Having casseroles in the freezer can be a life-saver. Unexcepted dinner guests? Last-minute potluck? Hungry, but just don’t feel like doing anything? Pop a thawed casserole in the oven and your problems are solved. Most casseroles can be made in advance and frozen, but there are some tips and tricks for keeping them fresh and tasty when it comes time to reheat them.
Freezer Tips + Tricks
While it’s true that frozen foods safely keep for much longer than refrigerated foods do, the longer you freeze food, the more the quality of the food deteriorates. When it comes to casseroles, the USDA recommends freezing no longer than two months. It’s also important to remember that when storing any food in the freezer it should be kept in an airtight container. If not, air gets into the food, slowly dehydrating it and creating freezer burn.
There are two ways you can freeze a casserole. First, you can double-wrap your assembled casserole, dish and all, in plastic wrap and set directly in the freezer. However, if you don’t want to surrender a whole casserole dish to your freezer, here’s a cheat for going dish-less: line you casserole dish with a layer of plastic wrap. Assemble the casserole as directed, then wrap tightly in another layer of plastic wrap. Freeze until solid. Then all that’s left to do is pop the casserole out of the dish and store it in a 2-gallon freezer bag. And as is the case with freezing anything, always make sure to label and date everything!
Reheating Your Dinner
To bake your neatly frozen casseroles, you’ll have to let them completely thaw in the refrigerator, up to 48 hours. If you transferred them to a freezer bag, you’ll have to move them back to a casserole dish. Remove the plastic wrap, then transfer to a glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure that is the same size as the dish the casserole was first prepared in. Cover tightly with foil, then thaw completely in refrigerator. After that it will be ready to bake. Add an additional 15-20 minutes to the cook time to account for the chill created from sitting in the fridge.
What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Freeze
While almost everything will technically freeze, but that doesn’t mean all food should be frozen. Specifically, dairy. Cheese can be tricky to freeze because the fats tend to separate, and as a result, the texture and flavor can suffer. If you have a casserole dish that has a lot of cheese in it, add the cheese after you thaw it. The same goes for casseroles with cream-based sauces. Your best bet is to freeze the primary ingredients and add the cream sauce later, after the dish has thawed.
Ready to stock your freezer with happy make-ahead meals? Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.