The best way to store sugar cookies depends on how long you need to keep them and the qualities that you are trying to protect. Storing cookies at room temperature is safe for several weeks, but the freezer is best for long-term storage. Firm, undecorated cookies may need minimal protection during storage, and you can use resealable plastic bags, but tender, iced sugar cookies would benefit from rigid containers that hold them in place and prevent them from crumbling.
Where and How Long
It is safe to keep sugar cookies in a counter-top cookie jar if you plan to eat them within two to three days. Store cookies in a cool, dry pantry or cupboard -- away from stoves, sinks and ovens -- for up to three weeks. Freeze sugar cookies at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit if you need to store them between three weeks and 12 months. Thaw and use frozen cookies within three months for the best results.
Cool Cookies and Harden Icing
Place baked sugar cookies on cooling racks and leave them uncovered. Cool the cookies to room temperature before you wrap or store them. Moisture continues to evaporate out of cookies until they are cool. The moisture will accumulate on wrapping materials as condensation if you do not cool the cookies completely before packaging them. Trapped condensation ultimately makes cookies soggy. Allow icing to harden on decorated sugar cookies to avoid damaging the designs.
Separate According to Texture and Flavor
Sort the cookies according to their textures and flavors if you made more than one type. Crisp cookies will absorb moisture from soft cookies and become soft if you store them together. Cookies will also absorb flavors of other baked treats. For example, if some cookies have mint-flavored icing and others have strawberry-flavored icing, pack the mint-iced cookies and strawberry-iced cookies separately.
Parchment Paper Protection
Use parchment paper to prevent cookies from sticking together if you are storing them in the cupboard or freezer, but skip the parchment paper if you are only storing the cookies in a counter-top jar. Cut squares of parchment paper that are slightly larger than the cookies. Sandwich each cookie between two squares of parchment. Sugar is a powerful adhesive -- even sugar cookies without icing should have protective pieces of parchment between them.
Bags for Firm, Undecorated Cookies
Place cookies wrapped in parchment paper in plastic food bags. Plastic bags work, but they won't protect the cookies from being broken or smashed. It is also more difficult to keep cookies neatly stacked in a plastic bag. Crisp, undecorated sugar cookies will likely be safe in plastic bags. Slide parchment paper-wrapped cookies into a plastic bag. Try to put enough cookies in the bag to prevent them from sliding around but not so many you break the cookies trying to force them into the bag.
Containers for Soft or Decorated Cookies
A rigid plastic container with a tight-fitting lid will protect the cookies better and keep them arranged properly. Rigid containers are the best way to store decorated or soft sugar cookies. Stack parchment-wrapped sugar cookies in a rigid plastic container until the stack is about 1/2 inch from the rim of the container. Stack un-iced sugar cookies top-to-bottom like a stack of pancakes. Stack decorated sugar cookies side-to-side like a sliced loaf of bread so the weight of the stack doesn't smash the icing on the bottom cookies.
Thaw frozen cookies at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Place the cookies in a 300-degree Fahrenheit oven for about five minutes to re-crisp them if they softened when you thawed them.