The Quickest Way To Cool A Casserole Before Freezing

Casseroles are the great convenience food when you want your meal to be homemade but you don't have copious amounts of time to be slaving over a hot oven. Connie Kirchner, an Arizona-based cooking school owner, told The Republic, "Casseroles are better than their reputation. They are a really wonderful, convenient and modern way to serve a balanced meal to busy families. They are the ultimate comfort food."

A pan of homemade macaroni and cheese, a lasagna, or a dilly tuna casserole can be just what you need to appease a hungry crowd when you are short on time. But have you ever considered freezing your casseroles for those nights when you don't even have time to throw one of these comfort dishes together? While there are definitely casseroles you probably shouldn't freeze, nothing can be simpler than defrosting and heating up a casserole. 

However, our freezers are probably the most misused part of our refrigerators. Per Real Simple, freezers are a modern day luxury we really don't appreciate. When you prep and freeze meals for future use, you are actually saving yourself time and money, along with the headaches over what to cook — not to mention a freezer does better when there are foods in it to help keep it freezing cold. 

But there is an art to freezing casseroles and if you are busy, because everyone is, and want to freeze your casserole quickly, there is a trick for that.

Try an ice bath

Lancaster Farming recommends cooking your casserole in a shallow dish to help it cool quicker and more efficiently. This is the best route to take if you plan on freezing your casserole. The site goes on to explain that the classic rectangular deep dish casserole pan retains heat longer whereas shallow dishes provide greater "surface area for the heat to escape." Additionally, the University of Minnesota Extension says another contributing factor to how quickly you can cool off a casserole is its "thickness." The thicker the casserole, the longer it will take to cool.

But regardless of what pan you use to get the cooling process going, you want to set the casserole on a cooling rack so the pan can adequately cool and not be at risk of cracking it when you place it into a cooler temperature. The University of Minnesota Extension also cautions that you do not want to put hot food into the freezer or you leave your foods susceptible to the potential of harmful bacteria growth. 

If you are really in a hurry, Michigan State University suggests cutting food into smaller, individual size pieces and placing them in a freezer safe container. The academic institution notes within two hours of removing food from the oven it should be thoroughly cool.