What's for dinner tonight? Let's ask the freezer. Here's a little gift you can prep for yourself to have an almost effortless dinner ready to go at any time: frozen foil-packet meal kits.
Unlike more traditional frozen dinner kits, which are intended to feed four or more, packets are single-serve and can feed just one person at a time. Frozen foil packets are also wonderful for teens who might need to feed themselves, as they are mostly hands-off and only require an oven.
Here's how to take a small amount of time and transform it into foil dinner packets, ready to bake.
The Formula: Proteins + Vegetables + Sauce = Fabulous Foil Packets
Here's a simple formula for building frozen foil packets: Pick a protein — chicken, shrimp, and ground beef all freeze and roast well; throw in some quick-cooking vegetables like thinly sliced peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and sliced onions; and finally, add a sauce or marinade, which will flavor the whole packet but also steam the meat and vegetables in the oven, yielding cooked packets full of flavor and tender protein.
Below we give you instructions for a fajita-inspired combination of chicken and vegetables, but this can be switched up with virtually no change to the cooking requirements.
Another tip for ensuring tasty foil-packet meals? Make sure that the meat is cut into even pieces that are roughly the same size. Same goes for the vegetables. Since the packet cooks fast and furious, you want to make sure everything will be done at the same time.
Double Up the Foil
Insulation is another key component of foil meal packets. Too thin a foil packet and foods can freezer burn while waiting in the freezer, or spring a leak in the oven while roasting. Better insulation means more even freezing and cooking, too. Heavy-duty foil will make a better packet when doubled up.
While the Packets Bake
While the packets bake, do a little work to round out the meal. The recipe below is for fajita packets, so warm some tortillas, make a bowl of guacamole or salsa, and get ready to feast. You can also boil a pot of pasta or make a simple salad. Couscous cooks up quickly while the packets roast too.
Get an easy dinner recipe: Baked Fish, Spinach, and Tomatoes in Foil Packets
How To Make Chicken Fajita Freezer Dinner Packets
What You Need
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
3 medium bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 medium yellow or red onions, halved and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Tortillas, for serving (optional)
- Prep the foil: Tear 8 (6-inch-long) sheets of aluminum foil. Stack 1 sheet on top of another sheet, then repeat with the remaining 6 sheets. You should end up with 4 stacks of foil.
- Make the marinade: Combine the lime juice, oil, paprika, cumin, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
- Make the packets: Divide the peppers and onions evenly among the 4 stacks of aluminum foil, leaving a 3-inch border. Divide the chicken evenly over the peppers and onions, and pour on any extra marinade as well. Fold the sides of the foil over the chicken, then fold the top and bottom of the foil over the chicken. Make sure the chicken is completely covered in foil.
- Freeze the packets: Stack the packets on top of each other and slide them into a gallon-sized zip-top freezer bag. Press out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Freeze for up to 2 months.
- Bake the packets: When ready to cook, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Place the packet(s) (however many you'd like to cook) seam-side up in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Be careful when opening up the packets, there will be steam. Serve with tortillas, if using.
- Storage: Store frozen packets for up to 2 months. Cooked leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.