Customer Reviews: The Best Make-Ahead Recipe
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VINE VOICEon August 25, 2007
If you don't own "Cover & Bake," this a five-star book; skip down to "Here's What I Like ..."

I think this may be the lowest rating I've ever given to a CI book (I own seven in the Best series and a handful of others.) If you own "Cover & Bake," you have many of the recipes in this book, hence the low rating.

Some of the shared recipes include:
Slow Cooker Favorites (5 of the 17 are shared with C&B)
-Pot Roast
-Beef Stew
-Beef & Barley Soup

Sides (There are two shared recipes)

Casseroles (There are more variations of the recipes in this book) both books share:
-Baked Ziti
-Mac & Cheese
-Chicken Enchiladas
-Chicken Pot Pie
-Beef Pot Pie
-Tamale Pie
-Shepherd's Pie
Lamb & Eggplant Moussaka
-Chicken & Rice Casserole

Breakfast & Breads (only the bread recipes are unique to this book. What irks me is that the same photo is used for the start of the breakfast chapters in each book.) Shared recipes are:
-24-Hour Omelet
-French Toast Casserole
-Breakfast Strata

Here is what I like about the book
-TOC in each chapter
-The Double-Duty Cooking Chapter is great -- cook a little extra now for tomorrow's dish that won't taste like leftovers
-All of the stews and the majority of the casseroles can be made ahead and frozen. Outside of those categories, you'll find maybe 10 additional recipes that can be frozen.
-Make-Ahead Holiday Menus

If you don't have "Cover & Bake" get this book. When reviewed in isolation, it is a five-star book. If you're deciding which to choose, this book has a range of recipes across appetizers, sides, main courses and desserts. If you're looking for a complete make-ahead meal, this book is the way to go.
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on July 22, 2007
I have purchased other make-ahead cookbooks, such as Once a Meal Cooking and Frozen Assets. This cookbook is the best I've found. This cookbook teaches you how to prepare dishes so that they test fresh when reheated.

I have tried several recipes in this cookbook and they have been great. I was skeptical that it was possible to freeze pasta dishes and reheat them without the pasta tasting mushy. But to my pleasant surprise, the pasta dishes were very good.

Some of the recipes in this book are not recommended for freezing. They are considered "make ahead" since they can be stored in your refrigerator for a few days before cooking or baking.
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on May 14, 2007
Once a month I get together with a friend and we make 10-12 meals to freeze for future use. I purchased this book with the understanding that there would be lots of recipes that I could make ahead and freeze. This book was not helpful for this purpose. There just weren't enough recipes that fall into the true make ahead and freeze category.

This book is well-organized, has good details/descriptions and some good recipes (some may be repeats from other publications). If you are a person who likes pictures, this book is not for you. I am a big fan of the publisher's other books. Sad that this one was such a disappointment!
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on September 28, 2012
This is hands-down my favorite of the Cooks Illustrated arsenal. If you're not familiar with what they do, they pretty much walk you through the conceptual creation of a particular dish and tell you everything that they were trying to do (or trying NOT to do) in their test kitchen. Each recipe reflects many trials to get the final product as universally appealing to their testers as possible.

I have read most of their cookbooks cover to cover like a novel, and you end up learning so much about the food you make and the foods you're afraid to make. This particular volume of make-ahead recipes has become a bible for me. I frequently entertain lots of people, whether family or friends, and yet I'm not the type that enjoys cooking while they're all there. I like to prep in advance and then pop everything into the oven so that the kitchen is mostly clean (we're typically hanging out in there, right?) and I can sit down and have a cocktail. My problem before was that I can't stand how the food quality goes down so dramatically when you cook in advance. With this cookbook you are able to create so many dishes that you never before thought would be possible to have done any time other than last-minute.

Now my kitchen is clean and I have so many more options than pot roast and new potatoes.
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on February 8, 2008
It was so interesting the trial and error of each recipe. They make suggestions why you use one product over another when you refrigerate or freeze your food. Great information regarding kitchen gadgets as well. I have several recipes marked to whip up and have made several things already. Some I didn't care for and others where very time consuming. The manicotti recipe is great fresh or from the freezer. It was hard to tell the difference between the two. I can't wait to make the chocolate molten cakes and the apple turnovers. You can freeze both of these and have them ready for company.
The roasted chicken filled my kitchen with heavenly smells yesterday and it tasted yummy. So tender and juicy!
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on November 29, 2008
Many of the recipes in this book were not only the best make-ahead recipes I've used, but some of the best recipes I've used. Pureed butternut squash, baked ziti, chicken and rice casserole, macaroni and cheese, and baked fish provencal are very good recipes whether you make them ahead or eat same day.

