Cookie making is a seriously labor-intensive endeavor, especially if you make them from scratch. You worked really hard to bake a batch, and it’s only normal to want the ability to enjoy every last cookie you made. The problem is, eating them all before they expire can wreck a diet, and at times, you might have way too many leftovers.
If you’re like many home chefs, you might have a question on your mind: How can you prolong the shelf life of cookies?
There are many ways to prolong the shelf life of cookies. Ten of the most common methods are:
- Freezing Them
- Adding Preservatives To Them
- Vacuum Packing Them
- Adding Raisins
- Adding Honey
- Using Salted Butter
- Storing Them In A Container
- Using A CO2 Pad
- Use An Oxygen Absorber Packet
- Using A UV-C Lamp
Pro Tip: Besides using preservative ingredients and storing your cookies in airtight containers, the best “trick” you can employ is #8 and throw a CO2 pad, like these, in the container to displace oxygen.
Some of these methods are easy to work with, while others are more commercial. Each shelf life extension method has its own perks and pitfalls every baker, home chef, and cookie enthusiast should know. Let’s bite into this subject a little more, shall we?
How To Prolong The Shelf Life Of Cookies
Most cookies, if left out in the open, won’t last very long. Some won’t even last more than a couple of days! The good news is that this problem isn’t a new one by any means of the word and that there are several methods you can use in order to have your cookies taste fresh for longer.
Each method tends to attack different aspects of rot, staleness, and mold. The method you choose should reflect the problems you’re concerned about having with your new batch of baked goods.
Does Shelf Life Extension Change Cookie Flavor?
Sometimes, it can. If you are concerned about flavor, using additives like honey, raisins, and even certain chemical preservatives like citric acid can change the flavor of cookies. That being said, not all forms do.
There are options that can help extend cookies’ shelf lives without having serious issues arise with flavor or recipe ingredients. If you are concerned about the cookie’s flavor or texture, using vacuum packing, freezing, or any other treatment that limits the exposure of oxygen to the cookie is best.
How To Choose A Shelf Life Extension Method
Every option below will improve shelf life, but some are definitely better for certain cookies than others. Each option has its own perks and pitfalls, and it’s up to you to figure out which has the best combination for you. When picking your method, remember to consider the following factors in your decision:
- Shelf Life
- Flavor and Texture Impact
- Health and Safety
Budget is often one of the bigger issues for home chefs. Generally speaking, commercial preservation methods are far more likely to be high-budget than home methods. Thankfully, there are effective and cheap options you can use too.
Method 1: Freeze the Cookies to Extend Shelf Life
The easiest way to prolong your cookies’ shelf life is to do the same thing you do for meats, seafood, and ice cream: freeze them. Freezing slows (or even halts) the growth of bacteria and mold on food. Most freezers also help prevent staleness by keeping a fairly stable level of humidity as well.
Want to give this method a shot? It’s simple. Lay your cookies out on a sheet and freeze them. Once they’re completely frozen, transfer them to a plastic container and return them to the freezer. It doesn’t get any simpler.
Of course, there’s a difference in the quality of frozen cookies based on how you handle them prior to freezing. The following tips will help you maintain higher-quality cookies upon freezing:
- Wrap your cookies. Leaving your cookies on trays without a way to seal them will still expose them to oxygen and humidity fluctuations, which can make them go stale.
- Never freeze cookies before they’re completely cool. This can cause freezer burn and may damage the texture of the cookie.
- Remember that they can’t last forever. Most cookies will last at least 1 to 3 months in a freezer.
- Cookies that are powdered, frosted, or have delicate flavors shouldn’t be frozen. The cold will just not work out well with their chemistry. In many cases, this can lead to a bland cookie.
Notes About Freezing Cookies
For the most part, freezing cookies as a way to preserve them will not harm the flavor or texture of the cookie. That being said, there are some bakers who are not fans of freezing cookies due to the fact that defrosting cookies can cause condensation on the cookie that can harm their texture.
Freezing dough that you later use to make the cookies is often the best workaround for this issue. If you know that your cookie recipe makes a particularly large batch, your best bet is to think ahead and freeze a portion of the dough for a later batch. Not only will this reduce the chances of cookie failure, but it also will reduce the amount of storage space you need.
