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Cookie dough is a beloved treat to many people around the world, including me. However, sometimes people forget about their beloved cookie dough when they go to bed and leave it out overnight. Is cookie dough still safe to eat if you leave it out overnight?
Cookie dough is not safe to eat if left out overnight because it is a perishable food. If left out of the fridge or freezer for 2-4 hours, cookie dough reaches non-food safe temperatures, so it is no longer safe to eat. When it reaches non-food safe temperatures, bacteria can grow.
When cookie dough is left out overnight, there is not much you can do with it. To find out more about why you can’t eat cookie dough, keep reading.
Why is Cookie Dough Not Safe to Eat When Left out Overnight?
Cookie dough is not safe to leave out overnight because a lot of bacteria has grown in it after it reached a certain temperature. Cookie dough is a perishable food, unfortunately, so it doesn’t have a long shelf life if it is left out and is kept at room temperature for a long time.
Cookie dough has egg in it, which is extremely perishable when left at room temperature. This increases the likelihood that harmful bacteria will be present in the cookie dough that you left out last night.
If cookie dough is left in the “food danger zone” for more than 2-4 hours, bacteria will grow in it extremely quickly. This bacteria will likely make you sick, especially if you don’t have a strong immune system. The food danger zone is between 40° Fahrenheit and 140° Fahrenheit. This is valid for all cookie dough, not just homemade or store-bought chocolate chip cookie dough. (Source)
If you don’t think that your cookie dough reached danger zone temperatures, use a thermometer and see what temperature it is currently at. If your air conditioning recently was turned on and your cookie dough is currently at 39° Fahrenheit, it likely reached 40° Fahrenheit while you were asleep and was kept at that temperature for more than 4 hours.
It is extremely unlikely that your cookie dough will reach 140° Fahrenheit, even if you live in an extremely warm climate and left it outside overnight. If it did reach 140° Fahrenheit, it will be semi-cooked and you likely won’t want to eat it until it is fully cooked.
Eggless cookie dough may still be okay to eat after it has been left out overnight, but if it has normal butter in it, it is not advised to eat. If the butter is not made from milk and the cookies don’t have any eggs, you may still be able to safely eat your cookie dough.
If you feel the need to defrost your frozen cookie dough because it is frozen, so you left it out overnight on purpose, that is not necessary. You can bake frozen cookie dough while it is still frozen, you just need to adjust the amount of time it is in the oven. If you left out frozen cookie dough overnight, it may not have reached danger zone temperatures, especially if your house is kept cold at night. Take the temperature of your cookie dough before eating or baking it.
If you leave out baked cookies overnight, you can still eat them. However, they will likely be dry, so you may want to eat them with a glass of milk. Cookies will not grow an excessive amount of bacteria if left out overnight as cookie dough will.
What Happens to Cookie Dough When it is Left Out Overnight?
When cookie dough is left out overnight, When cookie dough is left out, it dries out and develops bacteria extremely quickly. Although you may not be sure which one is worse, the bacteria likely is worse than dry cookie dough because it can make you sick. If the cookie dough that you left out overnight is in a sealed container, it likely won’t dry out, but don’t be surprised if condensation is on the lid in the morning.
When cookie dough dries out, the edges and top layer of cookie dough become extremely dry and crumbly. You can try to save it by mixing all of your cookie dough together, but there will still likely be dry bits that will give the cookie dough an extra crunch that likely won’t be appealing or expected.
The bacteria that grow in cookie dough when it is left out overnight can make you extremely sick, especially if you have a weak immune system. Many people don’t eat raw cookie dough because of the possibility that it has E. Coli and salmonella bacteria. If you get sick from salmonella or E. coli, the symptoms will likely go away within a few days. If you do not get better quickly, see a doctor. (Source)
Raw cookie dough left out overnight can also cause food poisoning, which is never fun to deal with.
What to Do if You Leave Cookie Dough out Overnight
If you leave cookie dough out overnight and suspect that it was in the danger zone temperature-wise for more than 4 hours, you will need to throw it away, just to be safe.
If you feel comfortable eating cookies made from cookie dough that was left out all night, you can cook the cookie dough and make cookies. The heat from the oven will kill the bacteria in the cookie dough. Fully-baked cookies reach temperatures between 175 and 185° Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to kill bacteria. (Source)
However, that doesn’t mean that it is extremely safe to eat, so most experts tell people to simply throw away cookie dough that they have left out overnight.
However, if you suspect that your cookie dough did not reach dangerous temperatures, especially if it was in a tightly sealed container, it may still be safe to eat. Use a thermometer to see what temperature your cookie dough is currently at to help you determine if it reached dangerous temperatures.
