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Grilling in Foil: Salmon, Corn and More

Grilling salmon in foil is a great way to keep it intact and mess-free. While you’re at it, learn about grilling corn and vegetables in foil, too!

Two grilled salmon filets with a lemon wedge and thyme garnish on a wooden board placed over a grill with fiery coals.

We know you love to grill. Pretty much anyone who visits this website has a thing for a perfectly grilled steak…or pork chop, or burger, or…you get the picture. But there are a lot of other things that are delicious grilled—things you may not have considered because they’re too small, too delicate, too saucy, or too messy. Never fear, grilling compadres: here to save the day is our old kitchen friend, aluminum foil.

Grilling in foil has been going on for a long time. Many of us first learned about it while camping; a favorite Boy Scout meal consists of simple ground beef foil packets containing vegetables and potatoes roasting over the coals of a campfire. Now that we’ve grown out of the Scout uniform, many folks still enjoy putting together healthy foil packet meals or grilling vegetables in foil to accompany grown-up entrées…or even doing the entrées themselves in foil to help minimize cleanup and preserve flavorful sauces.

Grilling Salmon in Foil

Salmon and other fish are favorites for grilling in foil. Many an outdoor chef has been horrified to see a delicate fish fillet flake apart and fall through the grates just before serving time. Of course, there are special pans for grilling fish—and even wood planks specifically for salmon—but foil will contain any glaze or sauce you’re using and make cleanup a lot easier.

To grill salmon in foil, you need heavy-duty aluminum foil; don’t get the thin stuff. (Or if that’s all you have, use a double thickness.) Tear off about a foot-long sheet for each fillet. Brush the foil with a thin coat of olive oil or spray with a light coating of non-stick cooking spray.

Place the salmon, skin side down, in the center of the foil. Season with your choice of sauces and seasonings. (A gourmet sauce containing maple, or a combination of fruit and spice, is perfect for salmon.) Don’t worry about burning the sauce; since you’re grilling salmon in foil, the sauce will be protected more from the fire.

To make a foil packet: Bring the short ends of the foil together at the top and fold twice to create a seal. Then fold the sides to seal, making a closed burrito-like envelope.

Prepare your grill for indirect heat as outlined in our Grilling 101 tips: Turn off one or two burners on a gas grill, or push the coals in a charcoal grill to one or both sides. Grill 10–20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets. (Check for doneness after 10 minutes.) The salmon should be light pink, opaque and slightly firm to the touch, and have an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

This technique can be used for any fish or seafood specialties. Scallops and shrimp scampi are especially great grilled in foil…and with its buttery sauce, you can skip oiling the foil for scampi!

Grilling Vegetables in Foil

Vegetables are what grilling in foil was made for. If you’re grilling steaks, chops or chicken, why run back and forth to the house to check on your side dish if there’s room to spare on your grill? In most cases you don’t even need to use indirect heat—high or medium-high will do just fine.

Grilling asparagus in foil is especially popular, as roasted asparagus to be far tastier than steamed or (gasp) boiled. As an added bonus, it retains the nutrients otherwise lost to the water. Just drizzle the asparagus with olive oil (don’t skimp), season with salt and freshly ground pepper, seal your foil packet, and grill 5–6 minutes on medium-high.

Other vegetables to grill in foil:

Zucchini and peppers (or) zucchini and tomatoes: Halve 2 zucchini lengthwise and slice into half-moons. Place on foil and toss with sliced green and red bell peppers and/or diced tomatoes, smashed garlic cloves (use plenty), fresh basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Form foil packet as above, grill on high 10 minutes. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Salsa (yes, salsa!): Roughly chop 1 cup tomatoes, place on oiled foil. Add ½ cup chopped white onion and 1 or 2 minced jalapeños. Form foil packet, grill on high 5–6 minutes. Add freshly squeezed lime juice, chopped cilantro and salt to taste.

Sliced potatoes with bacon: The campfire classic! Slice 1 pound potatoes (or halve 1 pound baby potatoes), place on oiled foil. Toss with 1 slice chopped thick-cut bacon, 2 tablespoons water, salt and pepper. Form foil packet as above, grill on medium-high 20 minutes.

Grilling Corn in Foil

Corn on the cob has always been popular on the grill, and nothing could be easier! But if you’ve never had Mexican street corn (Elotes), do yourself a flavor and bust out the foil!

Spread 4 ears of shucked corn with a thin layer of mayonnaise. Sprinkle with 1 cup cotija cheese (the “Parmesan of Mexico”), 1 tsp. ancho chile powder, salt, pepper, and fresh lime juice. Wrap each ear of corn in foil and grill on medium-high for 10–15 minutes, turning occasionally.

Ground Beef Foil Packets

Also known as “hobo packets”, these are the quintessential Boy Scout food. Spray 4 sheets of heavy-duty foil with cooking spray. Mix a pound of ground sirloin with 2 tsp. steak seasoning and divide into 4 patties. Place one patty on each sheet of foil. Prepare sliced potatoes with bacon as in the recipe above and divide between the four sheets of foil, topping each patty. Top each package with 1/4 cup fresh or frozen green beans, then form foil packets. Grill over medium to medium-high heat 30–40 minutes or until beef reaches 160 degrees internal temperature.

Chicken Foil Packet Recipes

If you want to create some healthy foil packet meals, just keep some seasoned or marinated chicken breasts on hand.

Hobo packets: Substitute seasoned chicken breasts for the ground beef in the recipe above, omitting the steak seasoning. Grill over medium to medium-high heat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Teriyaki packets: Place a teriyaki-marinated chicken breast in the center of each of 4 sheets of heavy-duty foil. Top with a mixture of onions, bell peppers and broccoli, or frozen stir-fry vegetables. Season with more teriyaki sauce or your favorite stir-fry sauce, seal foil packets, and grill over medium to medium-high heat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Italian chicken packets: Place a seasoned chicken breast in the center of each of 4 sheets of heavy-duty foil. Top with zucchini and peppers or zucchini and tomatoes as prepared in the above recipe. Season with more teriyaki sauce or your favorite stir-fry sauce, seal foil packets, and grill over medium to medium-high heat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

You don’t have to be camping to enjoy grilling with foil. Use this technique anytime you want fast, simple meals with maximum flavor and minimum mess and cleanup!