Should You Top Casseroles With Potato Chips Before Or After Baking?

When you're in need of an easy one-pan dinner, nothing beats a casserole. Rich, creamy, and usually filled with all the fixin's of the food pyramid — from protein to veggies to dairy — there's a reason the dish is considered a classic comfort food across regions and generations. Some casseroles, like the green bean and candied yam versions, are staples on holiday dinner tables, but those, along with other favorites, can certainly be enjoyed year-round.

The art of the casserole lies in the mix of flavors and textures, all combined in — you guessed it — a casserole pan, baked in the oven to perfection. Many variations of the dish are upgraded with the addition of a crunchy component that makes for a delicious bite. You may usually finish your tuna casserole with fried onions or your chicken casserole with crumbled crackers, but if you've yet to try a topping of potato chips, you're seriously missing out. The salty snack can serve as the ideal complement to just about any savory casserole dish, adding a crispy crunch to the soft, chewy, and gooey ingredients within.

Now, when whipping up a casserole, your first instinct may be to add the topping before it goes into the oven. And usually, you'd be right. But when it comes to potato chips, there are actually some things to consider before deciding when exactly to sprinkle them on.

It depends on when you'll be serving your casserole

As yummy as these thinly sliced crisps are atop a casserole, they won't hold up well for long periods of time. Their more delicate nature causes them to absorb moisture and lose their signature crunch after a while. So, if you're wondering whether to put them on your casserole before or after it goes in the oven, think about when you'll actually be eating the meal.

If you're preparing the dish to serve right out of the oven, go ahead and crumble on the potato chips before baking. But if you're making your casserole in advance and plan to put it on the table after a few hours, assemble and bake it with the other ingredients first, then add the chips when you're ready to dig in.

You should also keep in mind the potential of leftovers. We love the warm crunch of the chips mixed with a casserole, but if you freeze them with the other parts of the dish, they'll be left soggy and stale — not ideal for eating the next day. Therefore, if you're planning on stretching out that large family-style casserole for a day or two, skip the chips when baking and add them on later, after reheating, to ensure you get the best-tasting, all-important crunch with every bite.