One hundred and twenty-eight years ago, U.S. Patent number 400,666 was granted for an efficient and cost-effective way of producing aluminum (which was discovered only 65 years earlier) and paved the way for the aluminum foil that’s sitting in your cupboard right now.
Before aluminum foil, there was that “nasty” tin foil, which was thicker, brittle, and sometimes gave an “off” flavor to foods, especially if they had any acids in them (like tomatoes or vinegar).
Patent number 400,666 was a rather significant milestone in the culinary world as it made aluminum more abundant and more affordable and soon led to the world’s first aluminum rolling plant only 20 years later in 1910.
Today, because of aluminum foil’s mold ability, durability and heat-resistant properties, it’s used in the kitchen and on the grill in dozens of ways. From lining the bottom of a grill to cooking things on top of it, aluminum foil has been an indispensable “tool” for cooks for over a hundred years.
Of course, grilling, by its usual definition, means cooking foods over direct heat, which in turn gives products golden colors, crisp crusts and the flavors generally associated with charcoal, wood and the caramelization of basting sauces or rubs.
While wrapping foods in foil traps the moisture within the pouch, and thus defeats the outcome of color and crispness, the flavors produced by foil-wrapped recipes on the grill have an appeal all their own and rightfully deserve a place in the “grilling” repertoire.
Here are a few uses for aluminum foil in grilling:
• One of the most popular cooking uses for foil is to wrap food in it and allow the food to steam while grilling.
Depending on which foods you use, the juices and flavors that meld together, combined with the additional flavors added by the grill, are just a fabulous combination. I think THE best example of this is a whole fillet of fish set on a nest of colorful vegetables with your favorite seasonings, a splash of wine and a pat of butter. Seal that up, place it on the grill and grill until steam rises from the pouch. Open it up, check for doneness by flaking it with a fork, and if it’s fully opaque and flakes easily, you’re all set. This dish usually takes about 15 minutes over medium-high heat.
Similar to this fish example, my recipe for Mussels Marinara
also works fantastically on the grill. All you need to do is wrap the mixture up in a foil pouch and place it on the hot part of the grill for about 10 to 15 minutes or until you see the package swell up and then see a puff of steam. Just be sure you don’t accidently poke a hole in the foil. I usually double-foil it for added insurance.
For adding a smoke flavor to your foods:
• If you love the taste and aroma of smoke on your ribs and chops, a simple and less messy way to make that happen is to wrap soaked wood chips in a pouch of foil.
Poke some holes in the pouch, and then place it on or next to your coals or one of your operating gas flames. Do this about 5 or 10 minutes before you begin grilling to give time for the chips to begin to create smoke. When you’re done, simply remove the pouch. No mess.
• Besides keeping the bottom of your grill clean, you can also remove quite a bit of that crusted-on debris from your grill’s grates by tightly covering the top of your grates with aluminum foil (wrapping an inch or so around the outer edges) and then firing up the grill to “high.” Close the lid and let the grates get super-hot for about 20 minutes.
You’ll see a lot of smoke, but that’s good. The heat being trapped by your foil is turning your remnants of old burgers, dogs, ribs and steaks to ash.
Turn off the grill, open up the lid and allow everything to cool down before brushing the grates off.
Chefs often use this trick to clean their range-tops and char-grill grates.
There are SO many recipes that work great on the grill, and here are a few easy ones:
First, here’s a link to a VIDEO I created for cooking halibut. One recipe, my Asian Teriyaki Halibut, is a fitting example of just how easy it is to cook in a foil pouch. In this video example, I used my oven, but you can just as easily use your outdoor grill.
• Garlicky Sherry Shrimp: Toss together 1 lb. of peel-and-eat shrimp with 1/2 stick of melted butter, 1 TBSP of chopped fresh garlic, 1 TBSP chopped green onion and 2 TBSP sweet sherry. Season with salt and pepper, fold into a foil package and grill over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.
• Spicy Roasted Nuts: Like fresh-roasted nuts? You can achieve that same “Old World” flavor and add a “modern” twist with a “kick” of extra spices.
Start with whole, shelled nuts like pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts or cashews, and then season them with some Cajun seasoning or chipotle powder and cumin or some Italian herbs. Create your own seasoning blend! Place your seasoned nuts in a foil pouch, poke just a few holes in it and grill on medium heat, turning over occasionally for about 10 minutes. Don’t worry; you’ll know they’re ready when you smell that GREAT aroma of toasting nuts.
• Spicy Chipotle Corn on the Cob: Mexican Corn: Brush 4 ears of corn with melted butter and sprinkle with chipotle powder, cumin and lime juice. Wrap individual ears in foil and grill over medium-high heat about 12 to 15 minutes, rolling over occasionally as if they were hot dogs on the grill.
• Red Skin Potatoes with Bacon and Green Onions: Toss together 1 lb. of baby redskin potatoes (which have been cut in half) with 2 strips of Nino’s Butcher Shop Maple Bacon, ¼ cup chopped green onions and a tablespoon of water. Season with salt and pepper, and wrap up in a foil pouch. Grill on medium heat about 20 minutes, turning over frequently.
• Bourbon Glazed Peaches: Form a packet of 4 quartered peaches with ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 TBSP butter, ½ tsp ground cinnamon and ¼ cup of your favorite bourbon. Grill over medium-high heat about 12 minutes. This recipe goes particularly well with pecan ice cream!
Aluminum foil is one of THE most versatile “tools” in my kitchen, and grilling season is the perfect time of the year to put it to the test.