If you have a bad immune system, recently got over being sick, are elderly, or are pregnant, don’t ever eat cookie dough that has been left out overnight. Throw it away immediately so you aren’t tempted to eat it. If you are still tempted to eat it after you have thrown it away, cover it with other trash.
How to Determine if Cookie Dough is Safe to Eat When Left out Overnight
To determine if the cookie dough that you left out overnight is still safe to eat, look at it and smell it. If it warmed up overnight, it will likely have condensation on the sides and top of the container, although it is most often found on the lid. Condensation is a sign that your cookie dough is no longer safe to eat. If there are watermarks on the lid, but you don’t see any condensation and it didn’t have any condensation while in the fridge, the condensation has dried and your cookie dough is no longer safe to eat.
If your cookie dough looks dry or like the oil has separated from the rest of the dough, it is no longer safe to eat. Look at the edges of your cookie dough to see if it has dry edges.
Cookie dough is known as one of the best scents known to man, and it’s one of the reasons why so many people love coming home while cookies are baking in the oven. If your cookie dough smells bad or slightly off, it is no longer good to eat and needs to be thrown away.
Mold likely won’t grow on your cookie dough overnight, but if you see any signs of mold on it, throw it away immediately. It will make you sick, even if you have a great immune system. Besides, moldy cookie dough will definitely not taste good.
If you suspect that your cookie dough didn’t reach unsafe temperatures during the night, use a thermometer to find out the temperature. If it is close to 40° Fahrenheit, it likely reached and stayed at unsafe temperatures for more than 2-4 hours, making it unsafe to eat.
How to Properly Store Cookie Dough
To properly store cookie dough, put it into a sealed bag or container and put it in the fridge or freezer. You can keep homemade cookie dough in your fridge for at least a few days to a week, and you can keep store-bought cookie dough in the fridge until a few days past the “best by” date. Putting cookie dough in the freezer will make it last longer. In fact, frozen cookie dough can be good for up to 12 months, even though you will likely eat it before a year passes. (Source)
If you want to make it easy for you to make cookies (or sneak some frozen cookie dough to munch on), roll the cookie dough into balls and put it on parchment or wax paper before putting it in a sealed bag or container that you put into the freezer. You can use a cookie scoop to make this process easier. This method works best when you have chunky cookie dough such as chocolate chip cookie dough. Only put one layer of cookie dough in a bag, or the cookie dough will get squished and become misshapen.
For cookie dough for sugar cookies or shortbread cookies, shape the dough into a log, wrap it in plastic wrap, put it in a sealable container or bag, then put it into the freezer. If you roll this type of cookie dough into balls before putting it into the freezer, it may break or become dry at the edges, as it is more delicate than chunky cookie doughs.
You can also freeze cookie dough while it is on baking sheets and put wax or parchment paper on top to keep it from drying out, but I don’t recommend doing so unless you plan on baking the cookies within a few days. The baking sheets will take up most of your freezer space and may warp when exposed to the heat of the oven.
How to Store Cookie Dough for a Party
To store cookie dough when you are going to serve it during a party, put it into a bowl (preferably metal, but other types will work) and put the metal bowl in a container filled with ice and a small amount of water. This will keep your cookie dough cold during the party and ensure that it doesn’t reach dangerous temperatures.
To serve cookie dough during a party, get an ice cream scoop or large spoon (if the cookie dough is meant to be eaten raw rather than cooked) and put it next to the cookie dough. Put it in a cup of warm water if you have multiple cookie dough flavors available. If you are only serving one cookie dough flavor, put the scoop or spoon on a plate so it doesn’t roll around or get the table dirty.
If you want to ensure that your cookie dough is safe to eat raw, bake the flour before adding it to the dough mixture, and don’t put eggs in it. The butter in your cookie dough likely won’t spoil quickly.
If you are hosting a cookie-making party, have cookie cutters (depending on the type of cookie dough you have available) and cookie decorating supplies available. Set out baking sheets and needed supplies, including a cooling rack and cooking spray. Also, set out multiple varieties of milk and disposable cups so your guests can dip their cookies in milk if they want to.
Make or buy the cookie dough beforehand, preferably the day before. Cookie dough is often better when it sits in the fridge or freezer overnight.
Cookie dough is a great treat, but you shouldn’t eat it if you accidentally leave it out of the fridge or freezer overnight. It becomes unsafe to eat, even though it may not seem like it. Sometimes, people eat cookie dough that they chilled after leaving it out overnight without suffering health-wise, but it is rare and shouldn’t be done regularly.