Casseroles are popular in several cultures and cuisines throughout the world. Each culture adds its own unique flavours and ingredients to create distinctive dishes.
The word ‘casserole’ comes from the French word ‘casse’, meaning a deep and large dish. These dishes are incredibly versatile, economical and energy efficient as they can cook multiple ingredients together in one pot.
A casserole dish is an essential tool in any kitchen, and before purchasing one it is important to research and consider various options to select the best one for your needs.
Factors to consider
A casserole dish is a thick-walled, deep pot with a tight-fitting lid. The main advantage of cooking in such a pot is that the heat is distributed evenly, thus making it suitable for a wide range of ingredients and cooking methods. They are usually made of cast iron, enamelled cast iron, cast aluminium or ceramic.
Casserole dishes come in several sizes, with the 9×13 inch dish being the most popular. It is important to figure out the best size for you based on your cooking needs and the number of people you usually cook for.
It is important to pay attention to the casserole’s lid too, as a tight-fitting lid is best for heat retention, enabling efficient cooking.
Basting spikes on lids are a useful feature to consider when selecting a casserole dish. These spikes, also known as condensation spikes, are small protrusions on the underside of the lid. They work by collecting the condensation that forms during cooking on the lid’s surface. As the moisture accumulates, it drips back into the food, ensuring that the ingredients are moist, tender and succulent.
Ensure the handles are sturdy and heat resistant, and avoid handles made of stainless steel as they absorb the dish’s heat. Look for dishes with larger loop handles or a combination of a main handle and a helper handle to ensure effortless handling.
Cast iron or enamelled cast iron?
Enamelled cast iron has a porcelain coating applied to the surface of the cast iron, while regular cast iron has no coating and is just bare iron. The enamel coating makes enamelled cast iron easier to clean, as it is non-reactive and doesn’t absorb flavours from foods. It also eliminates the need for seasoning.
However, enamelled cast iron is not as good at developing a non-stick seasoning and is more prone to chipping and cracking. Additionally, regular cast iron can withstand higher temperatures and is better for searing and high heat cooking.
Another advantage offered by enamelled cast iron casserole dishes is that they are resistant to rust and provide a variety of colour options to match your kitchen decor.
Before purchasing, it is important to explore the different materials, sizes, and brands. Some popular brands to be considered are Le Creuset, Pyrex, Staub, and Great Jones. Usually, cast iron dishes are more affordable, with prices ranging from $30 to $150, depending on the size and brand. Enamelled cast iron casserole dishes tend to be pricier, going up to $500. It is also important to check for a warranty on the manufacturer’s label.
To season your cast iron casserole dish, apply a thin layer of vegetable oil or shortening to the pot and heat it in the oven at a high temperature for about an hour. If you use the dish regularly, repeat this process after every few uses to maintain the seasoning, as it protects the casserole dish against rust and creates a natural non-stick surface.
Maintenance is crucial to ensuring the longevity of your dish. After each use, ensure the pot is thoroughly dry to prevent the formation of rust. For cast iron dishes, lightly coat the interior with vegetable cooking oil before storing it in a dry place to prevent any moisture buildup.
Always use oven mitts or pot holders when handling a hot dish to prevent burns. Do not expose the pot to sudden temperature changes, such as placing it under the tap immediately after use, as this may cause it to warp or crack. Always use wooden or silicone utensils to prevent any scratches or scrapes.
Allow the pot to cool before cleaning, and avoid using abrasive steel scrubbers as they damage the surface of the dish. Use hot water and a soft sponge to gently rub the casserole dish and always check the manufacturer’s guidelines before popping it in the dishwasher.
Casserole dishes are highly versatile and can be used for a wide range of cooking methods such as baking bread, simmering soups or making lasagna. This versatility of this pot makes it a valuable addition to your kitchen.
Do you have a casserole dish? Did you do much research before purchasing yours? Let us know in the comments section below.
Also read: Never keep these things on a kitchen bench