Should A Casserole Stay Covered The Entire Time It Cooks?

Casseroles are perfect for feeding a crowd. They're versatile enough to suit everyone's tastes, easy to prepare ahead of time, and large enough to leave the whole party satisfied.

According to Masterclass, casseroles are simple to assemble and baked in a single dish. Eater points out that this is similar to the fittingly named "Hot Dish" casseroles popular throughout the Midwestern United States. The etymology of the word "casserole" likely dates back to ancient Greek, but the modern concept of a casserole was born in 18th-century England where it was used to refer to a dish of rice and meat baked in the oven.

Because casseroles are so easy to make, one of the few worries involved in their preparation is over or undercooking. Allrecipes points out that one of the most important elements in avoiding this catastrophic casserole nightmare has to do with leaving the dish covered or uncovered for too long.

Casseroles benefit from being partially covered

According to Allrecipes, it is important to leave a casserole covered for part of its cooking time. This helps to trap moisture and heat which helps it cook evenly without burning. However, it's also frequently important to let the casserole cook uncovered for a period of the baking time as well. This allows the excess moisture to cook off, and the top of the dish to properly brown in most cases.

Betty Crocker says that the best thing to do is simply follow the instructions of the recipe you're using. Recipes with ingredients that need to be cooked like rice or pasta will typically need to be uncovered to ensure they're cooked all the way through. Anything that you want to be decked out in a crispy outer layer though is going to need at least a part of the cooking time uncovered. This recipe for Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole is a great example of a casserole that you'll want to leave uncovered. Otherwise, you won't get the same crispy, golden crust of cheese on top. 

For any recipes that are unclear, Allrecipes recommends going half-and-half. Whatever the recommended cooking time is, allow for the first half to be covered, and remove your covering for the second half of that time.