How to Cook Ahead

Save time and money by cooking meals ahead of time and freezing or refrigerating them for future use. Make a large quantity of one dish and portion it out in storage containers for later meals. It's important to know how to cook ahead to ensure food safety and to make every meal taste great.


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    Follow food safety guidelines.
    • It's important to keep foods safe when you cook meals in advance and store them. Cook any casseroles containing raw egg, raw meat or any dairy products completely before cooling and storing them to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
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    Boil pasta partially.
    • Help pasta retain it's shape and taste when you cook meals to freeze by boiling pasta for half the normal cooking time. Pasta will cook the rest of the way when the dish is reheated and will not become mushy by being overcooked.
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    Add extra sauce.
    • Prevent casseroles from drying out when you precook meals by adding an extra half cup of sauce to dishes you are refrigerating or freezing for later meals. Some of the sauce will naturally absorb when you freeze or refrigerate the dish. Adding a little extra sauce will prevent the thawed or reheated meal from being dry.
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    Use sturdy vegetables.
    • Cook meals ahead of time that include vegetables that can withstand freezing or reheating without becoming mushy or bland. Carrots, potatoes, celery and parsnips will all retain their shape, color and flavor if used in meals that are cooked ahead and then reheated.
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    Save toppings for later.
    • Use top layers of cheese, breadcrumbs or herbs after meals have been thawed and reheated. Adding this last layer of flavor will keep the top layer of ingredients from drying out and add some fresh flavor to the dish.
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    Eat within 6 months.
    • Be sure to label each dish you cook ahead of time with the name of the dish and the date it was prepared. Eat refrigerated meals cooked ahead within 3 days of cooking and frozen meals or casseroles within 6 months of freezing. This will help ensure the food's flavor, safety and nutritional value.
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    Cover dishes tightly.
    • Keep flavor in meals that you cook ahead by using heavy duty aluminum foil to cover dishes or pans. Airtight plastic storage containers are another option for keeping precooked meals fresh and keeping out other food odors or bacteria.
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    Skip the fryer.
    • Avoid cooking any meals ahead that need to be breaded or fried. This type of food will not withstand storage well. The fried coating will become soggy or dried out and the oil that it was fried in could become rancid.

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Categories: Meal Planning