Casserole dishes are one of those household items that are part of the fabric of kitchen life. Everyone has a favorite casserole dish and perhaps one that sits in the back of the kitchen cupboards gathering dust. There is a reason why some baking dishes are better than others and why some meals never taste the same if not made in that trusted old casserole dish.
What is a casserole dish?
A casserole pan is a baking dish that food can be prepared in and served out of. Most come with tight-fitting lids that help circulate the dish’s heat, allowing for slow-cooked meals without a slow cooker. Casserole dishes are sold in a variety of shapes, capacities, and materials. Each kind has its own uses and recipes that work well in it. The shape and size are dependent on your needs.
The materials used play a significant role in the quality of cook, flavor, and storage of your food. Various materials can be used in different ways when it comes to preparing a meal.
Here are some of the materials used to make casserole dishes:
- Glass and Ceramic: These mid-range casserole dishes are visually attractive and heat up evenly. Once hot, they stay hot for long periods. Glass dishes do not handle sudden temperature changes and should cool down completely before storing food in the fridge. You can keep food in these beautiful dishes.
- Aluminum is most often used for disposable catering trays; these pans are lightweight and are not suitable for storing food. Aluminum is great for browning and conducts heat very well.
- Stainless steel: Cost-effective and lightweight stainless steel pans are great for cakes and any other meal.
- Cast-iron: Cast-iron casserole dishes are among the few kinds that you can use on a stovetop and inside the oven; you can seamlessly transfer them between the two. This makes browning meat on the stove easier, as you can move it straight into the oven without having to switch to an oven-safe pan or baking dish.
The best baking dish for cakes
Shallow, metal baking pans are ideal for cakes, cookies, brownies, and many sweet treats. Non-stick coated pans are suitable for avid cake makers. Most bakers will use aluminum or stainless steel casserole pans that have a non-stick coating. Metal is naturally a great conductor, making for evenly baked goods.
Ceramic and glass casserole dishes often have curved edges and corners, making removing a cake seamlessly a little harder than it should be. Many bakers prefer the clean, crisp edge of a metal casserole dish.
The perfect dish for acidic foods
Acidic foods such as tomatoes, vinegar, or lemon-based sauces react with metals and draw a metallic taste out of the dish. The flavor can ruin a good meal and even change its color. For this reason, it is best not to use metal casserole dishes. For meals such as lasagna, cacciatore, or any tomato sauce-based meal, use a glass or ceramic casserole dish.
It might be alright to bake an acidic meal in a metal pan if the meal is only going to be in there for a short period of time. Food should also not be stored in a metal pan as the metallic flavor can linger and intensify over time. A cast-iron casserole dish with an enamel coating inside is perfectly safe to use with acidic foods. The enamel layer creates a barrier between the metal and the food.
Caring for and cleaning your baking pan
Caring for and cleaning your casserole bakeware is crucial to keeping it in top shape. Not all materials can be thrown into a sink of water to soak for hours. Here’s how to maintain your casserole pans:
- Cast-iron dishes need to be wiped down with a cloth after food has gently been scraped off. If your cast-iron has an enamel coating, it can be stored after cleaning; they do not need to be seasoned. Check to see if your cast-iron bakeware requires seasoning. Be sure to clean the lid as well.
- Glass and ceramic can be soaked for 15 minutes in a mixture of dish soap and baking soda. Clean your dish with hot water and like other dishes. If left alone for too long, it can retain stains and grease marks that become stubborn and hard to remove.
- Non-stick coated pans should not be scoured with abrasive materials as they will remove the top coating. Warm water and dish soap with gentle wiping should do the trick.
Once you have picked the perfect material, the next thing to consider is the size. Many homes will have several of different sizes and shapes. It is a safe bet to invest in a 12 inch, round casserole dish. This size is perfect for a family meal.
Other shapes and their sizes include:
- 8 x 8-inch with a capacity of 2 quarts
- 7 x 11-inch with a 2-quart capacity
- 9 x 9-inch with a 2.5-quart capacity
- 9 x 13-inch, with a 3-quart capacity
- 9 x 5 x 9-inch with a capacity of 1.5 quarts
- 11 x 4 x 11-inch and 12 x 4 x 9-inch both with a capacity of 2.5-quarts
- 16.1 x 10.6 x 3.4-inch with a 3-quart capacity
While these are standard sizes, the capacity can vary from brand to brand. Choosing the right casserole dish size can make a world of difference to a recipe. Make sure you adjust your recipe accordingly.
Versatile and beautiful
Perhaps the most popular choice for a casserole dish that is versatile but beautiful is enameled cast-iron. As many casserole dishes are not suited to stovetop cooking, cast-iron casserole dishes are! They are versatile enough to be used for several dishes, including meals that need to be slow-cooked to perfection.
The dishes are perfect for catering as they are fantastic serving dishes as they retain heat, keeping food warm as it is served.
This article provided courtesy of Uno Casa cast iron products.