I just love the unique presentation and tasty goodness of this cooking technique and can’t wait to make them again and again and again this summer.
Think of this dish as “deconstructed kabobs” that basically marinates in the homemade sauce until cooking time. Once you are ready to cook simply throw them on the grill or directly into the hot coals of a campfire (or backyard fire pit). I can’t think of a better way to soak up the great outdoors!
5/23/13 Update: For those interested in learning more about why we think it’s okay to occasionally cook with foil you may find this scientific article helpful.
105 thoughts on “Grilled Meat and Veggie Foil Packets…Yum!”
I made this tonight (with organic chicken and veggies). I recently purchased some infused olive oils, and I used mostly chipotle-infused olive oil and a little regular. This was AMAZING! Everything, including the chicken, was so tender, and my 3-year-old loved it! We cooked it low and slow over our grill. Will definitely make again (gonna try steak next time).
Hi Liz. Read through the reader comments and you can see a bit of discussion about that. If you are worried about the occasional use of foil, you could instead use a kabob/grill basket after you have marinated. ~Amy
I heard aluminum foil leaches chemicals into the food…anyone else know about this?
I don’t have the grill cover for the campfire, but I’m taking a cast iron skillet to cook on our camping stove…could I put them in there to heat up?
Hi Amanda. You mean put the skillet on the coals? I think that would work. Or, you can just throw the foil packets on the coals if you have a safe way to retrieve them. ~Amy
Can you do this with seafood as well???
Hello Lara. We have not but I don’t see why you couldn’t. ~Amy
These look great, does anyone know on a propane grill assuming you put them med-med/high how long they take?
Hello Megan. I think the time would be about the same. ~Amy
If cooking in the oven, what temperature and for how long? Thanks. These are a great idea.
Hello Jeannie. Another reader suggested 375* for 20 minutes. ~Amy
Made this recipe tonight on a grill and 20 minutes was just too long. The meat was very well done and 3 of my packets burnt the veggies/meat inside. It was not flavorful at all. Love the premise of the recipe and will try it again, but this time cook less and add more marinade.
Made this for dinner tonight with chicken using veggies from our CSA box. Turned out great! Will be in the regular rotation. I was worried that the jalapeno would make it too spicy for the kids, but once it cooked it wasn’t spicy at all.
Has anyone tried freezing these to have on hand? How long do they keep in the freezer? Can you cook from frozen or do you thaw in the fridge first? Thank you!
Yes, Id love to know too – if you freeze, do you need to thaw them first or just straight to cooking, add some time to the cook time? Thanks!
Jenny – I have not tried freezing these myself, but I think it would work although some veggies would probably hold up better than others. I would recommend putting the foil packets in a freezer safe bag to do so. And I would thaw in the fridge overnight. Let us know how it turns out! :)
I am trying to stock my freezer for when my August baby arrives and this recipe sounds perfect for freezing and then just throwing on the grill for dinner! I’m going to double it and throw half of the foil packets into a freezer bag. Thanks for another great meal idea!
Michele, did you try freezing these? How did they turn out?
Since we’re in an apt no grill, could we put the foil wrapped food in oven?!
Hi Kelly. You definitely can do it in the oven! ~Amy
We made these last year for a canyon trip, then weather turned on us so took out of foil and baked in a glass dish. Was wonderful. Have cooked on grill in foil and served over quinoa too. Made these for a spring break cabin trip this weekend. Thanks for all the “keepers”! Keep them coming!
I definitely can use some recipes and healthy advices , need to know more vegetarian recipes.
Sounds amazing and will be utilizing this as a staple form of cooking on our up and coming Mt. Lassen trip. This way I can get all the veggies I want and everyone else in the house can get theirs. For all the people with concerns regarding aluminum foil exposure from an acid reaction I plan on adding a third layer of parchment paper to create a barrier between food a foil….
I made this recipe not once, but TWICE this past weekend! It was a hit and my whole family loved it. This one’s definitely going in “The notebook” (where I keep GOOD recipes I find on the internet! :) We made it both times with chicken, but I’m looking forward to trying it with beef. Thanks for sharing such a delicious and versatile recipe!
We have been grilling vegetables in a large tub (I guess that’s what you would call it) of aluminum foil. I never thought about making individual servings and adding meat to it.
Also I never have used a marinade for it. This sounds amazing and I can’t wait to get the grill out this weekend. I missed the holiday, but I’ll be ready for the 4th of July.
We tried these tonight over a campfire with a grill plate and it was so much fun. Unfortunately the food was burnt to a crisp. Only one survived and it was so delicious but sad as we had to divide it between a family of 6. I guess I will try this again but use the grill next time.
