The answer is…both! Read on to find out why.

Photo: Iain Bagwell

Every time you make a casserole ahead of time and freeze it, an angel gets its wings. (Or something like that.) Everyone can agree that any sort of meal prep done ahead of time is time well spent. And a heat-and-eat casserole can be especially handy when faced with an unexpected crowd for dinner, a week when you’re too busy to cook, or just simply don’t want to, or if you have a neighbor in need of a meal delivery.

Once you’ve chosen your casserole and prepared the recipe, the question is whether to bake it, then let it cool and freeze it, or to freeze it as-is, before it goes into the oven. The answer depends on what’s in it. If the casserole has raw protein (meat, poultry, seafood) in it, it should be completely cooked before freezing. Line the baking dish with enough aluminum foil so that there is overhang on all sides. When it is done cooking, let the hot casserole cool a bit, then carefully remove it from the pan by lifting up the foil on both sides. Wrap up the casserole in the foil, then wrap it again in another layer or two of foil. Label the foil then store in the freezer until you’re ready to reheat.

Watch: Our Cheesiest Casserole Recipes Ever

If the casserole has cooked protein or none at all (like a pan of macaroni and cheese), you can freeze the uncooked casserole without baking it. Again, line the empty baking pan with aluminum foil leaving overhang on all sides. Prepare the casserole in the dish, fold over the foil to cover, then freeze overnight. Once frozen solid, lift it up out of the pan, and wrap with another layer of foil before placing labeling it and placing it back in the freezer.

Whether you pre-cook the casserole or not, let is thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking it in the oven for best results.

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