Best casserole method to avoid a ‘soggy’ dish – 6 rules to follow

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There’s nothing better than a hearty, one-pot meal on a cold evening, so it can be disappointing when you go to tuck into the dish and find it is soggy or missing something. Most casserole recipes use a mixture of protein, vegetables, sauce, and starch as a base, which although simple, is more important to get right than you think. Cooking experts have shared six “rules” to follow when making casserole in order to master this “versatile” dish.

According to Vered DeLeeuw, founder of the Healthy Recipes Blog, casseroles are an “excellent vessel” to use up any leftover ingredients you have in the kitchen, from old vegetables and herbs to off-cuts of meat and fish.

She said: “They are incredibly versatile. They’re typically large enough to feed a crowd, and the leftovers keep well and can be frozen for later use. And they are hot and comforting, making them ideal for winter.”

But despite being known as a “leftovers” meal, making casseroles with the wrong ingredients can quickly ruin the entire dish. The food blogger explained that everything from raw produce to the order you add ingredients can affect the quality of the final result.

But before you make a start on cooking the leftovers in your kitchen, it is most important to make sure you have the right tools to work with.

Use the right dish

Casey LaClair, co-founder of explained that “the first essential rule” of cooking a great casserole is choosing the right size dish to start. She noted that while many people simply grab the largest dish from their cupboard, it’s not always suitable for cooking 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 casserole to fill it three-quarters to the top. According to the food blogger, this is to avoid over or under-cooking the ingredients.

Pre-cook certain ingredients

When it comes to cooking the different elements of a casserole evenly, Casey recommended giving some of the ingredients a head start before adding them to the main dish, particularly pasta and vegetables.

She explained that doing is “the only way” to make a casserole with a “satisfying texture” as it prevents them from becoming dried out in the oven.

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Steer clear of frozen items

As a staple element in most casseroles, getting the vegetables right is crucial to the flavour of the dish. To ensure you don’t lose out on the taste, the cooking experts warned against using frozen produce.

Though they are often cheaper and significantly longer-lasting, frozen vegetables tend to release a lot of water when heated, which can make the casserole “soggy”, according to Vered.

Instead, it is 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 do not have signs of mould growth.

When it comes to adding meat to a casserole, the rules are a little different on what you should and shouldn’t do.

Part-cook all meat

Vered explained that cooking all raw meat before throwing it into the dish is “important” for obvious reasons – to make sure the protein is fully cooked.

This is especially key 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 releasing liquids into the casserole as it cooks, which would result in a watery casserole. Just make sure not to overcook the meat—remember, it will continue cooking once inside the casserole.”

Use lots of spices

For added flavour when working with bland meat, don’t be afraid to “make liberal use of spices and herbs”. According to Vered, you “almost can’t overdo it” when it comes to a casserole, it is down to your own personal taste.

Don’t serve it straight away

After cooking casserole it can be tempting to serve it up right away, straight from the oven to the table. However, it is important to leave it to 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 up. She noted that this is especially key if you’re concerned that the liquid resembles “a drippy soup”.

If you don’t want to eat the casserole right away, it can be stored covered in the fridge for up to four days. When the time comes to reheat it, you can do so uncovered in the centre of a low-heat oven (around 148C).

Casey noted that preheating is not necessary as you don’t want to place a cold ceramic dish in a hot oven. Instead, allow the temperature to heat up around it.

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