I suppose one alternative to this concept that would not use foil would be an old fashioned cast iron dutch oven with a lid. That wouldn’t be individual, but you could stick it in a fire or bed of coals successfully. If it’s properly oiled and seasoned, the food shouldn’t stick to it much.
On the other hand, we almost always have these foil packets when we go camping as it provides a yummy meal with minimal clean-up and for us the occasional use on a trip makes it worth making an exception on the increased waste and more intense use of aluminum. And the food comes out so moist this way compared to kebobs that can easily be dried out and tougher for kids to enjoy. We always called them “silver turtles”.
What kind of beef? Like ground beef or what?
Hi Jasmine – In this case we used grass fed beef (steak) and chicken from our local farmers’ market, although this method will work with other types of meat (ground or not) as well. In high school I remember camping and using ground meat with the veggies diced up small and mixed in.
It’s worth pointing out that we have significantly reduced our meat intake overall in the past few years (and we rarely eat steak any more), so our veggie to meat ratio was pretty high when we made these last weekend. They turned out great!
I remember doing it with ground beef too, when I was younger.
The picture threw me off! I’ll definitely have to try it out with steak or chicken. Since I found this site outer meat intake has been significantly reduced. But this sounds wonderful!
Thanks for the reply! :)
Thank you very much! We did these tonight on an outdoor grill. We didnt marinate- I was out of time, so we splashed on the oil, vinegar and (gasp) garlic powder (I was REALLY out of time!). Hadnt read the comments til now, so we were straight on foil, but it was a big hit with everyone, and I think the kids actually ate zucchini (shhh!)
In response to the health concerns about using aluminum foil. What I do when I make these foil packets for the BBQ is I first wrap my food in parchment paper then in aluminum foil so the food is protected from aluminum leaching into it. You have to be careful not to have the heat too high as the parchment will burn. I have seen products that are a foil/parchment combination but have never used them. Martha Stewart has one called “Martha Wrap Foil and Parchment in 1” that can be found on Amazon.
We also use the parchment within foil method when we make HOBOs when camping. Works like a charm, and I feel a bit better about cooking with the foil for those times.
Just so you know cooking food directly into foil isn’t recommended because toxic particles in the aluminum leak into the food, especially with acidic food such as tomatoes or citrus. You know that foil has leaked when it looked brownish after being in contact with the food. I used to cook with foil a lot and stopped. Foil can be replaced by baking paper when making this type of wrap in an oven. If it is occasional, it is OK, just not too often!
I recently learned from a WF’s employee at the seafood counter that, “foil heated beyond 400 degrees will leech aluminum into food and that is a known health risk.” When grilling, if you have a basic grill, how do you know what the temperature is? Especially using foil packets? Can you, please, respond to: email@example.com. Thank you!
I was wondering about the marinade time. Did you put them back in a cooler for that? I am thinking it might be even more convenient to cut the meat up and marinade it before we left for camp, then that step would be done – just add some extra marinade in the packet for the veggies. You have me thinking about a camping trip, that’s for sure! Thanks for sharing your recipe!
Hi Shelby. Yes, I would marinade in the cooler to keep the meat at a safe temperature. Camping is SO much fun! ~Amy
Hi Lisa, love your blog. We have some long-handled metal grill baskets for exactly this situation. They have a finer weave so the food doesn’t fall through. I really like them for entertaining…it’s a much faster way to make kabobs (well, without the skewers). I would still do foil packets for camping, though, so they are ready to throw right on the grill or fire.
Just checked Amazon…they are actually called “kabob baskets”.
Thanks for all the great ideas and recipes!
I do this all the time too – never thought about the foil though – I’m going to have to do a little research I guess! I recently shared one of our favorite recipes for the grill that would be a perfect fit for this method while camping – and a little “fancy” to boot: http://behealthybehappywellness.com/2013/05/a-perfect-spring-dinner-salmon-with-asparagus-and-goat-cheese/
I used to do this all the time and loved it! Unfortunately, I recently found out that the aluminum leaches into the food, especially when heated above 185 degrees. I like the idea of using banana leaf. There is a similar “indian wax paper” plant growing near my home I will try this year.
I have wondered about the cooking with foil, not as much for the eco issue, but the issue of anything getting into the food? For example, I eliminated aluminum from my deodorant, but does it get into the food when you cook with it? This is a question I really don’t know the answer to.
