Everything You Need To Know About Casserole Dishes

SomethingSwanky is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

As I’ve said in previous posts, casseroles and the other “everything but the kitchen sink”-type dishes you can make in a casserole dish are some of my very favorite recipes out there. They’re extremely easy to prepare, they’re easy to customize with your favorite ingredients, and they’re delicious. I especially love making casseroles during the springtime, because I can add in the fresh vegetables I pick up at the local farmer’s market.

In this post, I’ll answer a ton of commonly-asked questions about casseroles, casserole recipes, and everything else you can make in them. I’ll even reveal a few of my very favorite casserole dishes and the recipes I prepare in them.

About Casserole Dishes

First, let’s define exactly what a casserole and a casserole dish are and answer some questions about them in the process.

What is a Casserole?

Loosely, a casserole is any recipe prepared in a casserole dish. Under that definition, the final product could range from a stew to a more strictly divided bake.

“Casserole purists” like myself would tell you that a dish only really qualifies as a casserole if it contains the three main elements that make a casserole a casserole: a protein such as ground meat or tofu, vegetables, and a starch or grain that binds them together. Most would argue that a creamy filling like milk or eggs and a cheesy melt on top are also essential parts of a casserole. When making casserole, using fresh or otherwise high-quality ingredients is absolutely essential as they can affect not only the taste but also the texture of the dish.

What is a Casserole Dish?

“Casserole” is technically just the French word for “saucepan,” but the term has evolved to refer to a thick, deep oven-safe dish. Casserole dishes are better than almost any other bakeware at evenly distributing heat on each side of the dish’s surface, which is why they excel at making medley dishes like casseroles. Casserole dishes generally don’t include a lid, so the top of the casserole will get cooked a bit more than any other part of the dish unless you want to improvise a lid using tin foil.

A casserole dish is, by definition, large enough to make at least a few servings each batch. Individual dishes for making casserole-like recipes are called ramekins.

Cleaning Casserole Dishes

After pulling a casserole dish out of the oven and transferring the casserole itself to another plate, the dish will probably be pretty messy. Casserole dishes don’t have nonstick coatings because they have to be able to withstand high temperatures for long periods of time, so knowing how to get the food residue off effectively is key.

The best way to clean a casserole dish is with Bar Keepers Friend, the all-purpose cookware cleaning solution that’s pretty close to miraculous. Just rinse the dish with water, sprinkle a bit of powdered BKF along the bottom, let it sit for 30 seconds, and then sponge off the dish and watch all the residue fall away like magic.

If you don’t have any Bar Keepers Friend, the next-best solution is to use baking soda or substitute for baking soda and dish soap. Coat the bottom of the dish with a thin layer of baking soda and drizzle over it a few drops of dish soap. Then fill the pan with hot water and let the sudsy mixture sit in the pan for 15 minutes. Finally, sponge the dish off.

The Best Casserole Dish Models

You’d be amazed how big a difference a high-quality casserole dish can make in terms of final product quality. In other words, you’ll more than likely end up with a subpar casserole unless you use a good dish to cook it, even if you do everything else right. That’s why I’ve put together this table with four of my favorite casserole dishes of all time.

I’ve made sure to shoot for diversity in my top four list, choosing entries for best overall casserole dish, best stoneware casserole dish, best heavy-duty casserole dish, and best casserole dish set. Be sure to check out the brief summaries of each model below the table for even more info on each one.

Best Of…ModelDimensionsPrice Range
BudgetRectangle Pan9”x13”$
StonewareLe Creuset Covered Baking Dish9”x15”$$$
Heavy-Duty9”x13” Baking Dish9”x13”$$
SetEnsemble Cork Bakeware10.25”x16”10”x12.75”8.25”x11.25” (oval)$$$$$

1. Budget: Rectangle Pan

by Caraway

Rectangle Pan

This piece may be inexpensive, but that does not mean that the build is low-quality. In fact, the combination of an aluminized stainless steel body with a ceramic coating is pretty great in terms of functionality. The aluminized steel is light and has a very durable feel, and it is oven-safe up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit (more than you’ll ever need to cook any casserole) thanks to stainless steel’s sky-high heat resistance. The ceramic coating is slick, making it easy to release food without breakage. It comes in seven really nice colors, too.

