Half a Casserole: What to consider?
When adjusting a recipe for a casserole or really any oven-baked dish, there are two primary things to consider:
• Volume - Quarts or liters
• Surface area - How many square inches or centimeters are exposed on the top of the casserole?
The volume is the first and most important: If this recipe makes 3 quarts of cheesy pasta, for instance, then halving it will make 1.5 quarts. Therefore you need a 1.5 quart dish.
But not all 1.5 quart dishes are created equal; a tall, narrow bowl will not give you the right proportion of crunchy top to creamy innards that you expect. And a wide, shallow dish may mean that your casserole bakes far too fast and gets too dry.
So when halving a casserole recipe you need to find a dish that a) Has the appropriate volume for the halved recipe and b) Has approximately the same proportions as the original dish.
How much does a 9x13-inch pan make?
Having said all that, here are some specific tips:
• A 9x13-inch pan holds between 12 and 14 cups and has 117 square inches of surface area.
• Therefore, halving pretty much any recipe that goes into a 9x13-inch pan means that you need a pan that holds between 6 and 8 cups and has about 60 square inches of surface area.
• Fortunately, most of us have such a pan! An 8x8-inch pan holds 8 cups of volume, and has 64 square inches of surface area.
The 8x8-inch pan is just slightly bigger than a halved 9x13, so if halving a recipe you may want to reduce the baking time by about 5 minutes, and check on the casserole then. But ultimately, this has always worked well for me. When halving a basic 9x13 casserole, cut the recipe in half and bake it in an 8x8-inch pan.
For more pan volume info and some size conversions:
• Pan Sizes at Joy of Baking
One final tip: If a recipe calls for just 1 egg, still include that entire egg when halving the recipe. Yes, it may be slightly wetter, but it's better to do this than try to "halve" an egg or make a substitution. Most casserole recipes are loose enough around the edges that there is plenty of room for this kind of thing.
Do you ever halve casseroles? Do you have any tricks or tips for reducing big dishes to more modestly-sized portions for households of one or two?
(Images: via Amazon)