Best Holiday Cookie Baking Equipment 2020
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the cookie cutter options out there (you’ll even find multiple websites selling nothing but cookie cutters). But whether you’re trying to kick-start a collection or you want to have just a few on hand for the holidays, buying a set of cookie cutters is easier than sorting through a dizzying variety of individual ones. For holiday baking, we like Ateco’s range of stainless-steel cookie cutters, either the Ateco Stainless Steel Christmas Cookie Cutters or the 5-Piece Stainless Steel Snowflake Cutter Set. The shapes are clear and elegant; of all the cutters we tested, the Ateco pieces offered the sturdiest construction and cut the cleanest cookies.
To put the cutters through their paces, we tested them on soft, sticky rolled-out sugar cookie dough (we like this recipe from The Kitchn) as well as on dough that we had rolled out and then froze solid. We squeezed the cutters to see how easily they would bend, and we washed them a few times (by hand) while keeping an eye out for rust. We also tested them with a 4½-year-old child to see which cookie cutters were the easiest for kids to handle.
We tested both plastic and metal cutters. All of the experts we spoke to preferred metal cookie cutters over plastic because they feel sturdier and their sharper edges cut a cleaner line. Plastic has its advantages, too: It doesn’t rust or bend, and duller edges can be a plus when you’re baking with kids. But plastic also feels insubstantial, and it can snap. Ultimately, for most bakers, we think metal is the way to go, and if you take care of your cutters, a high-quality set can last a long time.
The Ateco cookie cutters had the heaviest-gauge metal of any we tested, and the difference was immediately noticeable. Many metal cookie cutters are made of tin or tin-plated steel, which is often flimsy. The two tin-plated steel cutter sets we tested—the Wilton Holiday 18-Pc. Metal Cookie Cutter Set and the R & M Holiday Classics 12-Piece Cookie Cutter Tub—were easy to bend out of shape. The Ateco cutters, while not impossible to bend, were thicker and more resilient; they required significant force to bend even a little. The seam where the loop of the cutter was closed was also welded in more places than on the other metal cutters, making the Ateco designs less likely to break.
Tin-plated cutters are also more vulnerable to rust, and at least one of the R & M cutters showed signs of rust around the folded seam of its top edge after we hand-washed it just once and allowed it to air dry. The Ateco cutters, on the other hand, are still gleaming.
Copper cookie cutters are strong, unbendable, resistant to rust, and undeniably beautiful. Gail Dosik of New York’s One Tough Cookie told us she prefers copper over any other material for cutters because it’ll “last a lifetime,” and Matt Lewis of Baked also said he prefers them for their sturdiness. But solid-copper cutters (beware of copper-plated cutters, which are no sturdier than their tin-plated counterparts) are expensive—a single cutter can cost $10 to $15, which is about how much you’ll pay for a set of five or six Ateco cutters. If, as Dosik put it, there’s a cookie shape you “know you’re going to make religiously,” you may want to invest in a high-quality copper cutter. But for cookies you’ll make only once a year, the Ateco cutters are a better buy, and they can last you just as long.
The Ateco Christmas cutters are the smallest of all we tried, on average 2½ inches from end to end, as opposed to 3½ or 4 inches, but this shouldn’t be a dealbreaker unless you have your heart set on cookies the size of your hand. If that’s the case, go for the snowflakes or for the Ateco 10-Piece Stainless Steel Star Cutter set, which have cutters ranging from 1½ inches to 5 or 7½ inches, respectively.
For baking with children, where simpler is better and plastic cutters are a little safer and easier to handle, we recommend the Wilton 101-Piece Cookie Cutter Set. It’s a great deal, and the huge variety—ranging from letters to animals to several holiday images—means it can handle just about any cookie-cutting project your child wants to do. (They’re also great for tracing and for using with Play-Doh, as long as you give them a good wash afterward.) If the dough gets stuck inside the cutter, the big, simple shapes let a kid push out the cookie without damaging it. The cutters are also color-coded, so pulling out, say, all the holiday shapes or all the animals is not as difficult as you might think. They’re not as sharp as metal cutters, so pushing into frozen dough is a little tougher, but they have a wide upper lip, which makes them more comfortable to push down hard on (our young tester gave them a few hard smacks, which was probably excessive, but fun for her). Just be aware that they’re not as deep as any of the other cutters we tested, so they’re not the best for cutting through thicker things, like sandwiches.
If you’re short on space, or if 101 cutters seems like overkill, for kids we also like the Wilton Grippy Cookie Cutters. This set of four plastic cutters felt sturdy, and we liked the silicone grip, which made them more comfortable to use. The holiday shapes are nearly identical to some of those in the 101-piece set, and they would be great for kids, but they just don’t come in enough variety to make them our top choice. Aside from this Christmas-themed set, Wilton offers an “everyday” set of four cutters in the Comfort Grip model.
One problem we encountered with nearly all the cutters was storage. Cookie cutters are like 3D puzzle pieces, and you’ll be surprised how difficult it is to fit them back into a tub. Only the Ateco snowflakes were easy to return to their box. For the rest, you’re better off keeping them in a plastic storage box with plenty of room. A Ziploc bag can work too, but then you run the risk of your cutters getting bent out of shape if you shove them in a drawer somewhere.