Bring taste of camping home with foil packets

posted July 2, 2018 8:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Janelle Thomas | Food Columnist

Summertime often means camping. About 10 years ago we purchased a camper and dreamt of all the places we’d go and all the fun our family would have. The dream was a reality for about five years. We traveled a bit and made a lot of good memories, but then the kids’ work and sports schedules took over our camping time.

I thought about how much I missed the time we’d spent around the campfires and the wonderful food we’d made. I talked my husband into building a stone firepit and patio area in the backyard. The problem was solved; a campfire was just steps away from the back door and could be lit any day of the week. No packing, traveling and schedule arranging necessary.

The firepit is a great spot for our family and the kids’ friends to hang out. It’s also a great place for cooking those fun camping meals. One popular campfire cooking method we do is foil packets – or as some refer to them, hobo dinners.

Foil packet cooking is easy and customizable for each person. One of the best things, besides tasting so good, is the fact that cleanup is a breeze! Foil packet cooking is simply creating a single meal of meat, seasonings and vegetables on foil, folding it up to create a packet and putting it over heat. Foil packets can also be done on the grill or in the oven.

The process is simple, but I found some great advice on for making foil packet cooking successful:

• Always oil the side of the foil that will touch the food. Butter adds great flavor and is called for in many recipes, but cooking spray is much less messy and gives a perfectly even coat of oil across the foil surface. If using cooking spray, do not spray it directly into or around an open flame or intense heat source.

• Don’t buy the off brand when purchasing aluminum foil for foil packets. Buy the heavy-duty foil and even then, double layering is recommended. Wrap the food in a packet, seal it tight, then wrap it in a second layer of foil. This keeps the steam in, prevents food from falling out of punctured packets and cuts down on burned food.

• When closing the foil pack, try to exclude as much air as possible from the packet. Excess air may cause the pack to expand and pop open during cooking. Food from properly prepared foil packets is so moist because it is steamed in its own juices. Those juices can escape if a packet pops open, resulting in dry and possibly burned food.

• One side of the foil is shiny and the other is dull. It doesn’t matter which side you have on the outside of the packet. Both sides will create the same results. The only time it does matter is if you are using nonstick aluminum foil. The nonstick coating is on the dull side, so that should be the inside of the packet.

• To encourage even cooking and prevent burning, turn and move foil packs often during cooking on top of a heat source such as over a campfire or on a grill. If cooking in an oven or burying it in coals, it will get heat from all sides, so frequent turning is not as necessary. When using an oven or burying in coals, reduce cooking time to avoid overcooking.

• The best way to handle or turn foil packets over a fire is with cooking tongs that provide firm but gentle control. Using your fingers can not only result in burns, but the tossing of the packets can result in packet punctures. Ideally, a silicone grill glove will work the best.

I hope this helps you enjoy the great tastes of camping, even if you are not really camping!

Janelle Thomas can be reached at

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