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What is Batch Cooking?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 16, 2024
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Batch cooking is when a cook makes a lot of a specific food all at once, then stores it in portions for later use. Most of the time, food made in batches is frozen, but it can also be refrigerated or kept in airtight containers for short periods of time depending on how it is meant to be used. Some people practice batch cooking as a way to make meals ahead of time for themselves and their families, while others use it as a way to produce a lot of food for events or to give away.

Essential Process

The basic idea behind batch cooking is to create a double, triple, or even quadruple recipe of particular meal or dish so that it can be quickly pulled together and served later on. Cooking multiple batches is generally quite efficient, since all of the ingredients can be purchased and cooked together. Most batch cooks use something of an assembly-line process, too, which helps things move a lot faster.

Reasons for Cooking in Batches

Batch cooking is often most attractive because of the time it saves. A cook who has done all of the preparations, cooking, and cleaning ahead of time typically has little more to do than defrost or re-heat a dish in order to create a home-cooked masterpiece, often on a moment’s notice. Cooks in this category tend to devote one day a week or month to cooking, then store the finished products in sealed freezer containers. This can be a great way to feed a family or to break individual meals into ready-to-reheat portions.

Batch cooking can also be beneficial when feeding a crowd. Caterers often use the batch process when making a main dish to serve an entire party or large event, for instance. Cooks may also make multiple dishes with the idea that some will be given away, either to families in need or to friends and neighbors.

Make-Ahead Main Dishes

Main dishes are some of the most poplar batch cooking options as they can easily yield a ready-to-eat meal. Casseroles, vegetable dishes, and some pasta dishes such as lasagna or baked ziti can all be frozen for a few months, then simply thawed and reheated when ready to enjoy. A number of meat dishes can be made ahead and frozen, particularly those involving thick cutlets or prepared fillets.

Soups and Stocks

Soups are also a good choice for batch cooking because they are easy to double or triple — and also because they are generally so easy to store and reheat. Many people who freeze soup in batches portion out individual or family-sized servings ahead of time. This way, a healthy lunch or dinner is as quick as selecting the right container and defrosting it.

Desserts, Breads, and Rolls

Baked goods also do well in batches and can typically be stored for quite some time when properly sealed. Bakers often produce more cookies, brownies, or muffins than they want to eat all at once. Keeping some in storage allows them to ensure that sweet treats or bread items will always be on hand for unexpected visitors, school snack obligations, or community bake sales.

Dishes That Don’t Usually Work Well

Innovative chefs can find ways to batch cook most any dish, though some recipes traditionally work better than others. In most cases, the simpler the dish, the easier it will be to store it in batches. Complicated meals that involve a lot of sauces and garnishes may not store well in bulk. The same holds true for dishes with more fragile ingredients, such as fish or fresh fruits and vegetables. When it comes to desserts, cakes and pies often do not store well for long periods of time — but they can always be made in large batches for immediate consumption.

Tips and Tricks

Most cooks recommend storing foods in quality, airtight containers, and freezing only once the dish has completely cooled. Warm foods often produce condensation, which can lead to freezer burn and excess moisture when reheated. In most cases, food should not be stored for more than six months in any event in order to maximize taste and nutritive content.

Of course, freezing is not the only storage option for batch cooking. Foods that will be consumed in a very short amount of time can be refrigerated. Canning and preserving will also work in some circumstances, but usually only where fruits and vegetables are concerned. Home preservation usually requires a lot of effort and adherence to rigorous processes to ensure proper food safety.

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Discussion Comments

By yumdelish — On May 18, 2011

@MissMuffet - it could be the way you are wrapping your baked goods before freezing them that's the problem.

Always make sure something is completely cold before you cover it tightly with a dedicated freezer wrap product. If it is at all warm you're going to get a kind of condensation effect. That makes it go soggy when defrosted.

If you prefer to use individual freezer bags, which are really convenient for muffins and cookies, be sure to get all of the air out.

By MissMuffet — On May 15, 2011

Batch cooking is something I grew up with, being one of six children. There was generally nothing left to store in the freezer of course.

I like to make cookies and bread or cake products in large quantities but I often find they are soggy when I defrost them. What am I doing wrong?

By Acracadabra — On May 14, 2011

Batch cooking recipes are a lifesaver when you live alone. I spend one day, once a month cooking, and this produces enough for me to avoid those dreadful pre-prepared freezer meals.

The initial investment in special food storage containers and some decent cooking equipment has more than paid off, though it was a little daunting at first. I save cash and eat much more healthy food.

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