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Sep 18, 2013 04:16 AM

Thawing lasagna/moussaka advice needed

So I have two aluminum-foil pans of moussaka in my freezer, rectangular, with the food about 2" deep. I figure this is like thawing a lasagna, which I know lots of people do regularly.

I don't often cook-ahead and freeze. I'm serving it the second night.

I have a choice of three thawing venues: A cooler chest. A Kool-a-tron (a travel cooler made to plug into a car - I keep it on a high shelf and use it on 3-day chagim). My crowded refrigerator.

Advice I need: Where would you put it to cool and for how many hours?

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  1. I would use either the Kool-a-tron of your refrigerator, probably the Kool-A=Tron which will be opened less than you fridge.
    In general I don't like to keep meat (cooked or raw) more than a few hours in a cooler chest, as the temperature is too variable.

    FWIW>>>depending on your timing. Frozen Moussaka or lasagne can go directly from the freezer into a 325F oven for about 2-2 1/4 hours and be fine. When I make lasagne, baked ziti, stuffed shells, moussaka, etc. I make as many 1lb aluminum trays that will fit in the oven (both racks) then cool and seal the trays with the foil cardboard tops, label and freeze. This size is perfect dinner for two+. Often one of us will simply throw it in the oven at 5:30 to eat at 7:30. We've done this for more than 30 years
    Baking the frozen Lasagna/moussaka is no different than opening that frozen commercial box you bought at the grocery store..........
    Defrosting is not necessary. In this case you probably have more space in your freezer than for refrigerated items.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. I need to reheat the mossaka after lighting candles and before serving dinner, a window of ~an hour. So it needs to be thawed.

        The question is, how long does it take for a lasagna (full pan, 2" deep) to thaw?

        Bagelman, thank you. Things can take surprisingly long to thaw. For example a cooler packed with frozen food will still be frozen after a 4-6 hour drive to a vacation spot. And a small number of refrigerated items inserted into such a cooler full of frozen meat will freeze.

        6 Replies
        1. re: AdinaA

          I'd put it on the counter to thaw lunch time

          1. re: AdinaA

            Thing is, I don't think you can take it out to thaw on Thursday, for the same reason you can't put it in the oven to bake. The only way I see to do this is to put it in the oven on Thursday, early enough that it will be edible (if only barely) before sunset, and then actually eat a little of it before sunset. Best to do this without removing the entire tray from the oven, just slide it out a bit, uncover and take a bit for yourself, then push it back and shut the door on it.

            1. re: zsero

              Yeah, that occurred to me about when I began thinking about shat to set aside for the eruv tavshilin (does anybody else have difficuty on focusing on quesiton like this until the chag is almost upon us) Answering Bagelman also got me worrying about how long frozen things take to thaw in a cooler chest. So, a couple of hours ago I put both large pans of moussaka into the cooler chest. I'll transfer them to the fridge just before candle lighting, when, not incidentally, I'll be removing other things from the fridge to serve tonight.

              I know that I am very fortunate to have a sukkah that is larger than many Manhattan apartments, but

              The biggest engineering challenge is how to serve 6 company meals over the course of 3 days to family and guests with one normal-size refrigerator. I have a cooler and I bought that Kool-a-tron. But I have intense envy of all the cooks in Teaneck and the Five Towns (you know who you are) who have a second refrigerator for use on the chagim.

              I'm going to try to keep track of how long the thawing takes, for future use. If I don't report back, check VosIzNeias for reports of an entire family with guests hospitalized for food poisoning after consuming previously-frozen moussaka.

              1. re: zsero

                if it was put in the cooler chest, then it is already in the thawing process before yuntif. I'm certainly not the one to poskin, but I did ask my BIL, the rabbi, and he said you could then take the tray which was not under mechanical refrigeration and place it on the counter to continue thawing Thursday, expecially as this is already fully cooked food. It is something that could be eaten cold, room temp or hot from the oven.

                1. re: zsero

                  I always thought what you said was true, but I happened to be reading "The Laws of Yom Tov" by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen (Artscroll) the other day, and I was greatly surprised to read the following: "If food that is needed for the second night of Yom Tov is stored in the freezer, removing it during the first day in order to defrost it is an act of preparing for the next day. Nevertheless, if waiting until the night to defrost it will cause an undue delay to the meal, one may remove it from the the freezer during the day. However, one should remove it early enough in the day that it not be obvious that he is defrosting it for use at night." (p.34)

                  I am not a fan of Artscroll at all for various reasons, and I generally find their halacha overly stringent, so this really surprised me.

                  1. re: queenscook

                    Wow, interesting. Thanks for posting that bit of information.
                    Because I live in Israel, it's now theoretical for me (except for RH), but I remember as a newlywed in chu'l, standing in my kitchen after candlelighting the 2nd day and realizing that the main course I'd carefully prepared in advance and frozen just wasn't going to thaw/heat in the hour I had ahead of me.

              2. Answering my own quesiton, I had two large foil pans of moussaka frozen solid. I set them in a cooler chest before noon and shortly before sunset they were still frozen solid. I moved them to the refrigerator. Early afternoon the next day they were still pretty much frozen. One of our household is expecting and eats about 5 meals a day, and the toddlers needed a healthy dinner ong before candlelighting. So I set the moussaka on the blech on medium low at about 3pm to heat for their dinner. By 5:30 the edges were hot enough to eat. By about 6:30 I had to move it off the direct heat, but when time we sat down in the sukkah it was bubbling hot. Had to be carried very carefully (I slid the pans into duplicate foil pans.)

                And it was absolutely delicious! I sort of combined Susie Fishbein's recipe with teh one from the FoodNetwork. Used soymilk for eht bechamel And - masterstroke - I used GrowandBehold's bulk sweet Italian sausage. Their sausage is fabulous. The moussaka was beyond wonderful. A sukkahful of foodies was wowed! And the benefit of having a main course that wonderful that I could make and freeze more than a week ahead is incomparable.