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During the holidays and beyond, baking cookies is a heartfelt tradition for many households — it can be a great way to bring families together and extend your personality into the kitchen. And if you’re hoping to have fun with your designs, cookie cutters can be a useful tool.
“There are shapes for literally everything,” said Sally McKenney, cookbook author and founder of Sally’s Baking Addiction.
You can even find cookie cutters inspired by the winter season, including snowflakes, ornaments and menorahs, among others.
“I use cookie cutters all year round,” McKenney said.
She said they’re easy enough to find, too: There are cookie cutters available at major retailers like Walmart, Target, Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond, as well as specialty stores like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table.
To help you find the right cookie cutter for you, we talked to our experts about the different types of cookie cutters and how to shop for them. We also highlight their recommendations for the best cookie cutters to buy.
SKIP AHEAD The best cookie cutters
How to shop for cookie cutters
Since cookie cutters vary in durability, color and shapes, there are a few key features that experts recommend looking for when shopping for them.
The experts we consulted noted that one of the most important considerations when shopping for cookie cutters is what they’re made out of. There are four main types of cookie cutters — plastic, aluminum, stainless steel and copper — and each has benefits and drawbacks.
Aluminum or tin cookie cutters “are the most common and usually the cheapest,” said Georganne Bell, founder of cookie blog LilaLoa. The blogger, who helped design a cookie cutter line with Ann Clark Cookie Cutters, noted they’re fairly easy to bend if you want the cookies to be thinner or taller, and you can “reshape them into your own unique creation.” She also pointed out that tin cookie cutters can rust, while aluminum cutters typically don’t.
Plastic cookie cutters are inexpensive and easier for kids to use safely — however, they are also less durable and can have trouble cutting through soft dough cleanly, according to McKenney. Bell said she prefers these for most geometric shapes “because they will not bend to your will or your magically powerful hands.”
Metal or stainless steel cookie cutters, which McKenney said she prefers over plastic ones, are a little more expensive than other types, but they’re also sturdier. “The metal cuts through the dough a lot easier without having to twist and turn the cutter, which ruins the shape of the cookie,” she said. However, she warned that they can rust if you don’t completely dry them after cleaning.
Copper cookie cutters have the highest price tag of all the materials — they’re rust-resistant and durable enough to be used by kids. They are also heavier and sturdier than other types of cookie cutters, according to Bell. “Copper cutters are ideal for a shape that you use a lot,” she said, adding that they “can cut hundreds and hundreds of cookies without breaking or reshaping themselves.”
Katie Stymiest, a recipe developer and founder of Caked by Katie, advised considering how you plan on using cookie cutters when weighing a pricier option versus a more inexpensive one. This includes how frequently you’ll be using them and who you’ll be baking with (younger children, for example, may require more durable and sturdier cookie cutters).
Cookie cutters can come with lots of detail and patterns to create beautiful designs, but getting the dough in and out of tiny spaces can be frustrating. Experts said that simple geometric shapes are more forgiving.
“When cookie cutters are too intricate, the probability that your sugar cookie dough will hold its shape is unlikely, unless you have some magical cookie dough,” said McKenney. “Simple cutters are best — they’re easy to decorate, and that’s where you can make them come to life a bit.”
Best cookie cutters to shop
Since we don't test cookie cutters ourselves, we rely on expert guidance about how to shop for them. The baking experts we spoke to recommended each of the following highly rated cookie cutters.
Ann Clark is a cookie cutter brand recommended by both McKenney and Carroll Pellegrinelli, author of “The Easy Christmas Cookie Cookbook.” “They’re very high quality — but inexpensive,” said McKenney, who likes these heart-shaped cookie cutters. These steel cookie cutters come in a pack of five, and each one has different measurements. Bell also recommended this heart-shaped cookie cutter with “a little more character.”
For large groups, Bell also recommended this large set that includes 40 cutters with different fun shapes like dinosaurs and cupcakes, 32 alphabet cutters and eight number cutters. “If you only buy one set of cutters, it should be this one,” she said. “These sturdy plastic cutters are designed by a master cookie decorator with ease of baking and decorating in mind.”
“Wilton puts out really cute cookie cutters at a great price,” said Stymiest, who has a “container full of assorted Wilton cutters” for different occasions to use with her kids. She recommended this 10-piece cookie cutter set that features multiple Christmas-themed shapes, including a gingerbread man, candy cane and snowman. These plastic cookie cutters measure approximately 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches and come in a mix of red and green.
