Consider Thanksgiving a marathon, not a sprint; it can be a week or two of eager preparation that results in one enjoyable day of feeding people and eating your weight in turkey and pie and maybe napping after. You don’t want to be so tired from cooking you can’t even enjoy your beautifully prepared meal.
One of the best ways to get ahead of the Thanksgiving game is by relying on your freezer—it’s a casserole-friendly holiday anyways, and there’s a wide range of dishes that can be prepped ahead of time, frozen and then baked or reheated in the oven on Thanksgiving day. The OXO Glass Bakeware line(Opens in a new window) is specifically designed to withstand extreme temperature changes so that your dishes can go directly from freezer to oven without having to thaw, saving you both time and energy. You can even make a double batch and eat the second one for dinner the week after Thanksgiving (when you don’t even want to think about cooking). Here's how long Thanksgiving leftovers last and creative ideas for what to make with Thanksgiving leftovers.
What You Can Freeze-and-Bake
- Mashed creamy potatoes
- Cranberry sauce
- Purees for pie filling, soup, and other sides
- Pie crust or whole unbaked pie
Here are some tips and tested recipes to make your Thanksgiving dishes their best, even after they’ve had a stint in the freezer:
Cheese Is Your Friend
For something like a broccoli casserole or even mashed potatoes, adding an additional layer of shredded cheese on top in the last 30 minutes of reheating in the oven will prevent the top from drying out, and cover up any blemishes that may have appeared in the freezer-storing process.
Foil is Also Your Friend
While we recommend using a lid(Opens in a new window) when storing your prepared dish in the freezer, when it comes to reheating it in the oven, switch to foil for baking. The dishes have to completely defrost and bake in the oven, which leads to a longer cook time. Covering with foil helps retain any moisture or liquid that might be lost during this long period in the oven.
Go Full Fat
Skip the skim milk and go full-fat with plenty of butter or heavy cream when making mashed potatoes. Without the full-fat dairy, your potatoes will turn out watery when you re-bake ‘em in the oven.
Pre-Cook Fruit for Pie
While some traditional pie makers may cringe at the thought of precooking apples in the filling, it is necessary to saute or roast the fruit beforehand in order to remove extra juices that can make a frozen pie soggy.
Par-Cook the Pasta
You want to avoid mushy pasta at all costs. If you’re cooking any sort of pasta (did someone say pumpkin mac and cheese?) be sure to par-cook before freezing. Depending on the type of pasta, some thinner pastas can even go in uncooked. For instance, Rigatoni noodles typically takes 10-11 minutes to cook but you’ll only need 4 minutes if you want to include it in your freeze and bake dish.
Get rid of as much moisture as possible. By cooking vegetables separately and allowing them to drain on paper towels, you’re able to use moisture heavy vegetables like squash and eggplant without resulting in a liquidy mush. Salt the vegetables to extract liquid. If using frozen vegetables or fruits, thaw then dry before preparing the dish to rid of excess moisture.
Avoid Frozen Insides
Make sure you reheat whatever you’re freezing-and-baking long enough to heat it all the way through. Reheat in the oven for about 1 hour longer than the original baking time.
If you’d like to give the freezer-to-oven technique a try, Amy from the OXO Baking Team developed several Thanksgiving recipes for the different pieces of OXO Glass Bakeware(Opens in a new window): stuffing, rolls, and pie!
Make Ahead Recipes That Freeze Well
Freeze-and-Bake Stuffing Recipe
Stuffing or dressing, depending on where're from, is a perfect freezer-to-oven dish. We add less liquid initially to allow the stuffing to fully steam in the oven and turn up the heat to create a crisp and golden top.
Makes 2 quarts
1 lb breakfast sausage, removed of any casings
2 onions, medium diced
5 stalks of celery, medium diced
1 apple, we prefer Granny Smith
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
½ cup chopped pecans
7 cups stale cubed or torn country bread (good tip: oven-stale bread by toasting it on Half Sheet Pans at 200 F until edges are firm and have a crunch)
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1. In a large saute pan over medium heat, add sausage and break into bits. Continue to cook the sausage until it is no longer pink, 3-5 minutes.
2. Add onion, celery, apple, and dried thyme and sage and cook until onions are beginning to turn translucent, 3-5 minutes. Remove sausage mixture and set aside in a large bowl.
3. With the pan still over medium heat, add stock and scrape any brown bits that cling to the bottom and sides of pan. Add stock and pecans to sausage mixture. Fold in the bread, beaten eggs, and vinegar until well combined. Pour into a 2 Quart Baking Dish(Opens in a new window). Cover and freeze.
4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Cover stuffing tightly with foil, and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until stuffing is bubbling and middle is cooked through. Turn the oven up to 375 and remove foil. (Side note: if you have a gas oven, please remove pan while your oven preheats!) Bake until top is golden brown and crusty, about 10-15 minutes.
