How to Cook Casserole: The ‘Only Way’ to Cook It to Avoid a ‘Soggy’ Dish – 6 ‘Rules’ to Follow
There’s nothing better than a hearty one-pot meal on a cold night, so it can be disappointing when you go to tuck into the dish and find it’s soggy or missing something. Most casserole recipes use a mixture of protein, vegetables, sauce and starch as a base, which, while simple, is more important to get right than you think. Cooking experts have shared six “rules” to follow when making casserole to master this “versatile” dish.
According to Vered DeLeeuw, founder of Healthy Recipes Blog, casseroles are an “excellent vessel” for using up any leftover ingredients you have in the kitchen, from old vegetables and herbs to off-cuts of meat and fish.
She said: “They’re incredibly versatile. They’re usually big enough to feed a crowd, and the leftovers keep well and can be frozen for later use. And they’re warm and comforting, which makes them ideal for winter.”
But despite being known as a “leftover” meal, making casseroles with the wrong ingredients can quickly ruin the entire dish. The food blogger explained that everything from raw materials to the order in which you add ingredients can affect the quality of the final result.
But before you start preparing leftovers in your kitchen, it’s most important to make sure you have the right tools to work with.
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Use the right dish
Casey LaClair, co-founder of Viraflare.com explained that “the first essential rule” of making a good pot is choosing the right size to start. She noted that although many people only take the largest dish from the cupboard, it is not always suitable for making this varied dish.
In fact, while a nine-by-13-inch pan may seem large enough, it should actually have the capacity to hold enough pot to fill it three-quarters to the top. According to the food blogger, this is to avoid over- or under-cooking the ingredients.
Precook certain ingredients
When it comes to cooking the different elements of a pot evenly, Casey recommended giving some of the ingredients a head start before adding them to the main dish, especially pasta and vegetables.
She explained that doing is “the only way” to make a casserole with a “satisfying texture” as it prevents them from drying out in the oven.
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Steer clear of frozen objects
As a main element in most stews, it is crucial to get the vegetables right for the flavor of the dish. To make sure you don’t miss out on the flavor, the cooking experts warned against using frozen ingredients.
Although often cheaper and significantly more durable, frozen vegetables tend to release a lot of water when heated, which can make the pot “soggy,” according to Vered.
Instead, it’s best to stick to older, fresh ingredients that may look a little past their use-by date. These are generally safe to eat as long as they show no signs of mold growth.
When it comes to adding meat to a pot, the rules are a little different for what you should and shouldn’t do.
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Shred-cook all meat
Vered explained that cooking all raw meat before tossing it in the dish is “important” for obvious reasons — to ensure the protein is fully cooked.
This is especially important for chicken casserole recipes for both food safety and to preserve the thick texture of your casserole.
The food blogger said: “This also prevents the meat from escaping into the pot as it cooks, which will result in a watery pot. Just be careful not to overcook the meat – remember it will continue to cook once inside the pot.”
Use lots of spices
For added flavor when dealing with dull meat, don’t be afraid to “use liberal spices and herbs”. According to Vered, you can “almost not overdo it” when it comes to a pot, it’s down to your own personal taste.
Do not serve it right away
After preparing a stew, it can be tempting to serve it straight away, straight from the oven to the table. However, it is important to let it cool beforehand for several reasons.
Food blogger Casey noted that one benefit of leaving the dish off the heat for 15 minutes is that the boiling juices have time to settle and thicken. She noted that this is especially important if you’re concerned about the liquid resembling “a dripping soup.”
If you don’t want to eat the stew straight away, it can be stored covered in the fridge for up to four days. When it’s time to reheat it, you can do it uncovered in the middle of a low heat oven (around 148C).
Casey noted that preheating is not necessary since you don’t want to place a cold ceramic plate in a hot oven. Rather, let the temperature warm up around it.