If you’re baking cookies during wintertime, Bell recommended this geometric snowflake cookie cutter to celebrate the season. “Everyone should own a pretty snowflake cutter,” she said. “You can sprinkle the cookie with sugar hot out of the oven for a quick and impressive treat.”
“Using cookies in place of cards for well wishes and greetings is a sweet way to get your point across,” said Bell. She recommended these cutters — which are 3D-printed and made from food-safe PLA plastic, according to the seller — to serve as “a blank canvas” to create designs and give as thoughtful gifts.
These dishwasher-safe, plastic, hexagonal cookie cutters come in a pack of four. Bell recommended these cookie cutters for their unique shape: “Hexagon is really having a moment … [it] has found its way into home furnishings, fashion and especially cookies,” she said.
Copper cookie cutters come with a higher price tag, but they’re sturdier, durable and more visually appealing than other types of cookie cutters, according to the experts we spoke to. This three-piece set is made of solid copper, and the cookie cutters measure between 4.5 inches and 6.5 inches in length. “The ribbon and bunting shapes are also great for any type of celebration,” Bell said.
This set comes with six cookie cutters, 18 unique imprinting stamps and one interchangeable stamp handle to make decorating a little easier. Bell noted you can use the cookie cutters by themselves or “pair them with a cookie stamp to make decorating absolutely effortless and fun for all ages.” To decorate, the brand recommends cutting and stamping your cookies first, baking them and then piping icing into the stamped areas to fill out the design. Stamp patterns include a paw print, Christmas tree, emoji and more.
More tools for baking and decorating cookies
Below, we compiled a list of some highly rated baking and decorating tools that experts told us can be useful for your cookie baking experience.
If you need to add a lot of detail, you can opt for piping tips and bags to decorate your cookies. Bell recommended these disposable plastic piping bags — which come in packs ranging from 100 to 500 bags and in multiple sizes — that she said can make clean-up a lot smoother. “Once you have the icing in the piping bag, cut a small opening in the tip to decorate [and] when decorating is finished, there's nothing to wash and dry,” she said. If you’re looking for a simple icing hack, McKenney recommended plastic squeeze bottles, the kind that typically hold ketchup or mustard in a diner.
Stymiest noted she always reaches for her KitchenAid tilt-head stand mixer when baking cookies. “Sugar cookie dough can get quite arduous to mix, so save yourself some time and energy and invest in a quality kitchen mixer,” she said. This option has a 4.5-quart capacity, a stainless steel bowl and 10 speeds. It comes with a dough hook, flat beater and metal whip, but you can also purchase over 10 additional attachments, like food grinders and pasta makers.
Bell said a good rolling pin is also an important cookie baking tool. “The Joseph Joseph rolling pin lets you get a perfectly consistent dough thickness for every cookie, which means that every cookie will bake evenly,” she said. The rolling pin has four pairs of removable discs on each side, which the brand says raise the rolling pin at different lengths off the counter. There are also measurements in inches and centimeters etched into the wooden rolling pin for when you need your dough to be a certain size.
Bakers’ tips: How to best prepare and bake your cookie dough
The bakers we spoke to shared tips for preparing the best sugar cookie dough (the most popular type of cookie dough they use) and crafting your cookies this holiday season:
- Find a good recipe: Bell recommended looking for a sugar cookie recipe that specifically states it’s for sugar cookies. “Words like ‘roll-out,’ ‘cutout’ or ‘no-spread’ are great indicators that the recipe will work well with cookie cutters,” she noted.
- Personalize: McKenney likes to add spices (like pumpkin pie spice in the fall), lemon zest or cocoa to a typical sugar cookie recipe that calls for creaming (mixing) butter and sugar together.
- Cool down: McKenney and Stymiest both recommended chilling your cookie dough to help keep it from spreading in the oven, which will maintain the shape. Before chilling, Stymiest recommended rolling out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper, which allows for it to be even and flat. McKenney said she waits for at least an hour, if not overnight, before cutting out shapes.
- Slice: Place the cutter on top of the dough and press down evenly and slowly, McKenney said. Use a spatula to transfer the cutout cookie shapes to the baking pan to keep the dough from stretching or cracking.
- Use plastic wrap: For tricky cutters with a lot of detail and imprints, you can place plastic wrap on top of the cookie dough before cutting out the shape. “The plastic wrap will allow the dough to cleanly release from the cutter,” Bell said.