I’ve been using foil packets for years while camping as an easy way to make individually portioned meals. It wasn’t until recently that I started using them outside of a fire pit. Once I learned a few things about how to cook in foil packets, I fell in love with this easy cooking technique!
We have a great collection of wrap-and-cook foil packet recipes, but you can make almost anything in aluminum foil. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about making these prep-ahead meals.
Getting started: Which foods work (and, which don’t)
Most foods work for foil packet cooking, but some items take longer to cook than others. It would be a bad idea to put raw potatoes and cheese into a packet at the same time—the cheese would burn well before the potatoes had a chance to cook! Consider the cook time of your meats and vegetables before packing them in foil together. You can always open the packet and add quick-cooking foods at the end.
If you want to include grains like rice or pasta in your packet, you’ll need to pre-cook them first. The foil packet simply won’t get hot enough, and it lacks the proper amount of moisture to cook these types of food.
Choosing your seasonings
You can season your foil packets with any number of herbs or dried spices, but make sure you consider moisture when putting together your seasoning blend. You definitely want to create some steam in there to keep your meats and vegetables from drying out. Think about adding some high-moisture vegetables like onions or tomatoes, or include any number of flavorful liquids to the mix. We really like oil and vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire, or beer—but feel free to get creative with those seasonings.
Make sure everything cooks evenly
Cooking in a foil packet is pretty similar to cooking a sheet pan dinner—you want to make sure everything cooks at the same rate. Consider cutting vegetables to the same size, and avoid packing long-cooking vegetables in the same foil as short-cooking ones.
If you’re cooking with meat, either pound the meat so it’s thinner or cut it into small strips. You could also include a whole piece of meat, if you like, but make sure to pack it on the bottom of the foil. Since it takes the longest to cook, it needs to be closest to the heat.
Sealing your foil packet
It might sound easy to seal a foil packet, but there’s actually a tried-and-true technique here. If you just pinch the sides shut, you might allow steam and juices to escape as the packet heats up. The best way to prevent undercooked food is by tightly folding the foil shut.
After placing your ingredients in the middle of the aluminum foil sheet, bring the long sides together in the center. Crease the pieces together and tightly fold in a downward motion, continuing to create folds until the foil lies flat against the packet’s top. Then, fold the shorter sides inward in a similar fashion.
A few additional tips and tricks
It’s definitely worth investing in heavy-duty foil. The lightweight stuff will rip easily, causing any built up steam to escape. Your food won’t cook as quickly, and you could also create a mess because of leaks. If you don’t have any heavy-duty foil on hand, consider double wrapping your packet.
Finally, be careful when opening your packet! If you followed all of these tips and tricks, your packet will be perfectly cooked but full of steam. You can pierce a small hole into the packet to release the steam if you know everything is cooked, or carefully unfold the foil using tongs to protect your hands.
Try making some of these foil packets for your next dinner party. It definitely qualifies as a way to achieve tip No. 2 on our list of insanely smart ideas for your backyard barbecue!