Fantastic idea!! I could see using this as a “make-your-own” bar and then each person could put their own choices in their packets. We do something similar with breakfast burritos. :)
These look great! Thanks, Lisa. I prepare fish in the oven like this sometimes: a bit of butter, slice of lemon and seasoning, on a “bed” of frozen veggies (I like green beans, wax beans, carrots mix). And the packets freeze well, so I’m sure these would, too.
I am sensitive to vinegars, so I would probably use citrus juices (like a mojo type of marinade). Not sure if/how the acid reacts with the foil.
So…..this scares me because of all I’ve read about cooking with aluminum foil. Even though there’s been no proven health risks (yet!), it has been shown that when foil is heated, aluminum is released into the food. Is there another way to do this without using foil at all? I love this idea but make it a habit to never let foil touch my food (especially hot food). Thanks.
Ah, reminded me of camping before kids, when I actually had time to make gourmet meals over the campfire, sigh. Sliced skin on potatoes, though technically not a vegetable, are a fun camping treat to do in packets as well. I used to make them with butter and chives. Also, small loaves of bread are nice in packets. I used to use french bread, obviously I’d use crusty whole grain now, and slice it 3/4 of the way down then smear butter and sprinkle Penzy’s fox point seasoning in between(garlic salt would also work well). Went great with our campfire pasta.
As for reusable grilling containers, growing up we used aluminum foil pans baked goods came in, which could be washed and reused. They had to be covered with aluminum foil, but at least we were using half as much. Also, Renyold’s now makes recycled aluminum foil which could be washed and recycled after use. For just veggies, one could use a grill basket.
Any issue with the vinegar coming into contact with the foil while everything marinates? (Any sciencE-y types on here that can respond?)
I am only half-sciencey (a civil engineer), but I am quite confident that the acid in the marinade will eat at the aluminum, causing you to eat some small amount of dissolved aluminum. Of course, people used to cook regularly in aluminum pots, so that would have been a much stronger Al dose than a little foil. Still, I wouldn’t do it this way, but that’s just me. I few years ago I had some overwhelmingly metallic-tasting Indian leftovers (plenty of acid in the tomato-based sauce) that had been stored in aluminum take home containers. After that experience I decided I would try really, really hard to keep my food, especially acids, away from direct contact with foil. In the oven, natural parchment paper usually can be used instead, but for the grill I’d think skewers would be the easiest substitution.
Food Scientist here – aluminum leaches when in contact with acids, bases, or salts. How much leaches depends on how long the food is in contact with the foil, the temperature, and also the contact area. Letting acidic food marinate in foil and then heating it in the oven – I would not do it. From a health perspective, I find it more concerning than GMO and artificial food dyes and others that draw attention put together.
We have been making these for years..we call them HOBO Dinners!
Mmmmmm this looks yummy!! Can’t wait to make this!! What kind of meat would you recommend? Thanks!
Hi Amber. That is entirely up to you. The recipe suggests using beef or chicken or a combination. Look for local grass fed pastured beef and local free range organic chicken when possible. ~Amy
Yum, I was just telling my husband that we needed to figure out a better way to grill our veggies, especially the small ones, since they tend to fall through the grate. This looks perfect! My husband likes to make his own marinades, so we could do this many different ways.
We have a sheet pan with holes that goes right on the grill for smaller cuts of veggies and asparagus. These foil packs can’t be beat for camping.
I think we got it at WalMart or somewhere like that for around $20. Like it way better than our basket even.
For an eco friendly alternative why not use reusable skewers? These are essentially just deconstructed kebabs.
I highly recommend grilling in banana leaves if you can get them! They have them where I live at farmers’ markets. We often wrap fish up in them with a pad of butter or some garlic cloves and oil. Voila: totally delicious!!
Eons ago the kids cooked with foil packets in scouting. Since then foil packets have become a staple in grilling. A great way to use up small quantities of veggies/meats/specialty items.
We prep the ingredients and let everyone pick and choose what they want as many of our guests have food allergies, have celiac disease, are vegetarians or limited eaters. We are the hang out place for teens and their families often join in. Being able to accommodate a wide variety of eating at any time is important to us.
Hmmmm… sounds yummy… must find an eco-friendly alternative to the aluminum foil…. someone must have solved this problem already… or I smell a new product line :)
You can use recycled foil (I think I have seen 75 or 80% recycled material) and of course you can rinse and recycle it when done. Not great, but a good alternative, would love to know if there something else out there.
