Gingerbread men. Christmas trees. Santas, reindeer, and stars. All of these delicious holiday-cookie cutouts begin with rolled-out dough and your collection of cookie cutters. Make sure this year's holiday cookies measure up to your expectations for looks as well as taste. We'll show you how to choose the best cookie cutter for the job, then share our fool-proof techniques for cutting beautiful, uniform shapes just made for decorating. Cookie Cutters 101 From metal to plastic, we've tried them all (and happily eaten the results!) Here's what we've discovered about stainless-steel, copper, aluminum, and plastic cookie cutters—ranked from best to worst. (BTW: Make sure your cookie cutters are deep enough so you can remove them from the dough with leaving an indentation.) Stainless-Steel Cookie Cutters Pros: They're sturdy—don't bend or lose shape easily. They easily cut intricate details. Cons: They're rust-prone (removable with sandpaper) Copper Cookie Cutters Pros: They're durable—will last a lifetime. They easily cut intricate details. Cons: It's difficult to flex the cutter to remove dough from details. They're relatively expensive. Aluminum Cookie Cutters Pros: They're inexpensive. They easily cut intricate details. They flex easily to remove dough from small details. Cons: They're flimsy—cutters easily lose their shapes. They're rust-prone (removable with sandpaper) Plastic Cookie Cutters Pros: They're inexpensive. They flex easily to remove dough from small details. Cons: Their dull edges flatten dough when cutting intricate shapes. Using Your Cookie Cutters Follow these fool-proof techniques for cutting out—and baking—gorgeous holiday cookies. How much dough should I roll out at a time? Divide the chilled dough into portions and return to the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent you from overworking the dough. What sort of surface should I use for rolling out dough? Work on a lightly floured, cool cutting board or countertop. Cutting boards make it easy to transfer dough to the freezer to chill if needed. Never work on a warm countertop (e.g. next to an oven). How thick should I roll the dough? Roll your dough about 1/8-inch thick—unless otherwise noted in the recipe—for even baking and crisp, firm cookies. How do I keep the dough a uniform thickness? Look for rubber rolling pin rings that slip onto each side of the rolling pin. They do the measuring for you. How do I prevent the rolling pin from sticking to the dough? Cover your dough with waxed paper when rolling to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin. If you still experience problems, lightly flour the waxed paper. How do I prevent the cookie cutters from sticking to the dough? Dip your cookie cutters in flour with each cut. Work from the center of the rolled-out dough to the edges, cutting shapes close to one another to prevent extra scraps and extra rerolling. If the cookie cutters get really sticky, wipe them off with a damp paper towel. Don't wash them in the middle of cutting out cookies unless dried dough begins to distort the cookie details. How do I get the clearest details in my cookie cutouts? In general, metal cookie cutters are sharper than plastic and will give you better results. Whichever type of cookie cutter you choose, flour it and then set it on the rolled-out dough and press straight down. Try not to jiggle or twist the cookie cutter as you use it. What is the best way to transfer my cookies to the pan? Transfer your cookie cutouts to a cool pan by keeping the cutter in place and sliding a thin, floured spatula underneath the cutout. Once the cookie cutout is on the pan, carefully slide out the spatula and remove the cutter Use the back end of a skewer to tap dough out from any angles and corners on small or intricate cutters. How do I transfer my cutouts to the pan if the dough has softened? If your dough has softened, transfer the cutting board of rolled-out dough to the freezer for 10 minutes to firm it up before cutting your cookies. (Keep dough covered with waxed paper or plastic wrap). How do I prevent my cookies from breaking when I transfer them to a cooling rack? Cool cutouts on the pan for three minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. Keep the cooling cookies in a single layer. Stacking or overlapping warm cookies may cause them to warp or break.