Entertaining
Make-Ahead Cooking Tips for Your Super Bowl Party (or Any Time of Year)
These tips are not made more or less effective by cheering for your favorite team.
01-31-2018
America's Test Kitchen

Are you ready for some. . . menu-planning? If you’re hosting or attending a Super Bowl party this weekend, it’s a good idea to build in some make-ahead recipe options. And even if football’s not in your plans this weekend, these tips are helpful anytime of year—no sports event necessary.

If you’re still finalizing your party menu, our digital special issue Game-Day Favorites contains 31 of our editors’ favorite recipes to serve to a sports- and food-loving crowd.

Tips for Making Appetizers Ahead

Keep Crudités Fresh: Crudités can be refrigerated for up to 2 days; store raw vegetables wrapped in damp paper towels in a zipper-lock bag and blanched vegetables in an airtight container. Celery and carrot sticks can also be refrigerated by standing them in a glass with a few ice cubes in the bottom for extra freshness.

You Can Fry in Advance: Our Buffalo Wings recipe can be made up to 1½ hours in advance. Fry the wings and prepare the sauce, then toss them together when ready to serve.

Give Dips Time to Meld: For some dips, a stay in the fridge helps their flavors to meld. So making dishes like hummus and spinach dip in advance isn’t only efficient, it’s better for their flavor.

Tips for Making Chili Ahead

Practice Smart Storage: If making chili in advance, avoid the temptation to transfer it, still hot, to the refrigerator; you may speed up the cooling process, but you’ll also increase the fridge’s internal temperature to unsafe levels. Instead, let the chili cool on the countertop for an hour, at which point the temperature will drop to about 85 degrees. At that point, it can be transferred safely to the fridge.

Reheat Slowly: To reheat chili, simmer it gently on the stovetop in a sturdy, heavy-bottomed pot, stirring often. You can adjust the consistency of it with hot water. You can also use the microwave. Just be sure to cover the dish with a plate to prevent a mess (we don’t recommend using plastic wrap).

Tips for Making Casseroles and Pasta Ahead

Assemble in Advance: Most cheese-and-pasta casseroles can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, covered with aluminum foil, and refrigerated for 24 hours. To bake, unwrap casserole, cover with greased aluminum foil, and bake at the temperature specified in the recipe until hot. Then remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese is golden.

Boost Flavor Before Serving: Dressing a pasta salad before storing is a great way to build flavor, but we recommend reserving some of the dressing and stirring it in just before serving not only freshens the flavor of the stored dish, but also brightens the color and makes it more appealing.

Budget Enough Time to Serve Dishes at the Appropriate Temperature: Cold can mask flavor, selling your pasta salad short. If you make a dish that should be served at room temperature in advance, make sure to leave enough time for it to come back up to room temp after you pull it from the fridge.

Tips for Making Desserts Ahead

Bake and Freeze Cakes: Freezing layer cakes is a great way to reduce the amount of work needed on the day of your party. To ensure that your cakes retain their quality, wrap the completely cooled, unfrosted cakes in a double layer of plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, and freeze them for up to one month. To defrost a frozen cake, thaw it completely at room temperature, 4 to 6 hours. Note that the surfaces of defrosted cakes will be a bit moist and tacky, so be sure to apply the frosting gently to avoid tearing the crust.

Make Frosting First: Most frostings can be held at room temperature for up to 3 hours or refrigerated for up to 2 days. Before using, bring the frosting to room temperature and whisk briefly to re-fluff.

Whip Cream In Advance: Whipped cream can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Transfer it to a fine-mesh strainer, set it over a small bowl, cover it, and transfer it to the refrigerator.

Bake and Refresh Cookies: Most cookie dough can be made in advance, shaped into balls, and frozen for up to 1 month. Baked cookies (with the exception of cookies that have been glazed or dusted with confectioners’ sugar) can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. To refresh them, place the cookies in a 425-degree oven for 4 to 5 minutes.

Find More Make-Ahead Tips

No guessworks. No mistakes. The Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook

How many times have you wanted to make lasagna or chicken pot pie in advance, only to be discouraged by recipe after recipe that doesn’t tell you how? Should you make it, then store it, or vice versa? The experts here at America’s Test Kitchen have eliminated the guesswork of cooking in advance with 500 recipes that spell out all the make-ahead options.
 

What are you serving at your Super Bowl party? Let us know in the comments! And for more information on make-ahead cooking and entertaining, check out these articles:

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