How Long Can Cookie Dough Sit Out Before It Goes Bad? [Proper Storage, Plus Yummy Recipes]

Nothing compares to the smell of fresh-baked cookies, still warm from the oven. If you are making cookies from scratch (or using store-bought dough, I won’t tell), it may require multiple trays to get all of the delicious bites into the oven and baked. What do you do with the extra dough while you are waiting? How long can cookie dough sit out before it goes bad?

Cookie dough can sit out for two to four hours at room temperature. After that point, you should wrap it and store it in the refrigerator or freezer. The ingredients to watch for in cookie dough include eggs and butter, both of which require refrigeration to prevent spoiling and potentially making you sick.

How Long Can Cookie Dough Sit Out Before It Goes Bad?

You may be wondering if the two- to four-hour time limit varies based on ingredients. While there are certain considerations to think of if you are making cookies with eggs, it’s best to stick to the same time no matter what kind of cookies you are baking.

Two to four hours applies to cookie dough left out at room temperature. If your environment is particularly hot (such as outside), you may need to store your cookie dough in a refrigerated space earlier. It’s best to put any leftover dough directly into the fridge or freezer as soon as you are done making cookies. If you need to bake cookies in multiple batches, store any leftover dough in the fridge while you wait.

The biggest thing to watch for is food poisoning if you leave your cookie dough out for too long. Bacteria can grow on the surface of foods when left out on the counter, especially foods like cookie dough. Baking may not be enough to kill these bacteria, resulting in stomach upset and illness rather than delicious cookies.

What Bacteria Can Cause Food Poisoning?

Certain bacteria that can cause food poisoning also love to grow on the surface of foods like raw cookie dough. The two most common are Salmonella (found in eggs) and Escherichia coli, or E. coli (found in flour). Eating raw cookie dough or leaving cookie dough out can let these bacteria replicate in your food and ultimately make you sick.

Perishable Ingredients In Cookie Dough

What is the most popular cookie in America? Chocolate chip cookies top the list. Other favorites include snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, M&M cookies, and peanut butter cookies. All of these recipes include eggs, one of the most perishable ingredients in cookie dough.

If your cookie dough is made with eggs, it is especially important to store it correctly. This also applies to cookies made with flour. The best way to ensure that your cookies do not go bad is to treat every cookie dough recipe the same and store raw dough in the fridge within two to four hours.

To Store Cookie Dough:

  1. Ball the dough into one large log or ball
  2. Wrap it in cellophane or reusable storage wrap
  3. Put it in the fridge, where it will keep for two to four days. It will get harder, which is ideal for cut cookies. If you are making drop cookies, you can take the dough out of the fridge to soften around 15-30 minutes before baking.
  4. You can store raw cookie dough in the freezer for up to two months.

Tip: Store individual quantities of cookie dough in the freezer. Spoon raw dough onto a sheet pan and place in the freezer for two to four hours. Once the raw cookies are frozen, you can place them into a freezer-safe storage bag back in the freezer. When you want a cookie, all you have to do is take and bake!

Homemade Versus Store-Bought

When you make cookies from scratch, you know exactly what ingredients go into them and can be extra vigilant. Many pre-made cookie doughs have an ingredients list on the packaging so that you can easily see if they are made with eggs or dairy. If you are unsure, always treat the dough as if it is made with eggs and dairy. This will help you avoid food poisoning and potential allergens.

How Long Can Cookie Dough Sit Out At Room Temperature?

When you make cookies, any unused dough will likely still be in the preparation bowl while the first batch of cookies bakes and cools. Unless you are working in a walk-in refrigerator, this means that the raw cookie dough will be sitting out at room temperature. Cookie dough can sit out at room temperature for two to four hours, although the faster you store it in the fridge, the better.

Tip: Place extra cookie dough onto a second baking sheet. When your first batch is finished and cooling, you can pop the second tray in the oven to bake.

Properly Storing Raw Dough

Once you reach the end of your two- to the four-hour window, you will need to store unused cookie dough in the fridge or freezer. Depending on when you plan to bake the cookies, it may be easier to keep them on hand in the refrigerator or store them for the long term in the freezer.

The best way to store cookie dough is to keep it sealed for freshness. This can be putting them in an airtight container, wrapping them in cellophane, or storing them in a freezer-safe bag. If you do store cookie dough in a bag, make sure to press all of the extra air out before sealing.

Is Cookie Dough OK If Left Out Overnight?

