freezing casserolesFreezing casseroles is a time saver. Your freezer can become your friend when planning and preparing meals. This is especially true if your window of opportunity for cooking large is limited by your busy schedule.

Your freezer lets you take advantage of bargain priced seasonal vegetables at the market and gives you make ahead options for those occasions when you need a quick casserole to feed unexpected guests.

Below are easy to follow steps for freezing casseroles or any of your make-ahead meals and tips you need to know when you do freeze your meal.

First Step in Freezing Casseroles is Food Prep

Freeze your casserole before baking when all the individual ingredients in your casserole are already cooked. For example, if your casserole contains ground beef, it means that the ground beef has been browned before being added to the casserole. The exceptions to this would be raw, uncooked rice, raw vegetables or any meat variety that has been frozen and thawed. When freezing casseroles, take into consideration the following tips:

  1. Freezing casseroles that contain cooked egg whites as in hard boiled eggs, raw vegetables, mayonnaise or sour cream will not reheat well. These will not reheat evenly with other ingredients.
  2. Make sure your starches like potatoes and beans are slightly under-cooked before freezing them because they can become soft and mushy if fully cooked before you freeze them.
  3. To keep any casserole toppings from becoming soft and mushy, freeze these separately from the casserole itself. Keeping plain or buttered bread crumbs in a zip lock bag in the freezer work well for topping your casserole before it goes into the oven.
  4. Do not freeze any baked pastry because it will get soggy. If you are using a pastry for a recipe, for example, a pie crust for chicken pot pie, freeze the filling but use an unbaked crust before reheating in the oven.
  5. It’s better to under season foods before you put them in the freezer and then add seasoning after thawing. Certain seasonings like garlic, celery and peppers become stronger in flavor when frozen whereas onion, salt and chili powder flavors weaken when frozen.

Step Two for Freezing Casseroles is Freeze Fast

  • Cook hot casseroles fast. You can set them in a pan of ice water, cooling to room temperature. Do not freeze them hot.
  • Whenever possible, use a shallow baking or casserole dish since this will allow the food to freeze faster and will also promote faster thawing.
  • Your food will expand when frozen so make sure you leave a little room at the top of the dish for expansion.
  • Make sure that you cover your casserole with something that is moisture-proof and vapor-proof like aluminum foil, a tight fitting lid or a heavy duty plastic wrap.
  • Try lining your casserole dish with aluminum foil so it (the foil) drapes sufficiently over the sides. When the casserole is frozen, remove it from the casserole dish and wrap with the overlapping foil. This way you free up your casserole dish but can use it when you choose to reheat that meal.

Finally – Let’s Serve our Frozen Casserole

  1. Casseroles will last about 2 to 3 months in a freezer. Any longer, quality and flavor will be impacted.
  2. The size of your casserole will impact your baking time. A casserole may take an hour before freezing but might take two hours if frozen. The shallower the casserole dish, the less time it will take to bake.
  3. If you want to thaw your casserole before baking, it’s best to let it thaw overnight in your refrigerator. Doing this will let you cook it per the original recipe directions.
  4. To cook a frozen casserole, bake uncovered in a 400 degree oven until bubbly…up to 2 hours depending on how deep your casserole dish is.

Don’t be surprised to see that the sauces and/or gravies may have separated during the freezing process. These will usually combine to their original consistency when heated and stirred.