2. Stoneware: Le Creuset Covered Baking Dish

by Crate & Barrel

Le Creuset Covered Baking Dish

Stoneware is known for being extremely durable and conducting heat better than nearly any other material used for cookware, and this model does not disappoint in those regards. It even includes a lid that takes full advantage of the material’s superior heat distribution by trapping in the temperature. It also helps infuse casseroles and other similar dishes with more flavor by making them cook in their own aroma.

Since the combination of the stone material and the lid traps heat so well, this dish functions almost just as well in the microwave or toaster oven as it does in the traditional oven. The brilliant enamel glaze on the stone counteracts a lot of the failings commonly seen in stone cookware, such as difficulty to clean or absorption of odors over time.

This model also wins my #1 distinction in the category of aesthetics; all 11 colors it’s available in are rich and have a pleasingly natural look that fits into any kitchen beautifully.

3. Heavy-Duty: 9”x13” Baking Dish

by Made in Cookware

9”x13” Baking Dish

This dish isn’t quite as pretty as the others on this list, instead opting for a rugged and durable look that would fit right into an industrial kitchen. It will probably last you a lifetime, too, with its solid high-fired clay design and its crack- and heat–proof enameled surface. The dish is even thermal shock-resistant, meaning it can go straight from the freezer to the hot oven or vice-versa without risking damage.

The dish is big enough for a whole party, with a capacity of 5.3 quarts. It’s still easy to transport, though, because it’s surprisingly light considering how heavy-duty it is.

4. Set: Ensemble Cork Bakeware

by West Elm

Ensemble Cork Bakeware

This set of three stoneware casserole dishes is an excellent solution for any new members of the casserole connoisseurs club. The dishes have nice classic designs and thick walls that enhance durability and distribute heat well. The handles on each dish are also highlights; they are ergonomically designed and make carrying around these casserole dishes easier than any other model I’ve used.

The sustainable cork trays that come with each piece are amazing additions that make this set stand out. They’re great for placing your dishes when they are hot to keep them from burning the counter or the table, and they insulate heat so that your casserole will not get cold even if it is left out for a while in one of them.

Casserole Dish FAQs

Last, let’s look at some pressing questions involving casserole dish use.

Should I cover my casserole with foil?

It’s a good idea to cover your casserole with foil for most of its cooking time. Covering it with foil helps to trap in moisture and aromas, increasing the flavor of the dish and giving it a slightly creamier consistency (something which some people like and others don’t). It also helps distribute heat evenly and prevent burning.

If you do cover the casserole in the oven, I’d recommend uncovering it during the last few minutes of cooking. Doing so melts the cheese on top (an ingredient of any great casserole, in my opinion) and usually creates a brown, crispy top layer that I personally love.

What temperature is best for slow cooking casseroles in the oven?

Around 220 degrees Fahrenheit is an excellent temperature for slow-cooking a casserole. At that temperature, you should probably let the casserole sit in the oven for 8-10 hours. Of course, you need to bump up the heat if you’re cooking for a shorter time – 300-400 degrees is best for a quicker cooking time.

What is the key to making a good casserole?

Make sure to include the five elements of any great casserole, which are:

1. A protein, like minced meat, cubed tofu, or Portobello mushrooms.
2. Vegetables. Canned vegetables are okay, but using fresh ones increases the flavor of the dish and gives it more texture. This is why I love making casseroles during Springtime, aka fresh vegetables season.
3. A creamy addition like eggs, butter, or, best of all, cream!
4. A starch or grain, like mashed potatoes, cassava, or bread, to bind together the meat, vegetables, and creamy filler.
5. Cheese sprinkled on top.

Cover the casserole dish with tin foil or a lid for the first 80% of its cooking time and uncover it for the last 20% of the time. It will come out delicious every time.

Casserole Recipes

Now that you’ve got some good casserole dish recommendations and a solid understanding of what makes casserole great, it’s time to look at some recipes! Here are a few of my favorite casserole recipes:

Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

Corn Pudding Recipe

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole Recipe

On a Casser-roll!

A casserole is like a canvas, and the cook is the painter. There are so many different routes the cook can take to making something fantastic. They might want to do something straightforward and traditional, or they might want to get crazy and use out-of-the-box ingredients one might not usually associate with casserole. Either way, just be sure to stick to a good casserole dish and the five basic elements of a good casserole and you can’t go wrong.

« Previous Post

5 Best Candy Thermometers for Your Next Sweet Treat

Next Post »

10 Insider Tips for Keeping Cold Foods Cold Outside

Leave a Comment