Meal-in-One Magic

No matter what you call it—hobo dinners, meal-in-one packets or fabulous-fun-with-foil—this is a real family favorite and kid-pleaser that gets everyone out of the kitchen!


Some rights reserved by Rhys Asplundh

During this record-breaking hot summer, you won’t heat up the kitchen when you prepare these meals outdoors on your grill or camp stove. And cleanup is a cinch, too. No pots or pans, only foil and that goes straight into the trash.

Surely there is a scientific explanation for why ingredients wrapped in foil and set over a hot grill taste so fantastic yet require so little effort. However, I prefer to think of it as magic. And what fun it is.

General Instructions

Preheat grill to medium-high. Cut pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil that are 12 by 18 inches each. If using regular foil, prepare double thickness foil for your packets.

Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Place items in the foil per recipe instructions. Bring up foil sides and double fold top and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside.

Grill. Place packets on the preheated grill. If your grill has a lid, close it and leave for the time specified in each recipe. If not, cook on the open grill adding cooking time as necessary to achieve desired results.

Oven. No outdoor grill? No problem. Place packets in oven preheated to 450 F and bake for the time specified.

Opening foil. Use oven mitts when cutting foil to expose finished meal. Carefully fold back top of foil bag, allowing steam to escape.

Variation. Once you’ve tried this method of quick and easy food preparation get brave and create a grilling “bar.” Let everyone make their own individual packet meal to cook on the grill. Provide an array of choices of meat and vegetables. Show everyone how to wrap it up in foil and use a permanent marker to label the packets with each person’s name.


Asian-Style Chicken

4 sheets foil, prepared as above

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 to 1 1/4 lb.), cut in /2-inch strips

1 16-ounce package frozen stir-fry vegetables

Hot cooked rice

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Add chicken and vegetables; toss until evenly coated.

Center one-fourth of chicken mixture on each sheet of foil. Bring up foil sides. Double fold top and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside. Repeat to make four packets.

Grill 12 to 14 minutes in covered grill, or bake 15 to 18 minutes on a cookie sheet in oven. Serve over rice. Note: If your grill has a side burner prepare the rice while packets are grilling.


Meatball Sub Sandwiches

4 sheets foil, prepared as above

1 16-ounce package frozen meatballs (approx. 32 meatballs)

1 26-ounce jar chunky spaghetti sauce

4 sub or hoagie-style rolls

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Center one-fourth of meatballs on each sheet of foil. Top with spaghetti sauce. Bring up foil sides. Double fold top and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside. Repeat to make four packets.

Grill 10 to 12 minutes in covered grill, or bake 15 to 20 minutes on a cookie sheet in oven. Serve meatballs and sauce in sub rolls. Sprinkle with cheese before serving.


Barbecue Sausage and Potatoes

4 sheets foil, prepared as above

1/2 cup barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon flour

2 16-ounce packages turkey smoked sausage, cut in 1-inch slices

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 1/3 pounds (4 medium) potatoes, cut in 1/2-inch cubes

1 medium green bell pepper, cubed

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a medium bowl combine barbecue sauce and flour; stir in sausage. Spoon one-fourth sausage mixture on one side of foil. Arrange onion slices on other side of each piece of foil, next to sausage. Combine potatoes, green pepper, oil, seasoned salt and pepper; layer evenly on top of onions. Bring up foil sides. Double fold top and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside.

Grill 18 to 23 minutes in covered grill, or bake 40 to 45 minutes in oven.


Easy Grilled S’Mores

Who says grilling has to stop after the main course? You can grill great desserts like these Easy Grilled S’Mores.

For this sweet treat simply stack a graham cracker, piece of chocolate and a marshmallow on a sheet of foil. Bring up the foil sides. Fold the top and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside. Grill 4 to 5 minutes over medium heat in a covered grill. Voila! A dessert everyone will love.

Get creative. Once you’ve made a few foil dinners with specific recipes, be brave. Branch out on your own. Here’s a recipe-free idea: Place a piece of salmon in each foil packet. Top with Old Bay seasoning, dill weed, a slice of onion and a slice of lemon. Seal, set over grill or in oven. Check for doneness after 15 minutes. Get ready for salmon fit for any five-star restaurant.

More ideas. Look for dozens of foil packet recipes at


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  • Donna

    When our children were small, we loved to go camping. We called this recipe “Camper Dinner.”
    Onto heavy (or doubled) foil, add the following in order:
    — layer of sliced onions
    — very lean hamburger pattied into a 1/2″ layer
    — salt and pepper
    — canned sliced potatoes
    — canned vegetable of choice (we liked green beans or corn)
    — cream of mushroom (chicken, celery) soup
    Seal up foil packet and cook in campfire for 30-45 minutes. The layer of onions may get too brown, but they insulate the meat so it doesn’t burn.
    One of our son’s favorites was to use a can of cream-style corn for the vegetable with no soup. We usually made 2 packets using 2 different vegetables to feed our family of 5. We often had other campers asking about what we were cooking because it smelled so good! Yum!

  • I have also done packet cooking in the crockpot. Just like the oven but takes longer and I can leave the house!

  • Grace Rapach

    We call them foil packs in scouting. You can cook anything from pork chops to fish in foil. Have to watch the time as fish doesn’t take long at all.

  • Becky Ramsay

    We called this silver turtles when I was a boyscout leader: hamburger, salt and pepper, chopped onions and mixed can of vegetables made into balls and cooked in foil…The boys just loved them!