It turns out that many people don't actually know what a casserole is. Is it a cooking dish? Or is it tuna with noodles and green beans? And what is the difference between beef stew and beef casserole with vegetables…
On the one hand, a casserole is a type of cooking vessel. It's a deep, oven-safe pot that also doubles as a serving dish. Casseroles can be made out of tempered glass or stoneware, which is a fired ceramic pot that's more durable than ordinary clay earthenware. A casserole recipe refers to the food that is cooked in and served in the oven-safe glass or stoneware pot. So if you've ever wondered how a beef casserole differs from beef stew, oven-baked beef and veggies, skillet beef stir fry, or slow cooker beef stew, you need to look at how the beef recipe is cooked and not the ingredients you use to make the stew, stir fry, or casserole. If you're using an oven-safe baking dish to cook in and also to serve the food in, then it's a casserole recipe. If you're cooking your beef and veggies on a pan, in a skillet, or in a slow cooker, then it's not a casserole.
Fast Casserole Cooking Tips
You might have been sold on the idea that casseroles are a time-consuming meal, especially when you have a lot of mouths to feed. In a sense, that's true. But for a lot of casserole recipes, the prep time can be a bit longer than a slow cooker recipe or a skillet stir fry. That's because you have to brown meat on the stovetop before combining it with other ingredients. You also have to cook noodles and sometimes melt butter and sauté onions and mushrooms. Where you can save a lot of time is in the days to follow because you can have a lot of leftovers stashed away in the freezer for busy nights.
Here's a tip that can decrease your casserole prep time and cook time. Take leftover beef, chicken, or pork from dinner one night and use those leftovers for your casserole recipe on another night. So if you make roast chicken breast for dinner on Monday, use those leftovers to make Tuesday chicken casserole. This eliminates the stovetop browning step and it will also take less time for the casserole to bake in the oven.
Meat and pasta-based casseroles can have a longer prep time because you brown the meat on the stovetop before putting it in the casserole with the remaining ingredients. And if your recipe calls for noodles, you have to cook those first, too. If you're making a ground beef casserole with rice, then you have two extra preparation steps to add to the overall cook time. Make these classic casserole recipes on days when you have time to prepare a meal that has several steps and then you can place leftovers in the freezer nights when you don't have time to cook dinner.
To make a cube steak casserole, you need steak, potatoes, carrots, an onion, cream of chicken soup and/or cream of mushroom soup, and butter. First, sauté the beef and onions. At the same time, heat the soup and melt the butter. Put your solid ingredients in the casserole first and then pour the heated soup and butter on top. Finally, cover the casserole with a fitted lid or a sheet of aluminum foil and bake at 375-degrees F for about an hour.
To make a pork and noodle casserole, you will need pork loin, onion, celery, thyme, cream of mushroom soup, noodles, shredded Cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs, and butter. You have the option of adding a few different vegetables and mushrooms to the casserole. Here are some suggestions: green peas or green beans, pimiento or bell peppers, and cremini or button mushrooms. Before combining the casserole ingredients, brown the pork over medium heat in a little olive oil and cook the noodles in boiling water. Once the pork and noodles are finished cooking, combine all the ingredients -- except for the butter -- in the casserole. Then pour melted butter over the casserole ingredients and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. This will give the casserole a slightly crispy texture.
Both of these traditional casserole recipes make great leftovers, and both can also be made using leftover cubed steak, pork, or even chicken.
There are a few different recipes that come to mind when we think about classic casseroles. Tuna noodle casserole is one of those comfort-food recipes from childhood. And considering how easy this recipe is to make, it makes sense why it's the perfect meal for working parents and a couple kids. I originally learned to make this recipe with cream of chicken soup, but you can easily substitute the soup with other ingredients. You will need noodles, butter, mushrooms, flour, milk, mayonnaise, peas, and canned tuna. While the noodles cook, sauté mushrooms with butter, flour, and milk. When the mixture thickens, add mayo, peas, tuna, and peppers or drained pimiento. Once it simmers, allow to cook for another minute. Then blend the noodles with the tuna mixture in a casserole and bake for about 25 minutes at 350-degrees F. To give the casserole a slightly crispy texture, before placing it in the oven, combine melted butter and breadcrumbs or French fried onion rings, then pour the mixture over the casserole and then bake it until you see some bubbling and the top starts to brown.