We used to make “ho-bos” when I was growing up, it was a hamburger patty with carrots, onions, and potatoes all grilled together in foil. It was always so delicious. I have some meat in my freezer that will be perfect for this. Thanks for posting :)
I agree–I wish there were an eco-alternative to the foil. I try to minimize my use of it, and I do reuse it when I can, but most of the time I can’t. It just gets too gross to clean, or (often) to recycle. I have tried–& failed–to find a good way to roast vegetables in the oven without it. I too would jump at a product that solved this problem, whether in the oven or on the grill!
What kind of vegetables? I have had tasty and not-messy success roasting carrots, winter squash, potatoes, etc. in the oven. I use a couple of pyrex 9×13 pans to try to keep things to one layer, and “paint” at the start and every 10 minutes with coconut oil or melted ghee (or butter, if I’m doing it at a lower temp). I also pull out each pan and stir it every 10 minutes, to make sure to scrape up any edges that are starting to stick. Sometimes I just do one veggie, but I love doing a variety (cubes of butternut squash, potato, sweet potato, carrot, etc., with a little salt, pepper, and rosemary–beets are good too but tend to make everything pink of course). For something like small farm carrots or asparagus I just lay them all parallel, pour on a drizzle of oil, then shake to coat, shaking to re-coat at least a couple more times during cooking.
Thanks, Juliana! I use all kinds of vegetables. But I’ve always used metal pans. Never thought to try glass! I’ve found that unlined metal takes hours (sometimes days) of soaking and scrubbing to get clean after I do my vegetables; maybe it’s my cooking method. (I toss with olive oil, roast at 375, stir every 20 mins or so). I also tried using those Silpat mats, with disastrous results (they aren’t made for that kind of cooking). I see from the comments below that there are possible issues with leaching from the foil at high heat, which I frankly never thought about; ugh. Guess I’ll have to do some research, but first I will try glass pans.
Hi Nancy! I use metal cookie sheets to roast vegetables (carrots, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, asparagus) and have never had a problem cleaning the cookie sheets afterward. I wonder if the type of metal makes a difference? I just toss the veggies in olive oil and spices and roast at 400 – 425 for about 25 minutes.
Thanks Annie. I wonder why I’ve had such a hard time…Maybe it is the type of pan; but I use several types. I don’t mind a little time or effort to clean things, which is why I tried roasting directly in the pan, but honestly, it was a huge ordeal. I am more curious than ever now!
I use a stone bar pan for roasting. I do rub coconut oil on it, and between that and the coating on the veggies, it works great! Hope that helps! Good luck.
Unfortunately I live in the Midwest and they do not recycle foil where we live :(. I found that you can make them in natural parchment paper in the oven (not on a grill or fire thought), and that it works just as well (Not verified but read that). Which is nice because natural untreated parchement can be composted. Perfect and no cleaning dishes! For a fire/grill friendly recipe… there are tiny little cast iron dutch pots, and clay pots with lids that can be used. Of course this means you have dishes but I would think you could still throw the ingredients in and travel with them with a little twine tying the lids on or something to that effect. Of course there is always the option of making an exception and just going for the foil when all else fails. After all I do my best, I don’t have time to be eco perfect :) Thanks for the other ideas guys!!!
Parchment works wonderfully. I like doing fish on quinoa with broccoli this way. Everything steams perfectly.
Handful, do you cook the quinoa first?
Yes, I use pre cooked quinoa. Same thing if you want to use rice or beans.
Sorry to be further diverting the discussion, but I just wanted to report back that last night I roasted vegetables in glass pans and was rewarded with a supereasy cleanup. My impression was that they took longer and didn’t brown quite as well, but that may be because I used a slightly lower heat than I do with metal (350 vs 375). Truthfully, we haven’t eaten the vegetables yet–I was taking advantage of an unusually cool day to turn my oven on, to have them ready for tonight. Pretty soon it will be too hot to have the oven on for long periods, so I may have to delay the rest of my experimentation till the fall! Thanks again Juliana!
I was just on the zero waste home website, and I go right to this blog next. I was thinking to myself as I read this, “I wish the foil wasn’t going to be wasted.” Foil usually can not be recycled due to the food on it, and eventually it ends up as garbage.
Solutions would be to get metal skewers and kabobs and brush the juice on them, or soak them in a pan before putting on the fire. You may also be able to put it all in a pan and put a pan of the same size over the top to cover it. Or if you have a pan that has a lid to it, I think it would work just fine. I think the point is to lock in the steam and juices.
A mountain pie maker is an echo friendly choice. They come in cast iron or aluminum. Choose the iron. We use ours not only for camping but in our backyard fire pit and on the grill. Just coat with a little oil, put all the hobo packet ingredient in and cook away. We even make omlets in ours!