We’ve all been there.
You put your cookie dough in the fridge expecting to take it out in an hour or so but don’t end up going back until a few days later.
Then when you pull the cookie dough out of the fridge – it’s rock hard!
Don’t have the time to wait for the dough to soften naturally?
I’ve experimented with five different ways of softening cookie dough so you can get your cookies in the oven ASAP.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
The best way to soften cookie dough is by leaving it in a warm place such as near a hot stove or under a lamp. Other methods for softening cookie dough include using a hot water bath, microwaving it on very low power, hitting it with a rolling pin, and cutting it into smaller pieces.
A note on my experiment
I made a big batch of cookie dough and left a few balls in the refrigerator overnight.
The following day, I tested five different methods of softening the cookie dough to see which one worked best.
I tested softening the cookie dough:
- In a warm place – my favorite method
- With a rolling pin – my kids loved it
- In warm water – doesn’t warm as evenly
- In the microwave – overheating risk
- By portioning it out – better if you do it before refrigerating the dough
Letting the cookie dough heat more naturally by placing it in a warm place is the best method.
It’s not going to have any unwanted effect on the dough, and it’s quick and easy.
Using the microwave works if you’re in a major rush, but it’s risky because you can start to melt the cookie dough.
Place the cookie dough in a warm place
To soften cookie dough quickly and easily, find a warm place to put your dough. With the dough still in its container, place it near a warm stove, in a warm room, or under a lamp. Check on the dough every 5 minutes to test if it’s soft enough.
Start working with the dough when it’s soft enough to shape.
Don’t pick somewhere with intense, direct heat.
You want the heat to be gentle and spread evenly over the cookie dough.
Tip: letting your dough warm up on the counter for an hour or two will be safest, but helping it along in this way won’t hurt your cookies.
This was my favorite method.
It wasn’t the fastest option, but the dough softened nicely without anything else (like chocolate chips) being affected.
Pound the cookie dough with a rolling pin
Another option is to get a little crazy with a rolling pin. Place your dough on a sheet of plastic wrap on a flat surface. Pound the cookie dough with your rolling pin until it’s soft and pliable again. If you don’t have a rolling pin, any heavy item that’s not at risk of breaking will work.
Essentially, this is spreading the dough out so that it warms faster.
And the friction of the pounding action produces a little heat to further soften the dough.
Tip: if you’ve got children who’d like to “help” while you focus on something else, let them do the beating (as long as you trust them)!
This was my kids’ favorite method, but my dog hated it!
The dough softened pretty quickly, and there was no worry about anything melting.
But it did require a bit more effort on my part than just putting the dough somewhere warm.
Place the cookie dough in warm water
Using warm water to soften your cookie dough is similar to using a warm place. You’re just creating that warm place with water. Place your cookie dough in a bowl, and then put the bowl in a sink filled with lukewarm water.
Check on the dough often until it’s soft enough to work with.
Flip the dough round in the bowl each time you check on it to help it soften evenly.
Go with a slightly cooler temperature than you think you need. That way, you can be sure that the water won’t be too hot.
I wasn’t a massive fan of this method because I noticed that the chocolate chips touching the glass started melting slightly (nothing major, though).
Flipping the dough will help solve that problem.
Softening cookie dough in the microwave
The quickest way to soften cookie dough is to use the microwave. Put your dough into a microwave-safe container. Set your microwave to 30% power and heat the dough in 10-second intervals. During each break, knead the dough to see how soft it is. Be careful not to overheat.
Low power and short time intervals reduce the risk of accidentally melting the fat in the dough and ending up with a mess.
Keep a very close eye on your dough while it’s in the microwave, and only heat it to the point where it’s workable.
If I was in a real rush, I could work with the microwave.
But we’d have to be talking blue-ribbon state fair contest is on the line kind of rush.
I think microwaving the dough is too risky. Melted chocolate chips, sticky, runny dough, and thin, fragile cookies aren’t worth the time you’ll save.
Portion out your cookie dough
If you portion your cookie dough out into individual cookies before chilling it, then you’ll have no need to soften the dough before baking it. Perfect!
But that’s not helpful when you have a big ball of rock-hard dough in front of you.
Take a sharp knife and cut the cookie dough into smaller portions. The smaller balls of cookie dough will soften faster than one big ball.
You can also combine this method with one of the ones above, such as placing the dough in a warm place.
This will speed the process up even more.
This is definitely worth doing with large balls of dough.
It cuts down on time a lot.
Exactly How To Soften Cookie Dough
- 1 portion cookie dough hardened
- To soften cookie dough quickly and easily, find a warm place to put your dough.
- With the dough still in its container, place it near a warm stove, in a warm room, or under a lamp.
- Check on the dough every 5 minutes to test if it’s soft enough.