How Long Can Cookie Dough Sit Out?

by Charlie
Published: Last Updated on
How Long Can Cookie Dough Sit Out

Have you ever accidentally left a batch of cookie dough sitting on your counter when you’ve been called away to do something else? If so, you’re probably wondering how long cookie dough can sit out for, and whether you need to throw it away and start again.

How long can cookie dough sit out? In general, cookie dough will be fine for up to four hours on the counter, although some people recommend using it up within two hours, especially if the room is warm. If you leave it out for longer than this, you should throw the cookie dough away, rather than risk eating it.

Is it Okay to Leave Cookie Dough at Room Temperature?

You shouldn’t leave cookie dough at room temperature for more than a few hours at the most. Although many of the ingredients in cookie dough are non-perishables, the eggs should not be kept at room temperature for long once the shells have been broken.

Sugar, flour, and butter will generally be okay at room temperature for quite a long time, but once you have broken the eggs, bacteria will start to breed inside them. The shells protect them effectively from bacteria for a long time (although not indefinitely), but this protection ends as soon as the shells are split.

That means the cookie dough will not last indefinitely. Bacteria breeds at a massively increased rate at temperatures over 40 degrees F, so if you don’t refrigerate the cookie dough, it will quickly become unsafe to eat.

The warmer the room is, the faster bacteria will breed, so take this into account when assessing whether you can leave cookie dough on the counter. At temperatures of over 90 degrees F, it’s not a good idea to leave cookie dough out for long.

What Sort of Bacteria Might Grow in Cookie Dough?

All sorts of bacteria can be found in cookie dough, but eggs are commonly associated with E. coli and salmonella. Both of these strains of bacteria can cause serious sickness and could even hospitalize you in some situations.

In theory, some bacteria will be killed when you bake the cookies. However, you should not depend upon this. Keep your cookie dough in a cool environment to minimize the risk of bacteria forming or getting out of control.

How Should You Store Cookie Dough?

It’s a good idea to put cookie dough straight in the fridge if you are not going to cook it immediately. Before doing so, form it into a large ball to trap the moisture in and prevent it from drying out. Consider wrapping it in clingfilm or placing it in a plastic bag.

It’s a good idea to minimize the airflow so that the dough stays moist. You may want to use an airtight container. The dough will get harder when it is in the fridge because the butter will solidify. This makes rolling it and cutting out cookies easier.

You can store the cookie dough in the fridge for up to four days, especially if your eggs are fresh. The sooner you place the dough in the fridge, the better it will keep.

Is it Okay to Freeze Cookie Dough?

Cookie dough will freeze fine as long as it is kept in an airtight container. It’s a good idea to freeze it in small quantities so that you can easily defrost as much as you need, rather than an entire batch. Alternatively, roll out your cookies and freeze them ready to bake.

To do this, you should roll out and cut your cookies, and place them on a greased baking sheet in a single layer. When you have filled the sheet, put it in the freezer for a couple of hours.

At this point, the cookies should have frozen. You can lift them off the tray and transfer them to a bag, and then simply take out as many cookies as you want when you are ready to bake them.

Cookies should keep in the freezer for up to twelve months. After this point, you may find that the texture of the cookies has deteriorated and they are no longer as enjoyable. However, they will probably still be nicer than cookies that have been baked before being frozen and defrosted.

What Happens If You Want to Eat the Cookie Dough Raw?

You shouldn’t eat cookie dough raw in any circumstances, because there is a risk of salmonella bacteria being present in the eggs. Cooking will reduce this risk, but raw dough could make you sick. However, if you are going to eat raw cookie dough, don’t leave it on the counter first.

The longer the cookie dough stays at room temperature, the more risk you have of contracting food poisoning. Raw cookie dough poses a far greater danger than baked cookies, so be careful.

How Do You Tell If Cookie Dough Has Gone Bad?

You probably won’t be able to tell if cookie dough has gone bad, as it may not visibly change. Eggs can go off without any sign, and bacterial presence will not necessarily be detectable. The best way to check is to smell the dough and see whether it has any strange scent.

This is not a sure test, but if the dough smells sandy or has any white or blue flecks on it, it is unlikely to be safe to eat. Throw it away rather than risk food poisoning.

Overall, because it is hard to tell whether cookie dough is still safe to eat, you should be cautious. Err on the side of caution and throw away cookie dough that has been left out.

Final Thoughts

Cookie dough will usually still be safe to eat if it has been left out for less than four hours, but it is best to refrigerate it promptly. Because eggs can harbor dangerous bacteria, keeping the mix cold is the most effective way to ensure that your cookie dough remains safe to eat.

Do not eat raw cookie dough, or bake and eat cookie dough that has been left out overnight or for more than a few hours.

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