Do You Really Need to Use a Cooling Rack for Cookies?

Here's why it's always best to cool cookies on a cooling rack—and a simple workaround if you don't happen to have one on hand.

Cookies are among the first things that many baking novices learn to make, and no wonder: Just a little effort can pay off in so many sweet and wonderful ways. Newcomers to baking also love that most cookie recipes can be made with a minimum of equipment. For example, our classic recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies requires just a handful of items:

  • A mixer
  • A mixing bowl
  • A spatula
  • A wooden spoon
  • A cookie sheet
  • A cooling rack

While anyone who cooks most likely has the first five items on the list, some cooks find themselves without that last item: a wire rack to cool cookies. How important is this cookie cooling rack? What can you substitute if you don't have one? Good questions. Here are some straightforward answers.

Do I Need a Cooling Rack to Cool Cookies?

Most cookie recipes, like thumbprint cookies, sugar cookie cutouts, shortbread, and snickerdoodles instruct you to cool cookies on a rack. This is because when cookies are left to cool on a hot-from-the-oven baking sheet, they continue to bake and can become overdone in a flash. A cookie cooling rack allows air to circulate under the cookies, cooling them quickly and completely.

Good news: If you don't have a cookie cooling rack, there's a workaround. To cool cookies without a rack, remove cookies from the baking sheet and allow them to cool on paper towels on the countertop. When using this method, you may notice that the paper towels absorb excess fat from the cookies, which isn't necessarily bad. However, keep in mind that cookies cooling on paper towels will cool more slowly than cookies cooling on a rack. This method creates more waste, but it works as a substitute.

How Long to Let Cookies Cool?

That last point might have you wondering how long to let cookies cool. Indeed, hot-from-the-oven cookies smell so irresistible that it's tempting to snag one off the sheet the minute the oven timer goes off. But do so once, and you'll never make that mistake again! Too-hot cookies can burn your fingers and mouth (melty-hot sugar is really, really hot!). Plus, you need to cool cookies to give them a chance to firm up and keep their shape. Finally, too-hot cookies will likely fall apart in your hands.

However, as we all know, warm cookies are a wonderful thing. So, let your cookies cool just until they hold their shape (generally after about 5 minutes on a cookie cooling rack) and savor them warm while you can.

So next time you're wondering, "Do I need a cooling rack to cool cookies" the short answer is—it's better to have one than not. If you bake at all, a cooling rack is a worthy investment; you'll use it for just about every baked good that comes out of the oven—pies, cakes, tarts, and tortes. And cookies, of course.

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