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Tricks That Help You Transport Holiday Dishes

Potluck packing pointers from the experts at Consumer Reports

Last updated: November 23, 2015 12:50 PM

You’ve put a lot of work into baking a pie or a casserole for a party, and now you have to worry about packing it up and getting it there in one piece. Some foods—mac and cheese, cookies—travel well. But others, such as pies with delicate crusts and hors d’oeuvres, can easily get smooshed or slide off a serving dish and onto a driveway. To make sure your holiday dishes arrive safely, try these wrapping tricks from the test-kitchen experts at Consumer Reports plus Julie Carrion, executive chef at The Kitchen at Billings Forge in Hartford, Conn., and Cyd McDowell, a food stylist.

Sides and salads

Even holiday dishes that travel well, such as roasted or puréed veggies, need some TLC for transport. (Forget about salad greens, which can wilt, and boiled or steamed vegetables, which can suffer in reheating.) The key: Make sure to tape down pot lids. Blue painter’s tape won’t leave sticky stuff behind. And a drawer liner that grips can keep dishes from sliding around in your car.

Deviled eggs

Can’t get those eggs to sit still? To steady them (and other wobbly food) during transit, layer three damp paper towels on a tray and place eggs on top close together. Pack the tray in a cooler and keep it flat, not on the car’s backseat, which tilts.

Crudites

To keep veggies in place on a car trip, use what the pros call a caterer’s wrap. Instead of putting a sheet of plastic wrap over the dish, place the dish on top of the wrap, then twist the wrap as many times as you think necessary to hold everything down. Wrap the dip separately and arrange it on the platter at the party.

Casseroles

For keeping holiday dishes warm while you travel, you can try a couple of things. If you go to a lot of potluck events, consider buying an insulated casserole carrier; they cost about $15 and up. You can also line a cooler with towels, tuck your dish in, and then place extra towels around it for insulation and to help keep it steady for the trip.
Bonus: The towels can also sop up any spills if something leaks. Just keep the cooler closed to hold the heat inside. No cooler? Cradle the dish in towels and put it in a flat-bottomed box to avoid tipping. Or spring for a slow cooker with a locking lid.

Pies

If you don’t have a special carrier, cover the pie with a metal pie plate secured with aluminum foil. For a pie with a delicate crust, cover it with a bowl taped to a baking sheet to keep it from sliding.

Cupcakes

If you make them a lot, a cupcake carrier with a plastic lid is a great way to keep frosting from getting squished during a sharp turn or from plastic wrap.
Bonus: A carrier can also do double duty as a dip-and-sauce transporter. If you don’t have room to store one, Carrion suggests investing in baking pans with snap-on lids. Or save the clamshell containers from store-bought cupcakes to tote your own.

Cakes

Sheet cakes are the way to go; the flat shape and low center of gravity ensure safer transport. (Layers—and height in general—are a recipe for disaster.) But if a single layer won’t do, try this food stylist’s trick: Dab a tablespoon of jam on a serving plate, then assemble the cake on top. That helps to keep it from sliding. And put long wooden skewers through the layers to keep them intact and prevent plastic wrap from smudging the frosting.

—Adapted from ShopSmart

Holiday Planning & Shopping Guide

Check Consumer Reports' 2015 Holiday Guide for our picks of the best gifts, details on the latest deals, time-saving tips, and much more. And see our countdown calendar for top gift ideas for everyone on your list.


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