While shopping for some home supplies with my two oldest children earlier this week, a message popped up on my smartphone.
“All-Day. Robert Summer Camp.”
My oldest son was supposed to be on the annual summer Boy Scout camping trip held deep in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains. I forgot I marked it on our calendar.
Seeing it pop up was a little bittersweet. Because of our move, he’s taking some merit badge courses online instead of attending camp. He can’t wait to get back into nature with his peers.
During his first scout campout, we were introduced to foil dinners. They were simple enough that even the kindergarteners had a hand in putting together the group’s meals.
The basic construction of a foil pack meal is pretty simple. Put the meat or anything that requires a longer cooking time on the bottom. Layer on the other ingredients, making sure not to overfill the packet because you’ll need to close it. Top it with a liquid — chicken stock, barbecue sauce or condensed soups work best.
Seal the packet. We tend to close the packet down the middle, then roll up the edges. Don’t pierce the foil, as the steam builds up in the packet and cooks your food.
Foil packet dinners can be cooked on the grill or in the oven, although I prefer to cook them over a campfire.
When cooking foil packets directly on a fire, wait until the fire dies down just to the glowing coals. If you have a really good seal, you can put the packet on the coals and cover it with more coals for even cooking.
The time needed to cook your food will vary, depending on the strength of your campfire and the packet’s contents. We have had smaller packets cook in 10 minutes, while big ones cook around 20-25 minutes. Try not to flip your packet, just move it to a hotter spot on the fire if needed. Use grilling tongs to get your foil packet out of the fire, so you don’t pierce the packet.
For younger campers, we used pre-cooked meats and frozen vegetables so the meal would cook faster. We added condensed soups, like cream of chicken or cream of mushroom, for the sauce.
For the older kids, we used raw meats and fresh vegetables. Some vegetables, like potatoes, cook slower than corn or carrots. We tried to make sure the components that took longer to cook were cut a little smaller so everything cooked evenly.
The older kids preferred a mixture of barbecue sauce and chicken stock over the condensed soup. It seemed to coat things a bit better and produce more steam.
It’s important to have that liquid component, so your food doesn’t burn. As it cooks, the sauce flavors everything.
Below are two foil packet dinner recipes that work well either on the grill or in the fire. The recipes include instructions for use in the oven.
GRILLED TACO BURGER AND POTATO FOIL PACKS
1 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
½ cup plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix (from 1 oz. package)
¼ cup milk
3 cups frozen diced hash-brown potatoes (from 32-oz. bag)
1 cup salsa con queso dip (from 15-oz. jar)
■ Heat gas or charcoal grill. In a medium bowl, mix ground beef, bread crumbs, taco seasoning mix and milk until well blended. Shape mixture into 4 (4-inch) patties. In another medium bowl, mix frozen potatoes and dip.
■ Cut 4 (18×12-inch) sheets of heavy-duty foil; spray with cooking spray. Place 1 patty on each; top with 1/4 of potato mixture. Wrap each pack securely using double-fold seals, allowing room for heat expansion.
■ When the grill is heated, place packs, seam side up, on grill over medium heat; cover grill. Cook for 15 to 25 minutes, rearranging packs several times, until patties are thoroughly cooked.
■ To make in the oven, place packs on a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 to 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and burgers are cooked through (at least 165°F in center).
By Betty Crocker Kitchens
GRILLED PARMESAN-RANCH CHICKEN FOIL PACKS
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (6 to 8 oz each)
1 teaspoon roasted garlic-herb blend
½ cup ranch dressing
2 cups quartered small red potatoes
1 cup ready-to-eat baby-cut carrots, cut in half lengthwise
¼ lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
■ Heat gas or charcoal grill. Cut 4 (18×12-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.
■ In a medium bowl, place the remaining 1/4 cup dressing. Stir in potatoes, carrots and green beans. Divide vegetables among chicken breasts. Sprinkle it with cheese.
■ 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.
■ Place the packs on the grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook for 25 minutes. Rotate packs 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).
■ To serve, cut large X across top of each pack; carefully fold back foil to allow steam to escape.
■ To make it in the oven, place the packs on a cookie sheet. Bake at 375°F 40 to 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and juice of chicken is clear when the center of thickest part is cut (at least 165°F).
By Betty Crocker Kitchens