cookie dough.
Table of Contents
How long can cookie dough sit out?
Leaving cookie dough at room temperature for a prolonged duration isn’t a good idea if you plan to eat it raw. Harmful bacteria can proliferate between 40°F and 140°F (4.4°C to 60°C). This temperature span is known as the Danger Zone. Salmonella, E. coli, and Staphylococcus are three nasty forms of bacteria that can form on food when it isn’t stored correctly.
The "Danger Zone" is 40°F–140°F (4.4°C – 60°C)
Based on recommendations by the FSIS, cookie dough should not be left out of the fridge for over two hours, Source. This guideline is particularly important if your cookie recipe uses eggs. You may also want to check out our handy egg storage guide to find out how long eggs are okay to leave unrefrigerated.
What about the room temperature?
Although two hours is a general rule of thumb in food safety, also consider the current room temperature. For example, if you’re in a very cold climate without heating, the room temperature may be close to 40°F, making things a little safer. However, if you’re in a hot climate above 90°F, the cookie dough should only be left out of the fridge or freezer for a maximum of one hour.
Does the type of cookie mix affect anything?
Whether you’re dealing with store-bought cookie dough or homemade, the general rule of two hours applies. However, there is some variation in the storage times you can expect in the fridge and freezer, so let’s take a look at these times now.
|Homemade cookie dough||2 hours||3-5 days||6-12 months|
|Store bought cookie dough (unopened)||2 hours||2 weeks||6-9 months|
What to do with dough that’s been out of the fridge too long
- If you only want to eat the dough raw then it should be discarded as the health risks are too high. Make or buy another batch and you’ll have stress free eating.
- Of course, you could cook the dough to kill potential bacteria. When choosing this option, ensure the cookies have been fully cooked. Any cool or raw ingredients in the middle of the cookie could still be harmful.
Remember, it’s not just about the cookies
Bacteria on cookie dough will quickly transfer to your hands and other food. After you’ve touched perishable food that’s been left out of the fridge for a prolonged period be sure to wash your hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water.
Did you know? Harmful bacteria will roughly double every 20 minutes when left in the right conditions.
How to Store Cookie Dough
It’s best practice to store your cookie dough the right way from the start so that there’s no potential for stomach upsets or worse.
Pop the cookie dough in an airtight container and store at the back of the fridge which is the coldest section; it isn’t as prone to temperature fluctuation from the door being opened. Wrapping the dough in cling wrap before adding to the container will further extend the life of your dough.
Can you microwave cookie dough? We tested it and checked with the leading cookie dough makers.
Does flour go bad? We tested all the common flours to find out.
How long can fish sit out? Find out if your raw of cooked fish is safe to eat.
How to Check If Cookie Dough is Still Good
A simple sight test is usually enough to tell is the dough is still okay. Signs of mold and discoloration are clear signs that it needs to be discarded. If the dough has become hardened in parts or there’s a funky, rancid smell then toss out this dough as well.
Cookie dough can be made in a few simple steps using affordable ingredients so it isn’t worth risking your health over it. Even if you’re short on time and prefer the store bought dough, you can still buy a pack for a relatively cheap price.
Chilling Cookie Dough – Does it improve the final biscuit?
Adding uncooked dough straight to the fridge is best practice for food safety and for producing delicious cookies. Although you may be tempted to mix up some cookie dough then cook it immediately, chilling the dough will most definitely improve the final result of your baked goods.
How does cooling the dough help?
1. Enhances flavor
Giving cookie dough time in the fridge will allow the flour to break down into its simple building blocks – this includes simple carbohydrates (sugar). Sugar enhances the flavor of the mix and also adds sweetness.
The mixture also dries out which may not sound a good thing. In fact, it helps concentrate the flavor of the ingredients!
2. Controls dough spread
By cooling the cookie dough you’re allowing time for the butter or any other fats used to harden. This fat maintains its structure longer as it will take longer to melt. The end result is a cookie that holds its shape better without expanding out like a flattened pancake. If very flat cookies are your favorite then start cooking when the dough is at room temperature.
3. Improves texture
As the dough cools (and dries out) the sugars concentrate creating a chewier texture with a crisp outside. The holy grail of cookies for many!
Instead of leaving your cookie dough out on the kitchen bench for an hour while you get distracted with kids, chores, work or your favorite show on TV, pop your tasty mixture in the fridge. For most, the end result of chilled dough will be preferred.
Did you know?
If you’ve never had food poisoning, it’s easy to become blasé about food safety. Keep in mind that serious, long-term illnesses can result from food-related illness. An astonishing 3,000 people in the United States alone die each year from foodborne sickness. Salmonella alone is responsible for 450 deaths each year. Source.
We often judge food quality by looking for visual cues (such as mold), smelling it or even taking a little taste to see if it’s okay. What you need to understand is that life threatening bacteria such as E. coli is undetectable. You won’t know you're ingesting it until you start to get hit by the symptoms. Adhering to storage times for food is the best option for staying safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Edible cookie dough should not be left out of the fridge for more than two hours. Leaving perishable food at a temperature of 40-140F for over two hours increases the chance of sickness resulting from bacteria growth.
Cookie dough that has been left out overnight should not be consumed raw. However, if the ingredients haven’t spoiled then cooking the dough completely through will kill off any bacteria.
Food safety doesn't seem like a big deal until you get hit by a foodborne sickness, then it becomes a very big deal. If you plan on eating raw cookie dough, the maximum time you should leave it out on the bench is 2 hours. Any longer and you're increasing the risk of illness. If you accidentally leave the dough out of the fridge then pop it in the oven and cook thoroughly. If the center is still a little raw then continue cooking.
Cookie dough is easy to make and not overly expensive to buy at the supermarket so don't take any risks. If in doubt toss it out.