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Secrets to Perfecting Your Foil-Pack Meals

Created May 30, 2019
Once you learn this easy method for grilling foil packs, you’ll never be foiled by, “What’s for dinner?”

Skip the extra dishes, skip the sides and get that great grilled flavor—that’s the beauty of a foil-pack meal! Master the making of these meals and you can keep supper simple and delicious all summer long! And you don’t have to be a grilling expert, all you really need is to know how to turn on your grill (or oven—if you prefer). Betty covers all the rest in this tutorial.

Top Tips for Foil Pack Meals

Before you start up the grill, here are the tricks you need to know to make a perfectly grilled foil-pack meal.

  • Pick proteins that don’t need searing in order to taste delicious. Chicken, shrimp and fish turn out great when cooked in the moist environment of a foil pack. Combine these types of proteins with vegetables that play well with others and can cook for a while without being any worse for the wear, like potatoes and corn.
  • Rotate foil packs for even cooking, rather than flipping. This is gentler on your packs and foil is less likely to tear. Using heavy-duty foil will also help keep your pack intact.
  • Leave room for heat expansion and circulation when folding your foil pack. For this reason, we typically recommend using a large sheet of foil, 12 inches by 18 inches in size.
  • When opening foil packs, cut an “x” across the top. Contents will be hot so cut carefully, keeping hand to the side instead of above the opening and wear an oven mitt. Allow heat to escape before digging in.
  • The oven works too! If the weather takes a turn for the worse or your grill runs out of gas, you can bake your foil packs to perfection.

Ready to get started? We’ll walk you through each step of grilling foil packs with the fan-favorite recipes below.

How to Make a Chicken Foil-Pack Meal

Grilled chicken is great, but a grilled chicken foil-pack meal is even better. This recipe will let you grill up a complete meal for four featuring tender chicken breasts and hearty vegetables sides. Family-favorite, Grilled Parmesan-Ranch Foil Packs require only 20 minutes of prep time and 45 minutes of total time.

What you’ll need:

Ingredients for chicken parmesan ranch and vegetables foil pack

1. Heat gas or charcoal grill. Cut 4 (18x12-inch) sheets of heavy-duty foil; spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken with garlic-herb blend; place 1 breast on each sheet of foil. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the dressing over each breast.

Drizzling chicken breast with garlic-herb blend

2. In medium bowl, place remaining 1/4 cup dressing. Stir in potatoes, carrots and green beans. Divide vegetables among chicken breasts. Sprinkle with cheese.

Adding vegetables to chicken in foil packs

3. Bring up 2 sides of foil so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal.

Folding foil packs

4. Place packets on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 25 minutes. Rotate packets 1/2 turn; cook 15 to 20 minutes longer or until potatoes are fork-tender and juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (165°F).

Rotating foil packs ½ turn

5. To serve, cut large X across top of each packet; carefully fold back foil to allow steam to escape.

How to Make a Shrimp Foil-Pack Meal

Seafood and fish foil-pack meals are delicious, and since they cook faster than meats like chicken and beef, they require slightly less time to prepare. This recipe for Low Country Shrimp Foil Packs requires only 25 minutes to prep and potatoes cook faster thanks to a quick zap in the microwave, so you can have this meal for four ready in 40 minutes flat.

Low Country Shrimp Foil Packs

What you’ll need:

Ingredients for low-country shrimp foil-packs

1. Heat gas or charcoal grill. Cut 4 (18x12-inch) sheets of heavy-duty foil. Spray with cooking spray.

2. Place potatoes in microwavable bowl. Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Add corn to potatoes; drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the oil, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the seasoning; mix until evenly coated. Place shrimp in medium bowl; toss with remaining 1 teaspoon oil and remaining 1 teaspoon seasoning; mix until evenly coated.

Combining corn and potatoes

3. Place equal amount of sausage on center of each sheet of foil. Dividing evenly, arrange potato and corn mixture around sausage. Divide shrimp evenly over sausage. Squeeze 1 wedge of lemon over each pack.

Squeezing lemon over shrimp, potato, corn and sausage mixture

4. Bring up 2 sides of foil so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal.

Bringing up two sides of foil so edges meet.

5. Place packs on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 6 minutes. Rotate packs 1/2 turn; cook 5 to 7 minutes longer or until shrimp are pink and sausage is heated through. Remove packs from grill, cut large X across top of each pack. Carefully fold back foil; sprinkle with parsley, and top with remaining lemon wedges.

Rotating foil packs ½ turn

Frequently Asked Foil Pack Questions

Want a little more instruction before you start up the grill? Here are the answers to your most frequently asked questions about foil-pack meals.

Should foil-pack meals be grilled over direct or indirect heat?

Foil packets should be grilled over direct heat, which means the food is on the grate directly over the heat source—the flame on a charcoal grill or burner on a gas grill. Using direct heat creates an environment that’s more akin to stovetop cooking, i.e. heat emanates from a single source, the flame or burner. As opposed to grilling over indirect heat, which creates a cooking environment that’s more like that of an oven, i.e. the heat is distributed throughout the space. In general, we use direct heat for grilling—unless you see indirect specified in the recipe.

How do I know when my foil-pack meal is done cooking?

To determine doneness of a foil-pack meal, check at the earliest time listed in the recipe. If your recipe states food will take 15-20 minutes to cook, check at 15 minutes. Checking at the earlier time will help ensure you don’t overcook your food. Here’s the best way to check for doneness.

  1. Remove one foil pack from the grill, specifically the one with the largest pieces of meat. Mark this foil pack with a permanent marker before grilling, so you can identify it later.
  2. Working quickly and wearing an oven mitt, cut a slit in the packet.
  3. Use your thermometer to check the temperature of the food. Note, when cooking a dish of mixed ingredients—such as meat, vegetables and starches—it is essential to cook all ingredients to a food safe temperature of 165F to prevent any chance of cross contamination. If the pack with the largest pieces of meat is done, the others should be too.

How should I season my foil pack meals?

Foil pack meals are easy to season because the enclosed environment really concentrates whatever aromatics, herbs, spices or other ingredients you use. Many of our recipes simply call for tossing all your meal ingredients in oil or butter, herbs and spices. When foil-pack recipes include starches, like rice, sometimes we recommend soaking in broth before adding to a foil pack, this adds flavor and rehydrates the rice, which makes cooking quicker and easier—since foil packs contain less liquid and are therefore easier to handle. Here are a few tricks to making your foil-pack meals extra flavorful.

  • Add sliced lemon on top of salmon and halibut filets to brighten the flavor of the foil pack.
  • Butter and oil can be added with a generous hand, which will make foil packs with corn turn out extra flavorful. This is a nice benefit of a foil pack since typically you need to be judicious when coating foods destined for the grill with fat. Using too much can cause flareups, if excess oil drips down onto the flames.

Can I cook foil packs in the oven?

Foil packets can easily be cooked in the oven. If grilling directions call for using medium heat, set oven temperature to 375F. Place foil packs on a cookie sheet, and bake for 1 ½ to 2 times the amount of time called for in the grilled-version of the recipe.

Betty's Favorite Foil-Pack Meals

One of the best things about foil-pack dinners is how customizable they are– they're a great way to use up practically any summer veggies and herbs you have on hand. Once you have the basics down feel free to come up with your own tasty combinations. Need inspiration? Check out a few of Betty’s favorite foil-pack meals below!



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