In your baking (and eating) frenzy, you may forget that you had leftover cookie dough. If it sits out overnight, is it still okay to eat? Unfortunately, no. Cookie dough left out overnight has certainly been out for much longer than the recommended two to four hours and should be discarded.

Preparing your cookie trays all at once and keeping the extras in the fridge or freezer is a good way to keep from forgetting dough on the counter overnight.

Storing Baked Cookies

After you finish making cookies, you do not need to take the same precautions to prevent food poisoning. Cookies can be stored at room temperature, although they should be wrapped or sealed to maintain freshness. You can store cookies in the refrigerator to keep them fresh for even longer.

Tip: Place a piece of bread in the airtight container with the cookies. The cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread, keeping them soft for longer.

How Long Can Cookie Dough Last Unrefrigerated?

Out of the fridge, cookie dough can last up to two to four hours before it is at risk of spoiling. This will vary based on the temperature of your room, with warmer temps causing the cookie dough to go bad faster. If you aren’t sure, it’s best to stick to the two-hour time limit for unrefrigerated dough.

Food Poisoning From Cookie Dough

Getting ill from eating cookies can happen and the risk goes up the longer you leave cookie dough sitting out. If you eat cookie dough that has gone bad, you can experience food poisoning. Even though it isn’t usually life-threatening, having food poisoning can definitely put a damper on any fun plans you had.

Harmful Bacteria In Cookie Dough Sitting Out

If you leave cookie dough out for more than the recommended max of two to four hours, it can become home for the bacteria that cause food poisoning. There are a few specific culprits that can be found in cookie dough that goes bad. Storing your cookie dough in the fridge within two hours is the best way to protect yourself from one of these bacteria and the food poisoning symptoms that go along with them.

  • Salmonella: Eggs
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli): FlourHow Long Can Cookie Dough Sit Out

These same bacteria can be found in some of the raw materials that go into cookie dough. Because of this, you want to skip eating raw cookie dough unless it was specifically made to be edible without baking. According to the Centers for Disease Control, these bacteria are often killed during the baking process as long as your raw dough has been stored properly.

What Happens When You Get Food Poisoning From Cookie Dough?

If you do eat contaminated cookies or cookie dough, your body can experience the symptoms of food poisoning.

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

While unpleasant, these symptoms are not life-threatening or extremely severe. However, everyone experiences them differently and some people can get very, very sick. Even if you are lucky enough to have a mild case of food poisoning, it is still much less enjoyable than munching on a delicious (and bacteria-free) cookie.

Food poisoning can be mild and relatively short-lived (just a few hours) or last for multiple days. While food poisoning usually resolves on its own once the bad food passes through your digestive system, the biggest risk to your health is becoming dehydrated. If you experience a high fever of over 105 degrees F or are unable to keep any liquids in your body, it’s time to call your doctor to get checked out.

Eating Raw Cookie Dough

It may be tempting to eat raw cookie dough as you bake. It hasn’t been sitting out for more than two hours, so you are okay, right? No, you should not eat raw cookie dough. Some of the ingredients can cause food poisoning. Raw eggs can contain salmonella and eating raw cookie dough can introduce that harmful bacteria to your body. Flour can contain E. coli.

If you are craving raw cookie dough, look for a product marketed for eating raw. These can be found in the dairy section of your supermarket, usually refrigerated. They are often egg-free and contain specially treated flour to make them free of any potentially harmful bacteria.

Cookie Dough Recipes

Other than traditional drop cookies or cutout cookies, you can also make fun and interesting treats out of cookie dough.

Cookie Pizza: Bake an extra-large cookie on the bottom of a pizza pan. Top with yogurt and sliced fruit. Serve in triangle pizza slices for a fun variation on pizza.

Ice Cream Sandwiches: Make cookies like normal, then spread ice cream on one cookie. Top with another cookie and enjoy!

Cookie Dough Ice Cream: Mix in your favorite raw cookie dough into vanilla ice cream. Just make sure. to use cookie dough that is made to be eaten raw (free of eggs and raw flour).

Cookie Dough Brownies: If you can’t decide between a cookie and a brownie, why not do both? Mix cookie dough with brownie batter for a delicious baked treat.

Final Thoughts

Cookie dough can sit out for two to four hours before it goes bad. It’s best to apply this rule to all cookie dough, homemade or store-bought, but you should be particularly cautious with cookie dough that contains eggs or flour. If you do get food poisoning from cookie dough, just let the symptoms pass and monitor yourself for dehydration.

Take extra care next time you bake to spend your time enjoying cookies instead of dealing with an upset stomach.

Final Thoughts

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