Make sure you use a freezer-safe container for storing cookies. Here is one (Amazon link) that works really well.
Method 2: Add Chemical Preservatives To Prolong Cookie Shelf Life
Preservatives were made with the intention of making it easier to extend the shelf life of all foods for commercial purposes and storage purposes alike. You don’t have to be a pro baker to use them these days, either.
If you go online, you can find plenty of different preservatives to choose from. Most cookies will work fairly well with citric acid, a naturally-occurring compound found in citrus fruits. The acidity slows both mold and bacteria growth BHT, another common bakery additive, is a close second.
Most preservatives are best used by simply adding a small amount to the dough before you cook your goodies. That being said, some tips can help you bolster your success rate with this option:
- Follow the instructions you find on your preservative package, or ask a pro. Preservatives are generally not dangerous, but using too many of them can make the dough a little wonky. It’s a good idea to look for professional advice on the preservatives you’re using.
- Taste test the dough and do a trial run. Some cookies just don’t take well to preservatives. It’s better to do a taste test on a small batch before you make a larger mistake!
- Read up on the preservatives you pick. Some will only add days to your cookies’ lifespans, while others can keep them for weeks.
Notes About Adding Chemical Preservatives To Cookies
As more studies than ever before revealing the dangers of chemicals originally deemed safe, people are starting to grow increasingly suspicious of preservatives. BHT, for example, is now under scrutiny due to alleged health risks.
If you are concerned about potential exposure to harmful chemicals, it’s understandable why you may want to avoid this technique. That being said, no studies have shown citric acid to be anything other than safe for human consumption. So, if health is a concern, it’s best to stick to that preservative.
Method 3: Vacuum Pack Cookies to Extend Shelf Life
The lead reason why food goes stale or starts to rot is exposure to oxygen. By removing oxygen from the food’s environment, you make it possible to extend its shelf life impeccably. That’s why delicate foods like guacamole are sold in vacuum packs, after all.
Vacuum sealing your food used to be something only commercial groups could do, but that’s not the case anymore. You can actually get a vacuum sealer for personal use plus the supplies you need to make it work at many places, including Amazon.
This is also one of the best long-term food solutions on the market. You can expect your vacuum-sealed cookies to last around 2 to 3 years.
Method 4: Add Raisins to Cookies to Extend Shelf Life
Did you ever wonder how bakers managed to make food last in the days before refrigeration and chemical preservatives? The truth is, it involved a lot of experimentation. That experimentation resulted in a strange discovery: raisins are a natural preservative.
Pretty much any cookie that has raisins added to them will last for two weeks without growing mold or getting stale. That’s not a bad increase in lifespan, considering how natural and old school this particular method is.
That being said, there are some tips that can make the “raisin trick” work better for your recipes:
- Use common sense. Not all cookies should have raisins in them, nor will all cookies work with them. Don’t add raisins to a recipe that would get ruined by them.
- Add around 1/10th of the weight of the flour you used. A lot of preservation additive use, even when it comes to older options, involves proportions. A cookie that has around 10 percent of its flour weight in raisins is a cookie that will keep longer.
- Use golden raisins. Golden raisins have sulfur dioxide in them due to the way they were preserved. This is what makes raisins a natural preservative. Most other raisins don’t have this compound and won’t work.
Among bakers and food enthusiasts, it’s a known fact that honey has no expiration date. Sugar, on the other hand, does. What a lot of savvy bakers used to do is add honey as a sweetener that doubles as a preservative. It’s a trick that has been used for thousands of years.
Method 5: Add Honey to Cookies to Extend Shelf Life
This natural preservative has mixed results, but most bakers will see a difference in shelf life after switching 20 percent of the sugar in a recipe for honey. That being said, there are some tips that you can use to make this work for your cookies:
- Keep some of your sugar in there. The majority of your cookie dough’s sweetness should still come from sugar. Just a tablespoon or so of honey in a typical batch is enough to help preserve it.
- Use common sense. Honey can’t really work as an additive in all cookie recipes. If it’s a recipe that can’t handle honey, such as meringues, you’re better off skipping this option for something else.
- Taste test the dough. Honey and sugar have different levels of sweetness. You don’t want your cookies to taste too sweet or not sweet enough, so a taste is a good idea.
