Monday, September 14, 2009

Freezer Meals Tools of the Trade: Disposable Baking Dishes

There are many different ways to preserve your freezer meals in the freezer, from freezer bags to food savers. A third option is to use a disposable baking dish.

Disposable Baking Dishes
You can buy the disposable aluminum baking dishes at just about any grocery store or discount store. They come in all shapes and sizes--8x8, 13x9, round, etc. They can be used for a variety of purposes--roasting, baking, broilling, but they're also great also for freezing.

I usually buy the 8x8 and 13x9 cake pans (note: I do not use the plastic lids that come with the cake pans). They're no as sturdy as some of the heavy-duty models, but they are cheaper. If you made a lot of meals using the disposable baking dishes, you'd want to buy the heavy-duty kind because of the weight of stacking them on each other in the freezer. I typically make only a few each month, so I stick with the cheaper cake pan version.

What's really nice about the disposable baking pans is that it's a great all-in-one storage and baking system. You put your meal in this container, cover, freeze, thaw & bake in the same pan. There's no need to take the meal out of a freezer or food saver bag and dirty a baking dish.

Some of the best meals that work in the disposable baking dishes are casseroles, like the Mexican Chicken we ate last week. They're also good for dishes such as enchiladas or Old World Manicotti.

Once you've decided what to make, prepare your meal as directed in the recipe. There's no need to actually bake the meal. Simply cover with foil. I usually use 2 or 3 layers of foil. I like to write the instructions right on top of the foil, so it's there for me to see when I'm ready to heat & serve the meal.

Meals that are frozen in the disposable baking dish will typically take longer to thaw in the fridge. Give your meal at least 36-48 hours of thaw time. And unless you've let it thaw all day on the counter, the food inside the baking dish will be cold from being in the fridge, so it may take longer to heat up in the stove than what the recipe may call for.

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