Popping something into the microwave for dinner is quick and convenient, but it's also a compromise. Many foods reheat poorly, especially in the microwave, so why settle? With these easy foil-pack dinners, you'll enjoy fresh-cooked meals — single serving or family-style — hot from the oven with all the same convenience. Better yet, you'll have meat that’s more tender and juicy than if you had simply baked it.
Some Quick Tips
Covering food in foil blocks it from the direct heat of the oven, so it cooks by steaming in its own juices. If you opt for ingredients that don't contain a lot of water, you'll need to add a bit of liquid to help things along. Use spices, herbs, marinades or aromatic vegetables to add flavor to the sealed packets, infusing the meat and side dishes as they cook. Some foods might stick to the foil, so spray or oil it lightly before wrapping the meals. Acidic sauces or marinades can react with aluminum foil, so line it with a sheet of parchment paper to prevent discoloration and unwanted flavors.
Chicken in Foil
Boneless chicken breast is a superbly versatile ingredient and cooks well in foil, so let your imagination run wild. The fun part is coordinating the sides with a set of compatible flavors. Chicken and baby potatoes pair well with new carrots and fresh dill. If you choose spaghetti squash as your low-carb pasta alternative, combine your chicken breast with tomato sauce to make a mock-cacciatore. For an Asian-themed meal, cook the chicken with rice, julienned vegetables and a marinade of ginger citrus salad dressing.
Fish in Foil
Fish is also well-suited to foil-pack meals because the gentle steam helps keep it moist. The important thing to remember with fish is that it cooks quickly — usually in just 10 to 12 minutes — so whatever other ingredients you put in the packet have to be equally quick. Try a thick salmon fillet on asparagus spears with lemon garlic dressing as a marinade. Halibut, cod and other white fish work well with rice and Asian-style vegetables. For an especially social meal, combine shellfish with chunks of sausage and corn on the cob for a scaled-down version of the famous "lowcountry boil."
Meats in Foil
Cooking in foil doesn't provide any browning, so it's not the best option for things like steaks or lamb chops. Pork chops, however, work well smothered in mushroom bisque or another creamy sauce. Separate your favorite ham or sausage casserole into individual portions and cook them in foil packets as well. You can even prepare meatloaf dinners this way, dividing your recipe into individual patties and cooking them in the foil with potatoes and vegetables.
The Vegetarian Option
Vegetarian foil-pack meals are just as easy, and almost as limitless, as conventional meals. You might need to pre- or par-cook dense root vegetables or large pieces of potato, but otherwise there's no extra prep. For light meals, toss fresh seasonal vegetables in herb vinaigrette and bake them in a packet with prepared rice or quinoa. For a heartier meal, wrap up spaghetti squash or sliced polenta with your favorite tomato sauce and non-dairy cheese. Alternatively, prepare packets full of thin-sliced potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli florets and serve them with a generous ladle of not-so cheese sauce.