Freezing casseroles is a boon for the busy cook because you can prepare large amounts of food at one time and freeze them for later. The downside to freezing foods is that the amount of energy needed to freeze and thaw casseroles is often more than what you'd use to make them fresh. Also, some ingredients don't freeze well, which can lead to disappointment. Condensed cream soups, though, can safely be used in casseroles destined for the freezer.
Condensed Soups 101
Some creamy foods, such as mayonnaise, sour cream, white sauces and cream cheese don't freeze particularly well because the solids separate from the liquids, creating a watery mess. In most cases, the root of this problem is the eggs or dairy products in the ingredients. Condensed cream soups contain only minute amounts of dehydrated cream and no eggs. Their main ingredients are water, vegetable oil and flavorings. Condensed cream soups don't separate the way fresh dairy products might. You can safely freeze a casserole containing canned soup without worry.
The Ingredient List
Condensed cream soups freeze well, but other ingredients in your casserole might not. Sour cream and cream cheese are less likely to separate when they're combined with other ingredients, but there's no guarantee. Additionally, some starches, such as pasta, rice and potatoes, become soggy or watery in the freezer. Casseroles made with these ingredients are still edible, but the quality might decline a bit.
Safe and Sound
Freeze casseroles containing condensed cream soups within two hours of preparing them at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, recommends the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Freezing casseroles promptly reduces the risk of food-borne illness caused by bacterial growth. Freeze casseroles in plastic zip-top freezer bags, aluminum foil pans, or glass or metal pans. Cover the pans tightly with plastic wrap to preserve moisture and label the casseroles with the date. Use the casseroles within three to four months. Although freezing keeps the food safe indefinitely, the quality of the casseroles will start to deteriorate after a few months.
When you're ready to use a casserole, you can either thaw it overnight in the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or place it directly in a preheated oven. If cooking a frozen casserole, increase the cooking time by 20 to 40 minutes. Heat casseroles until golden and bubbly. A thermometer inserted in the middle of the casserole should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
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