The Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook – Review

I just received The Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen (ATK). Having just wrested it away from “Beloved Husband” I have finally managed to look through it. I know that right away this is going to become a cookbook for the special shelf, the one where all of my favorites are kept.

It’s a big cookbook with over 500 recipes that you can make up in advance. Every one of them can have at least part of the recipe made in advance, sometimes well in advance. Making in advance is so important for those of us with a busy life.

That this is an awesome cookbook isn’t terribly surprising. America’s Test Kitchen has produced some pretty great work for a long while now. Most of the recipes are tagged either Easy (which are 30 minutes or less of active time) or Freeze It which means it can be made ahead of time and then frozen. Many of the recipes have one or both of these options but all have options for prep ahead and reheat.

ATK has come up with several tips and tricks, you could even use them to adapt your own recipes. One excellent tip is about food storage containers. It explains their testing and the various uses for different types of containers because all containers are not created equal. With the wrong container, a casserole dish could virtually explode if taken directly from freezer to oven, not a fun time.

As ATK’s name suggests they test everything. There are results on what plastic wrap to use, zipper bags, what type of equipment will work best, even recommended appliances like slow cookers, Dutch ovens, and thermometers. They even go into quite good detail on how to stock your refrigerator and your freezer for best results. The eight rules for safer and more efficient food storage is an essential read and leads right into the first chapter of recipes.

Recipe Chapters

  • Appetizers
  • Soups, Stews, and Chilis
  • Salads
  • Pasta and Pizza
  • Poultry
  • Meat
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Vegetarian Mains
  • Sides
  • Holiday and Brunch Classics
  • Desserts

It all finishes up with Conversions and Equivalents.

Throughout the book are little pages of information about various topics. The one that caught my eye was all about mushrooms. The page describes the various types of mushrooms, their uses, how to buy them, how to clean them, how to store them, everything you need to know.

The recipes themselves couldn’t be more clear. Each recipe tells you how much it makes, how much active time it will take and the total time etc. It would probably be unreasonable to ask a recipe book that has 500 recipes in it to have full page photos of each recipe. But many do have lovely colour pics of the dish. Visualize how a step is completed with the step-by-step photos included with some recipes.

Each recipe starts off with “Why This Recipe Works”. This information will help you with the recipe itself and perhaps with adapting your own recipes. The Make Ahead section clearly explains each option you have to make it ahead or reheat etc.

This book is one for every cook, an excellent choice for someone just starting out. What a terrific first place gift! Enjoy the Individual Chicken Pot Pies for the Freezer below.

Individual Chicken Pot Pies for the Freezer

Print Recipe Pin Save
Why This Recipe Works
Chicken pot pie is the ultimate comfort food, so we sought a way to streamline this classic dish and make individual pot pies that we could pull out of the freezer and bake anytime. There are many challenges that arise in making a pot pie with a beautiful flaky crust, tender and flavorful chicken and vegetables, and a creamy sauce; when we added “freezer-­friendly” to the list of requirements, this recipe became an even taller order. First, we decided to use small disposable loaf pans, which would make storage and reheating easy and allow us to serve only the number we needed (without all our ramekins being tied up in the freezer). Browning boneless, skinless breasts before cooking them in broth gave our pie the deepest chicken flavor (without the hassle of roasting). A bit of thyme and lemon juice brightened up the creamy filling, and a bit of extra liquid ensured that the filling didn’t dry out in the freezer. As for the topping, we opted to skip the homemade pie dough in favor of store-bought, which was easy to use and kept the process more streamlined. To make the crusts sturdy enough to hold up on top of the filling, we made a double-thick crust by gluing two crusts together with water. To make sure that the crusts didn’t over­brown in the time it took the filling to warm through, we covered the pies for part of the baking time.
Total time 2 hours 40 minutes (plus freezing time)
To preserve their color, don’t thaw the peas before adding them to the filling in step 6. Depending on how many people you are feeding, you can bake all six pies at once or bake one or two at a time. Be aware that ready-made store-bought pie dough rounds typically come two to a box.
Prep Time1 minute
Total Time1 minute
Makes6 Servings


  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts boneless, skinless, trimmed
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 carrots peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 onion chopped fine
  • 1 celery rib minced
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons thyme minced fresh or 3/4 teaspoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 9‑inch pie dough rounds store-bought
  • 1 1/2 cups peas frozen
  • 6 2‑cup loaf pans disposable aluminum
  • 1 large egg beaten


  • Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and cook until well browned, about 2½ minutes per side. Add broth and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken registers 160 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer chicken to cutting board and broth to large bowl.
  • Melt butter with remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty pot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion, celery, and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until lightly browned and softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add flour, and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in milk, thyme, and reserved broth and bring to simmer. Cook, whisking often, until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
  • Shred chicken into bite-size pieces using 2 forks. Off heat, stir in lemon juice and shredded chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer filling to bowl and let cool completely. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.
  • Place 2 dough rounds on lightly floured counter. Brush sur­face of each round with water, then place remaining 2 dough rounds on moistened rounds, pressing gently to adhere.
  • Position 1 inverted loaf pan on 1 layered dough round. Using sharp paring knife, cut out piece of dough using pan as template. Repeat twice more for total of 3 dough pieces, then repeat process on second layered dough round. Discard excess dough.
  • Stir peas into chilled filling, then evenly divide filling among loaf pans. Top each pan with 1 dough piece, then use fork to seal edges. Using paring knife, cut 3 steam vents in each pot pie. Tightly wrap each loaf pan in 2 layers of plastic and 1 layer of aluminum foil, then freeze pot pies completely.
  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap frozen pot pies and arrange on rimmed baking sheet. Brush each pot pie with egg and cover with foil. Bake until filling is starting to bubble, about 40 minutes. Uncover pot pies and bake until crusts are golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let pot pies rest for 10 minutes before serving.


To Make Ahead:
Pot pies, prepared through step 6, can be frozen for up to 1 month

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply