Why You Need To Be Patient When Defrosting A Casserole

When it comes to make-ahead meals, there is no doubt that the king (or queen) of the category is the humble, yet delicious, casserole. Basically a jumble of complementary ingredients that's baked in a dish, a casserole can be anything from lasagna to baked ziti to potato gratin, to a more classic choice such as green bean casserole. Casseroles are typically hearty choices that can even be complete meals, and they are super-easy because they can be assembled ahead of time and refrigerated until you're ready to bake and eat (via Food Network). 

They also generally freeze beautifully, for busy seasons when you want to stock your freezer with ready-to-heat meals (via PureWow). As adaptable as casseroles are, they do have their demands — and one of those demands is to be defrosted before being popped into the oven. Because as appealingly easy as it might be to simply transfer a frozen casserole straight to the oven to heat it through, it's not a good idea, and here's why.

Frozen casseroles can result in icy centers post-baking

If you've ever frozen a make-ahead casserole to bake and enjoy at a later date, you may have tried taking that icy number straight to the oven when it's time to eat — and if so, you might already know that baking an unthawed casserole is generally not advised. According to Southern Living, doing so runs the risk of cutting into a casserole that's bubbling and brown around its edges and on the top, but cold or even still-frozen in its center.

The outlet recommends always defrosting a casserole prior to baking it — but in a specific way. Do not be tempted to microwave your casserole to defrost it, Southern Kitchen advises — rather, the night before you want to bake the casserole, remove it from the oven and transfer it to the fridge. There, in the slightly-warmer temperatures, the casserole will defrost evenly, meaning it will also bake up evenly, without pockets that are still cold.

The next day, you're ready to bake your casserole. After heating it according to recipe directions, make sure to take its temperature in the center. Allrecipes states that the casserole should reach 165 F in order to be fully cooked.