How to Keep Cookies Fresh for Shipping (and Eating)
By Anna Hezel
All products featured on Epicurious are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
It's begun. The moment December arrives, the competition is on for the most beautiful, adorably packaged cookie boxes. Is it really Christmas without a flurry of cookies of complementary tastes and textures? No. Can you get away with baking just one kind? Also no.
It poses a perpetual logistical challenge: How can you bake the cookies as far in advance as possible to save those precious last few days before Christmas for wrapping gifts and dusting off the punch bowl? And how can you store them in the interim so that they stay beautifully intact and decidedly crunchy?
If you’re giving away cookie tins or sending people cookies in the mail and you don't want the treats to arrive as a shower of unrecognizable broken shards, matters become even more complicated. As we enter the biggest baking season of the year, I asked a few pros for their best advice about keeping holiday cookies as fresh and picture-perfect as possible in the days and weeks after the baking session.
The USDA website says that generally, cookies can be stored at room temperature for two to three weeks or refrigerated for two months. If you find yourself with more cookies than you can eat in that time frame, consider putting the baked cookies in a sealed container in the freezer.
If you’re trying to get an even earlier head start on holiday baking, consider making and freezing the dough a few weeks ahead of time and baking your cookies closer to when you plan to gift and eat them.
While you can usually count on a couple weeks’ shelf life for baked holiday cookies, some styles of cookies lend themselves more to keeping around for that long. If your ideal chocolate chip cookie is cakey and melty, you’ll enjoy it more in the hours right after it's baked. But if your baking session involves crisp cutouts, sables, and shortbread, there's no rush.
Abi Balingit, the author of the upcoming cookbook Mayumu, started baking and curating boxes of treats during summer of 2020 to raise money for organizations like Bed-Stuy Strong and Send Chinatown Love. "Shortbread cookies tend to have better shelf lives," she's learned. "Chewier and softer cookies tend to get dry and stale as multiple days pass and don't travel as well."
If you’ve just finished baking and decorating your cookies for the season, it's not time to carefully compose that beautiful assortment quite yet. Laurie Ellen Pellicano, a former pastry chef at Tartine who now runs an online bakery, tells me that it's a good idea to store different types of cookies separately until you’re ready to give them away or ship them.
"Definitely invest in good locking-lid type containers," Pellicano says. "Plastic bags are not ideal because of things jumbling around, but also the layer's just not thick enough to seal things in. I also think that plastic can sometimes give off some odor or absorb some odor, so it's a little bit more sensitive."
Balingit agrees, "If possible, it's best to keep cookies in airtight containers at home before having to transfer them to boxes or bags to give to friends. I prefer Pyrex glass containers with lids to plain Ziploc bags because I find they keep cookies fresher for longer periods of time."
Opt for sturdy, thicker-walled vessels like Cambros or Oxo storage containers. And if you’ve made a batch of something that's sensitive to excess moisture, like meringues, consider tossing a packet of silica gel in there to keep any pesky humidity in your kitchen at bay.
If you’re arranging an assortment of cookies to give away or to mail to a friend, Pellicano suggests packing them together as tightly as possible, to prevent the cookies from knocking around and breaking. She also suggests keeping similar textures grouped together so that residual moisture from those cakier cookies doesn't make its way into the cookies that are meant to be crunchy.
Auzerais Belamy, the founder of Blondery, packs her blondies into a slim box and then vacuum-seals them for shipping so that there's as little wiggle room as possible. (She's shared some of her tips for shipping on her YouTube channel.) Because blondies are more perishable than most crunchy baked goods, she also freezes them before shipping and slips an ice pack into each package so that the package will stay cool in transit.
For an assortment of sweets, Balingit suggests muffin liners for creating physical barriers between each category of treat. She also suggests keeping the more delicate confections towards the top to avoid crushing.
Pellicano uses cellophane bags to keep her domino-shaped shortbreads packed snugly together but also loves tins. "Tin is my favorite material in terms of storage," she says. "There's just enough air that's allowed to enter for things to not go bad."
If you opt for a minimalist aesthetic in place of the candy cane–plastered tins that hit shelves this time of the year, these also happen to double as a great year-round storage container for all those cookie cutters and multi-colored sugars.