U.S. Patent #400,666 is a pretty useful invention. It 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 tin foil (which wasn’t so terrific in comparison). It was brittle, thicker, and, well, let’s just say it didn’t do much for the flavor of your food. The patent that Charles Martin Hall got on April 2, 1889 made aluminum much more affordable to make and led to the world’s first aluminum rolling plant only 20 years later. All of that may not have been thrilling history in 1910, but it sure made grilling history years later. Today, aluminum foil is used in the kitchen and for grilling in dozens of different ways, ranging from lining the bottom of a grill to cooking things on top of it. Its ability to be folded, shaped and molded and its durability to hold both solids and liquids all the while withstanding a tremendous range of temperatures puts aluminum foil in a container class all by itself. Now, it’s not news that aluminum foil is a great, protective liner or that it can be used as a pouch to cook/steam foods. But there are many other useful things foil can be used for as well as some recipes for which you may not have considered using foil.
Here are a few:
• Besides keeping the bottom of your grill clean, you can also remove quite a bit of that crusted-on debris on 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 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 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.
• If you love the taste and aroma of smoke on ribs and chops, a simple and neater way to make that happen involves wrapping 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 allow time for the chips to create smoke. When you’re done, simply remove the pouch–no mess.
• One of the most popular cooking uses for foil is in wrapping food and allowing the contents to steam while grilling. Depending on the foods you use, the juices and flavors that meld together, combined with the additional flavors added by the grill, are just fabulous. I think THE best examples of this are 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 and check for doneness by flaking it with a fork. 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. Just avoid accidently poking a hole in the foil. I usually double foil it for added protection. After each of these dishes comes off the grill, you can serve them right in their foil pouches.
Of course, there are lots of recipes that work great on the grill, and here are a few more of my favorites:
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. Then, season them with 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.
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 Chipotle Corn on the Cob: Brush 4 ears Mexican corn with melted butter, and sprinkle with chipotle powder, cumin and lime juice. Wrap individually 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 red skin 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 to put it to the test.