Cooking for One

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Foil Packet Meals

updated May 12, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Foil packet cooking is a major dinner win no matter the occasion. Whether you’re a household of one, two, four, or more, it’s hard to beat the convenience of this cooking method. Tuck a handful of ingredients inside aluminum foil, toss each packet on the grill or in the oven, and in no time you have individual dinner servings you hardly have to clean up after. You can also prep and freeze packets for future cooking.

Packet cooking is easy, but there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure success. Avoid these common mistakes and you’ll be left with one of the most unfussy ways to get dinner on the table.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

1. Reaching for regular aluminum foil.

Most of the time regular aluminum foil can suit most of your kitchen needs, but foil-packet cooking is when you want to grab the heavy-duty aluminum foil. It’s thicker than the standard roll, and much less resistant to leaks and tearing, which is important because you don’t really want your dinner to drip or, worse, fall out of its packet.

Follow this tip: Use heavy-duty aluminum foil instead of standard aluminum foil when preparing packets for cooking.

2. Using only one layer of foil.

For even more assurance, double up on the foil. This also prevents the packets from leaking or ripping but even more importantly, it ensures the food is properly insulated and that it won’t cook too quickly.

Follow this tip: For each packet, layer 2 (8-inch-long) sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil on top of each other. Pile the ingredients in the center and then fold the double layer of foil up around them.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

3. Not sealing the packets well.

Once you’ve piled your ingredients in the center of your foil sheets, bring the ends up over them and fold them into a tight seam. Completely sealing the packets is the key to cooking what’s inside. The packets need to be airtight to allow for steam to build up when they hit the heat, which allows for them to cook properly.

Follow this tip: Completely seal each foil packet by folding the ends of the foil over the ingredients into a tight seam.

4. Thinking the cook time is the same for the grill and oven.

Foil packets can be cooked on the grill and in the oven, depending on your preference. Most recipes will give you instructions for both methods, but not always. If grilling, preheat your grill to 400 to 425°F, which is medium or medium-high, depending on your grill. If baking, preheat your oven to 425°F. The packets may take a little less time in the oven than the grill, so check on them a few minutes before the recipe states.

Follow this method: Grill your packets at 400 to 425°F, which is medium or medium-high, depending on your grill. Bake your packets at 425°F and know they may need a little less time than if they were grilled.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

5. Forgetting to use caution when opening them.

There is a whole lot of steam trapped inside foil packets, so it’s important to be extra careful when opening them. Avoid injuring yourself by carefully tearing or poking a small opening in each to let some steam escape before opening the packets completely.

Follow this tip: Once cooked, open each foil packet carefully to prevent any injury from the hot steam that is released.

Some of Our Favorite Foil Packet Meals