Freeze-and-Bake Onion Rolls
Making homemade bread is easy with this simple recipe. We used the flavor of French onion soup as inspiration for these rolls.
Makes 3 quarts
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (¼ oz)
3 tablespoons butter
3 medium onions, sliced
½ tsp dried thyme
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1. In a large saucepan, heat milk, sugar, oil, and sugar over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally. Immediately remove from heat and allow to cool until warm, between 105-110°F. Sprinkle yeast over the top of the milk mixture and allow to proof for 2 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of flour and cover with a towel. Keep in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and add onions. Stir occasionally, and cook until onions are caramelized, 15-20 minutes. Add thyme and vinegar, scraping any brown bits off the pan. Set aside to cool.
3. After 1 hour, add remaining ½ cup flour, baking soda, and baking powder to dough, using hands to incorporate. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface. Flour rolling pin and hands, and roll into an 18 inch by 12 inch rectangle. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle onion mixture and cheese evenly over the top of the dough. Starting on the long edge of the dough, begin to tightly roll the dough toward you, forming a log shape. Slice off ends and discard (or bake immediately for a little snack). Cut log into 12 pieces and space out evenly in 2 Qt Baking Dish(Opens in a new window). Cover and freeze.
4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325. Completely wrap the Dish with foil (this will prevent burning on the bottom of the rolls), and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until rolls have risen and cheese is bubbling. The rolls in the middle should be cooked through. Turn the oven up to 375 and remove foil. (Side note: if you have a gas oven, please remove pan while your oven preheats!) Bake until top is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
Freeze-and-Bake Pie Crust
Fruit pies freeze and bake very well. The long baking time allows for a crisp bottom crust. This method works with any store-bought pie crust, but here’s our favorite recipe.
12 tbs butter, cold (1 1/2 sticks of butter)
2 1/2 cups (10.2 oz) pastry flour (we’ve used cake flour as well)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cups cream cheese
3 tbs heavy cream
1 tbs cider vinegar
1. Cut butter into small (half-inch) cubes and place in refrigerator until ready to use. Place flour, salt, baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
2. Add cream cheese and rub the mixture between fingers to blend the cream cheese into flour until it resembles a coarse meal.
3. Add the butter and use fingers again to flatten the butter into thin flakes while tossing pieces together with flour. Sprinkle mixture with cream and vinegar, and use a spatula to combine until the dough comes together. Don’t worry about overmixing/overworking, this recipe needs some handling to come together. Feel free to do this by hand if it is easier.
4. By the time you're done mixing, the dough should hold together in one piece and feel a little stretchy. Divide the dough into two and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to 2 days.
5. When ready to bake, roll dough out into a 14 inch circle to use for either a top or bottom crust.
Freeze-and-Bake Apple Pie Filling
While some traditional pie makers may cringe at the thought of precooking apples in the filling, it's necessary to remove extra juices that can make a frozen pie soggy.
4 tbs butter (1/2 stick of butter)
2 lbs Granny Smith apples, cut into ¼ inch pieces
2 lbs Honeycrisp apples, cut into ¼ inch pieces
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1. In a medium stockpot, melt butter over medium heat. Add apples, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon and stir to combine.
2. Cover partially, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apple begins to soften and release juices, about 8-10 minutes.
3. While the apples cook, whisk together vinegar and cornstarch until no lumps remain. Remove apples with a slotted spoon and place in a medium bowl. Simmer the juices for 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in vinegar mixture. Once the sauce has thickened, remove from heat, and toss with cooked apples. Allow to cool to room temperature before filling pie.
4. Meanwhile, position rolled out pie crust in your pie plate(Opens in a new window). Pour apple filling into bottom crust. Cover with top crust, cutting out shapes or slits on the top, which will allow steam to escape. Cover and freeze.
5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Cover pie tightly with foil, and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, until filling is bubbling and middle is cooked through. Remove foil. Bake until top is golden brown, an additional 15-20 minutes. Allow pie to rest for 2 hours before serving.
Freeze-and-Bake Almond Cherry Pie Filling
Using frozen cherries is a great shortcut when prep time is short.
2 lbs frozen cherries, thawed, drained
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon almond extract, optional
1. Mix cherries, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium stockpot. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
2. Place the pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently and lightly mashing cherries, until thickened. Take off heat and allow to cool to room temperature before filling pie.
3. Meanwhile, position rolled out pie crust in your pie plate(Opens in a new window). Pour cherry filling into bottom crust. Cover with top crust, ensuring there are slits on the top, which will allow steam to escape. Cover and freeze.
4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Cover pie tightly with foil, and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, until filling is bubbling and middle is cooked through. Remove foil. Bake until top is golden brown, an additional 15-20 minutes. Allow pie to rest for 2 hours before serving.
Get ready for Thanksgiving with the Cooking Tools You Need to Prepare Every Thanksgiving Dish and Must-Have Tools for Making Turkey.