Method 6: Use Salted Butter When Baking Cookies to Extend Shelf Life
If you’re not totally in the mood to drastically alter your cookies’ recipes with raisins or honey, you’re in luck. There’s an easy way to extend the shelf life of your cookies without an overtly noticeable change in flavor. Just switch your unsalted butter with a salted version.
Butter can go “off” pretty quickly in cookies, but only if it’s unsalted. Salt is a known preservative. In fact, it’s one of the oldest preservatives in history. Even a little bit of salt can extend the shelf life of fresh-baked cookies for a couple of days. Better still, the salt is barely tasteable.
In terms of short term preservation, this is a great choice. Obviously, if your cookie recipe doesn’t really work well with butter of any type, this won’t be a viable option. Even so, recipes like that are rare and are more the exception than the rule.
Method 7: Store Cookies in an Air Tight Container to Keep Them Fresh
Let’s say that you’re not really looking for a very long-term way to extend your cookies’ shelf life. Let’s say that you want to be able to sink your teeth into their sweetness whenever you want, without the worry of soggy or stale cookies. That’s okay; there are ways around it.
The way this works is very simple. Closed containers prevent exposure to oxygen in large amounts and can keep moisture or dry air from changing the texture of the cookies. It also can help prevent mold from forming, but that’s more of a secondary effect.
These quick tips will help you make the most of your container storage:
- Use an airtight container. This seems like it’s common sense, but it’s always worth pointing out once more. I like to use this type to keep my cookies fresh. They are nothing fancy but they do the job very well.
- Consider adding a secondary preservative method, too. Container storage alone is great, but combining it with other methods will make this method twice or even three times as effective.
- Choose your container add-ins wisely, if you’re using them. Oxygen absorption works well if you want to keep cookies crunchy, while CO2 pads will keep chewy cookies moist.
Unlike most of the other shelf-life preservation options, using a container to block cookies off from the environment is great for every type of recipe. When in doubt, using this method will serve you best.
Method 8: Use a CO2 Pad to Keep Cookies Fresh
CO2 pads, like these, emit carbon dioxide that displaces the oxygen around food. Placing one in a container with your cookies can help extend shelf life for up to three weeks.
If you’re worried about safety from chemicals while keeping delicate cookie flavors intact, this is a great choice. Generally speaking, this choice doesn’t change cookie flavor or texture. Since it doesn’t involve chemical additives, CO2 pads are also seen as a chemical-free option by food health gurus.
Method 9: Use An Oxygen Absorber Packet to Extend Cookie Shelf Life
If you’ve ever opened up a packet of beef jerky or dried fruit, chances are that you’ve seen oxygen absorber packets placed in the bottom of the bag. This is done for shelf life extension purposes and works by getting rid of the oxygen that encourages rotting.
Chefs concerned about mold growth might want to give these a try as well. These packets also prevent mold formation by absorbing water molecules in the local environment, which makes the container holding the cookies fairly inhospitable to mold spores.
The length of time these packets will extend cookie shelf life varies, but it’s generally seen as a good add-on for regular container storage. The only thing you should watch out for is using this method with cookies that need to retain moisture. Since the packets dry out surroundings, this could potentially make your baked goods a little dry.
Method 10: Use a UV-C Lamp to Preserve Cookies
That being said, getting a UV-C lamp isn’t very easy to do if you are just a home baker who wants to save a couple of cookies. UV-C lamps are fairly expensive, with a typical preservation lamp sometimes costing hundreds of dollars.
It’s also worth pointing out that directly exposing yourself to UV-C light can cause fairly painful burns to your skin. If you are sensitive to light, using this option might not be the best choice.
How long can you keep homemade cookies? Stored loosely in a clean container homemade cookies are typically good for between 2 and 3 weeks.
Can old cookies make you sick? Cookies past expiration date will taste stale but will not typically cause illness as long as the oils within the cookies have not gone rancid.
How do you freshen stale cookies? Steaming stale cookies in a microwave by wrapping it in a damp paper towel and microwaving it for 10 seconds is a common and effective way to freshen a stale cookie.
For more, check out The 8 Best Margarine Brands For Baking.
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