Basic Foil Packet Dinners

In the 1970's this was our favorite camping food, but over the decades I'd kind of forgotten about it. That era's most popular packet included a hamburger, and thin slices of potato. Now, I'm back to making foil packets often- but with new twists of every delicious variety I can think of. With Packet Dinners, everything is all-in-one. It's the ultimate do-ahead meal, with nearly zero clean up. No worries over a "real" recipe. They are just as fabulous when simply put into the oven for an everyday dinner, as they are over the campfire, or on the grill. Flavors meld wonderfully. You can make with just veggies, or add protein.

Beef with potatoes, carrots, garlic, and onions. Fish packets with potatoes and fennel, dill, lemon.

Once you get the general idea, and "feel" for your cook times, etc., try making your own creative spin-off- using favorite veggies, and seasonings.

Foil Packets are very easy to customize for each eater in your family too, since everyone gets a personal packet. You can also use this method to prep veggies for wraps, tacos, fajitas, and other dishes.

So efficient, so adaptable, so fun, and SO tasty!

Basic Template Instructions:

Lay out approx. 12"-14" long sheets of heavy duty foil, (one for each person), and lightly grease with cooking spray (or brush with oil).

If you wish to add a protein, add next, so it's at the bottom and cooks thoroughly. Hamburger patties, small chunks of steak, chicken strips (I cut to about 1" x 3"), small fish fillets- all are good. Season well as you go. Though we don't eat too much meat anymore, I must admit, a hamburger is a real treat in a foil packet!

Add a pile of very thinly sliced vegetables to the middle of the foil sheet. I really prefer to use sliced veggies in foil dinners, but you could small-dice. Potatoes are definitely our favorite, and other root veggies like carrots are really great too, but use whatever veggies you have on hand, and that sound good to you. Put all the veggies you are going to use into a bowl, toss with a wee drizzle of olive oil, and then divide evenly among the foil sheets. I like 2+ c. veggies per serving. If using chopped greens, remember that they'll cook down. And I DO recommend using greens (kale, chard, spinach, beet greens, etc.)- they add wonderful flavor and texture.

Season everything with salt, pepper, and/or herbs, spices, sauce, according to your taste. Having something in the packet that will add a little moisture will help tenderize ingredients, and keep them from drying out- a pat of butter, a few diced chops of tomato, a dash of ketchup, 1-2 tsp. water.

Fold the foil around the contents, and tightly fold-crimp seal the edges like a package. Sealing very tightly is key to success.

To bake:

(Can be made in advance, and stored in refrigerator)

Place prepared packets on a lined, rimmed baking sheet and bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes, +/- on middle shelf.

Bake times with protein in the foil packets:

I find small fish fillets (about 3" x 3") or chicken pieces (about 1" x 3") will take about 30 minutes. When cooking these, I sometimes add a small pat of butter to the packet- really makes fish/chicken extra tender and yummy. 1/4 lb. burgers (medium-thin, NOT thick) will take about 40 minutes.

Medium-high grill time will be a little quicker.

Cook time can vary, especially depending on the size of your protein.

Carefully open one packet, (hot steam will release), and test the contents for doneness before opening all.

Recipe created or adapted by Liz Talley, Urban Graze

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