A unique feature of this book is the straight from freezer to oven approach for some of the baked goods. I have not previously seen a muffin recipe that goes straight from the freezer to the oven. This halves the time of making muffins, eliminates clean-up and results in warm fresh muffins for breakfast.

I used the make ahead mashed potatoes recipe for Thanksgiving. The recipe is too complicated to do if you have enough time to mash same day, but for a day when you're making 5 side dishes at once, it was great to pull these from the refrigerator, microwave and serve.

Like many Cook's Illustrated recipes, the recipes can be a little fussy and time consuming, but in most cases the results are worth it.
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on June 16, 2007
Though I have used the book a few times and had good to medium results, only 1 recipe I have connected with the freezer. I find it easier to cook once a week and freeze the meals, but most of the meals in this book don't lend easily to freezer cooking. Since freezer cooking was in the description when the book was available for pre order I expected a little more in that category.
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on June 3, 2015
I bought this book so that I could see what recipes would freeze well from the ATK/Cook's Illustrated/Cook's Country collection. Because the book is all about "making ahead" it offers more recipes than just those that you pop in the freezer. Don't get me wrong, there are a bunch of them, marked with "Freeze It" above every recipe that they deem freeze worthy. But there are also a bunch of other types of make ahead recipes. Like, overnight, make a day before, set it and forget it in the crockpot, etc... At first, I was irked like a lot of people who have commented about the freezing thing, but then it dawned on me that:
1. It says Make Ahead in the title, not Freeze
2. This could actually teach me something here :)
If you're like me, Monday through Friday is exhausting. When I get home from work, I am too drained to even think about what to eat, let alone cook it! I love to cook though and always enjoy it like a hobby on weekends. SO, what this book made me think was that there are some recipes that I can freeze for later in the coming week, or even way ahead of that, and some I can prep and whip together quickly Monday and Tuesday. It takes the guess work out of weekday suppers and makes it easier than starting from scratch.

The other big thing about this book (if you have never made or heard of America's Test Kitchen recipes before) is you can rely on these folks. These recipes are not hit and miss and this book is not going to collect dust. Make enough of them, and you start noticing techniques repeat into a habit, like blooming spices and garlic in oil, and you feel more confident as a cook. At least that has been the case with me. I really trust them.

I do have one gripe and that is just how it is organized. It is appetizer, casserole, sauces... I wish those were sub-categories and the big categories were Freezer Recipes: appetizer, casserole, sauces...; 1-2 Days Ahead Recipes, etc. Just because I feel the need to mark with highlighters or post-its all the freezer recipes to make navigation for them easier, and I don't like marking books like this.

But again, I found there to be so much good information and SO many recipes (It's over 400 pages with often more than 2 or 3 recipes on the page and even variation ideas) that I can't help forgiving them for that. :)

One last thing a lot of folks may find useful and not be expecting it: There's a whole section on double duty recipes which are ones that help you do something with leftovers besides just eat them as is again.
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on January 21, 2011
I received this book as a Christmas gift. My husband knows I love Cook's Illustrated, and I like trying to cook ahead (since making dinner is a bit nuts with 3 little kids), so he picked this out for me. I'm almost done reading it cover to cover, and I love it!! It has CI's normal thorough explanation of how they created the recipe, plus the recipes are written very detailed & concise (helpful for a perfectionist like me!).

Now as for this book specifically, I like all the recipes they've given. The chapters are: Appetizers, Side Dishes, Double-Duty Cooking, Slow-Cooker Favorites, Stews, Chilis, and Sauces, Casseroles, Oven-Ready Entrees, Breakfast and Breads, Desserts, and Make-Ahead Holiday Menus. They range from basic, kid-friendly foods, to fancy, dinner party recipes. Some are a little too "out there" for me (I'm a little picky), but I'd say at least 75% of them are ones I'd like to eat.

The recipes I've made so far are: Classic Scalloped Potatoes, Chicken Enchiladas, and White Chicken Chili. They have 2 things in common- they were all time-consuming, but they were all the BEST version of those foods I have EVER eaten!!! They take a bit of time to make, but the payoff is that on a future date, I get to enjoy an awesome dinner with little to no preparation. I can't wait to make more of these recipes!
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on April 2, 2007
I have only had this book a few weeks and have made several recipes with amazing results. The Shepherd's Pie is the best I have ever had, and the freeze and cook directions are perfect. Cook's Illustrated does it again!
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